51's LEFTOVERS: 40TH ANNUAL SNOWBALL DERBY (PART TWO)        By Matthew Dillner, Steven Neely, Elgin Traylor
Legends Born, Snowflake Happenings, DQ's Cause Stir & Derby Action Galore!
Click Here to See Part One of 51's Snowball Derby Leftovers


Cale Gale had a very up-and-down weekend at the Derby. He won the Snowball Derby pole against some of the best racers in the country on Friday night.  On Saturday night, he started on the outside pole for the Snowflake 100 but dropped out to finish 34th.  Lady Luck chose not to be on Gale’s side on Snowball Sunday as well.

“The clutch went out,” said Gale after a 32nd place Derby finish.  “It slipped on the initial start of the race and got worse and worse. We ran it until it wouldn’t go no more.

“We come here and were fast all weekend and got the pole. We had misfortune but we’ll be back to get ‘em again next year.”

Wallace's #66 and the #51 Kyle Busch entry sit on pit road just before getting loaded on their haulers. (51/Steven Neely Photo)
Head Technical Inspector Ricky Brooks did give Wallace a second chance to roll over the scales but when the NASCAR Busch Series driver was found to have snuck sockets in his pockets, he was sent packing.

“Steve Wallace was eight pounds light,” said Brooks.  “We pushed the car off and told them not to do anything stupid that we were going to wait and check the other cars and see where they are at to see if the tolerance I was allowing was enough, which it’s always been. We teched the other cars and they were fine so we pushed him back on the scales and he gained weight. Then he was only three pounds light. After he done put the socket in his driving suit. Once I saw that he gained weight is when I took him into the building and I found the sockets around his right ankle. Once I found him trying to do that I said ‘that’s it.’

Wallace was not happy with the decision and with the inspection process.

More often-than-not a veteran racer will prevail in a race at a track with rough-surface where tire-management is key. Michael Pope may not be a veteran in the Late Model ranks, but the 20-year old GAS Series regular showed he can race like one by finishing second in the Snowflake 100.

“I owe it all to my team because we had a really good car all night,” said an estatic Pope after the runner-up performance.  “We were really good on old tires, we weren’t that great on new tires but we were awesome on old rubber.

My spotter kept telling me to save my tires and don’t burn my brakes up. I was just trying to let my car roll as much as it could. The car just stayed awesome all night. We used Grant Enfinger’s pit crew and they were able to get us out third after the pit stops. That was key to getting us up front.”


The crowd enjoyed watching the last-chance qualifying races on Saturday night at the Snowball Derby. That same crowd was a buzz about an hour after those races when the PA announcer told them that 2005 Snowball winner Steve Wallace and NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch’s car driven by Jason Hogan were both disqualified from their transfer spots and were not going to compete in the Derby.

Ricky Brooks runs a tight-ship at the Derby.
“His roof was a half-inch low,” said Brooks.  “I had an eighth of an inch already in the tolerance and a quarter-inch on the quarter-panel chains.  The center of his spoiler touched the chain and the left and right side was just barely right there at it. The roof though was low.  If his quarter panels were low then there would be something we could look at but the quarter panels were up there. I told them all weekend I wasn’t going to bust on them about the 4-inch frame height with the soft setups but as far as the quarter panel and roof heights they need to meet those.

“I didn’t let them push the car through tech because when they were pushing the car up there the first time they were trying to lift up on it,” said Brooks in defense of the 51-teams’ comments.  “After what Steven did I didn’t need that. If you are going to pull up on the fenders and push down on the back when you’re rolling it through tech, give me a break. I am giving everyone tolerances in the referee. If you are going to start putting things in your firesuit or start lifting up on the car, your benefits are already over. That’s when we took control and we pushed the car so we wouldn’t have to worry about that.”
Jason Hogan takes the checkered flag in Kyle Busch's #51. His finish was negated when the #51 was disqualified for a roof height infraction. (51/Jamie Willaims Photo)
Kelley, who had fresher rubber, was clearly faster than Stroupe when he pulled up to the #51’s bumper. The two cars raced close for several laps before Kelley got into the left rear of Stroupe’s car spinning both drivers out of a top-ten run.

“I was getting underneath coming off and he was just pinching me off big-time,” said Kelley.  “I gave it to him a couple of times and it comes down to it being the race right here and we have to go for it.  I was on the inside and he just never lifted and totally spun around.”

“We were running sixth when Paul Kelley decided to take me out,” explained Stroupe. “I gave the guy plenty of room. I even motioned him to my outside so I wouldn't get freight trained by everybody else.  He was faster, and I was going to let him by on the outside, but he got into our left-rear and spun us out.”

“I know they were pretty upset with me,” said Kelley in his pit area after the race.  “I don’t see where they were all upset when it was driver-error on his part.”

Jeff Choquette may be one of the heavy hitters in the asphalt Florida Super Late Model ranks, but he may be getting a little dirty next year.

“A lot depends on sponsorship, and what we can do with what we got,” said Choquette.  “I’m going to run some dirt racing next year, we already got that.  We’re also probably going to do some ASA, and anything else Dick Anderson wants to do.  There’s a new series that’s starting up in Florida and the Southeast.  They run around East Bay, Volusia, and other Florida tracks.  My cousin races that, so we’re going to go have some fun with the family, and try to relax a little bit and not try and run quite so many asphalt races.”

Choquette may have finished 10th in the Snowball Derby, but he did at least bring home some hardware by winning two races at the Snowball Showdown Go-Kart race at Fast Eddie's Fun Center. The feat just proved that even though racing can be work, it can be fun too. He commended the event organizers for allowing time in the weekend for fun.

“They spread a two day show out over four days, and they give you time to go do things, to go hang out, instead of being focused on your racecar 100 percent,” said Choquette.  “They give you time to go to the go-kart track or go out to dinner and relax a little bit.  It’s just a whole lot of fun, pretty costly, but it’s been a lot of fun, especially the go-kart racing.  We’ve won that two years in a row now, and hopefully I can keep going down there every year.  At least I’m winning something here at the Snowball Derby.”


One of the most controversial drivers in the race happened to be a guy who usually does not go looking for trouble.  Grant Enfinger, usually one of the under-the-radar guys in the pit area, was anything but under-the-radar during the Derby.

A early flat tire caused Enfinger put the 82-team behind but Grant was aggressive in his march back to contention.

“We only lost two laps total,” said Enfinger.  “The leaders about caught me again, but the pit crew did a great job getting me out there.  I fought and got both laps back, but it just messed up our tire strategy.  We wanted to be with the leaders and we didn’t get on the same pace with them until about lap 150 and then just played catch up from there.”

Enfinger did manage to climb all the way back onto the lead lap, running some of the fastest laps of the race, en route to finishing 13th in the event. 

“I think had the cautions flown a little bit different at the end, we might have been the one to beat,” said Enfinger.  “We didn’t make any mistakes at all, just a little bit of bad luck with that tire, and staying out of trouble is a big deal.”

Enfinger used his front bumper at times while marching toward his goal of getting back on the lead lap, which caused quite a bit of controversy with some of the other drivers.  One such incident occurred around lap 80.  Enfinger’s engine sputtered after a restart, and the field checked up behind him, with Ryan Sieg’s #39 car receiving the heaviest damage as he spun into the turn four wall.

Sieg walked down the banking after the wreck to show his displeasure towards Enfinger.

“That 82 (Enfinger), he’s a wild one,” said an unhappy Sieg.  “He’s a wild man.  I don’t know, he’s driving kind of wild and doesn’t need to be driving that wild.  It’s a 300-lap race, you know. We had a good car.  It sucks, only 80 laps (into the race).”

Ryan Crane, one of the leaders of the race, also expressed some criticism of the lapped cars, including Enfinger, who was a lap down but running hard trying to get back on the lead lap.  Enfinger responded after the race by explaining how he races hard against drivers that had raced him hard in the past.
Stroupe said he tried to give Kelley the outside but he wouldn't take it.
“I was three-pounds light and Ricky said there was a minimum for one-lap-per-pound. I ran ten extra laps and they threw me out for being too light. They threw Kyle Busch out for an eighth of an inch too low on his roof. I personally spent freakin’ fourty-thousand dollars to come here to race and they have to throw me out for three pounds and throw him out for an eighth of an inch.  This Ricky guy is a moron. He’s just an idiot. We all work too hard to come here and race. We’re all out here Short Track racin, beatin’ and bangin’, the cars are hot,  the fenders are moving around. It’s just unbelievable. If I was Tim Bryant I would fire him and hire someone else. He’s a complete absolute moron.
Wallace’s comment on the attempt to gain weight before going back over the scales, “I put a socket in my pocket and they threw me out for lying to him. The guy is just a total tool.”

“I’ve learned to take the jabs and smile and keep going,” said Brooks of all the criticism thrown his way since the high-profile disqualifications.  “If it’s outside the rule book and it’s a gray area I will give the racer the benefit of the doubt. If it’s in black and white I go strictly by the rule book.”

Kyle Busch’s #51 car was being driven by Super Late Model shoe Jason Hogan while Busch was at the NASCAR Banquet in New York. Busch was at Pensacola on Saturday but elected to keep Hogan in the car for the last-chance race. Hogan drove the car to front and won the race, but the finish was taken away for a roof-height infraction.

“They won’t ever get my money again,” Busch told Speed51.com while the team loaded up.  “I’m never coming back here again.”

While Busch chose not to say anything else, his driver Jason Hogan express his opinion on the D.Q. and why he thinks it is bad for the Derby.

“First of all to send two of your biggest names home, the fans are the real ones getting cheated here,” said Hogan.  “They are the ones that came out here and paid big money to watch names
like Kyle Busch, Steven Wallace and Benny Gordon race. Its really the fans getting cheated. You have to feel sorry for them because they come to watch superstars and they get thrown out for something that is so minute. We were just a little low on the roof. Nothing more than the case that the shock packages we run on these cars these days when they get pulled down they dont come back up. Everybody else got to push their own cars into tech but the tech guys had to push ours through tech, layin on the car and pushin it down and everything else. If they think that is fair and thats the way they are going to do it, great, I just feel bad for the fans."

Just how low was Busch’s car?

Jack Smith is a guy who seems to always get press. Yes, sometimes it’s not exactly the press that he would like to see, but there is no doubt the Ohio driver tends to steal the headlines.  Smith put on a show in the last-chance qualifier races worthy of some ink. He charged to the front and then was put to the rear for rough driving. Smith didn’t let that stop him, charging to the front again to transfer into the Snowball Derby.  But that starting spot was short lived as Ricky Brooks and the Snowball Derby tech officials disqualified Smith for being five pounds too light.

“We never filled up (fuel) after qualifying,” claimed a very unhappy Smith after the DQ.  “They rushed us and said we were going to run the consi races. After it was all said and done they said they’d give us thirty-pounds total weight we could be under for the heat race. They wouldn’t let us fill up. We said, “if you let us fill it up we’ll be ok.” Everybody else wanted to do it. We were thirty-five under so we were five-pounds off. This is ridiculous. I didn’t run second because of five pounds. To me it’s dumb. Now Steven (Wallace) is out for three-pounds and Kyle (Busch) is out for three-sixteenths on his car. We’re not at Daytona. They want to run us off that is what’s going to happen.”

Head Technical Inspector Ricky Brooks’ answer was simple, “Jack Smith was five pounds light.”

2006 Hooters Pro Cup Series Champ Benny Gordon could have been sore after he had his transfer spot in the last-chance qualifying race taken away in post-race tech. Instead, Gordon commended track officials for their philosophies.

“They’re strict as hell here, that is what happened but  I don’t mind it, said Gordon, who was driving a Tracy Goodson owned car.  “I mind it because I am not in the show and it cost me last night because of a small infraction. They tell you over there to have your stuff right and we didn’t. Tonight we had a four-inch wheel mixed with our wheels. We had a wheel on there that wasn’t supposed to be on the car and it made the car wide in the front. That wheel made it an eighth-inch wide and what are you going to do? We made a mistake and it cost us from competing in the Snowball Derby.

“They are strict here but I like that. It forces everyone to have their stuff right. There are so many series you can run in or places you can race out there that people get through and get away with shit. If they are throwing people like that out you know there is no favoritism back there. They make it plain and simple, this is the way it needs to be and
make it right. There are too many places that just let you roll through with things. Hey, a pound is a pound, an eighth of an inch is an eighth of an inch. They aren’t going to play any favorites and threw our asses out. I hate it but what are you going to do.”

Ricky Brooks told Speed51.com a week after the Derby that he doesn’t really care how big of a name it is, he has to enforce the rules, even if it means knocking a big-fan-draw name out of the Derby.

“To me it doesn’t matter what your name is,” said Brooks.  “I am going to play by the rules and that’s the way I’m going to do it. I think other series outta do that. If we said we were just going to fine you for being too low or being light then the teams that have the money will just continue to cheat. They can pay there way out of it. If it’s that way the little-man doesn’t have a chance.”


Back in the early days of Stock Car Racing, Fonty Flock drove his Chrysler with a Rhesus Monkey named “Jocko Flocko” in a firesuit strapped in by his side. Flock won a race in Hickory, NC with the pet by his side.  While those days of racing are far gone, Snowball winner Augie Grill admitted that a banana-eater, like Jocko might have a chance in the right car.

“The car was just awesome,” said Grill of his GARC #112.  “I think a monkey probably could’ve gotten in it and won this race.”


Paul Kelley stayed out of trouble in the Snowflake 100 and had his car in the top-ten at the race's end. 15-year-old Zach Stroupe, who started 34th, had worked his way up to the lead and ran sixth with 11-laps to go.  When Kelley and Stroupe met on the track, both drivers' good runs came to an end.
Gordon battled all weekend to get his car right but did not fight the decision from tech.
Stroupe was upset the incident took a top-ten away in his first Snowflake 100, but tried to stay positive.

“It’s frustrating,” said the North Carolina driver, “but no matter what, we achieved all of our goals for the weekend. We learned a ton through all the practice and we had a lot of fun. We were running sixth when we got spun, so a top-10 or even a top-five finish would have been like a win to us. Still, leading laps and having as strong of a car as we did is pretty special.”

The rough surface at Five Flags Speedway without a doubt provides for interesting racing.  With tire-wear as such a factor, drivers have to manhandle their racecars around the super-fast oval.  With the rough surface also comes a need for a lot of tires which means a lot of expense for teams.  Three days of practice for the Snowball Derby drained some teams wallets.  Kyle Busch’s #51 car reportedly used 11-sets of tires during one day racking up an estimated $6600 tire-tab. Other teams conserved and practiced on old rubber and saved money.

“It’s more challenge for the racer,” said veteran Scott Carlson of the surface, “but it’s also more of a challenge for them financially. This place eats tires up.  We probably spent five grand this weekend on tires between two cars. It’s a lot of money to pay for one race to put on tires. It really isn’t sensible but us racers don’t have much sense anyway.”

Ryan Crane and Grant Enfinger had a little reunion of sorts during the Snowball Debry (51/Jamie Williams Photo)
Ryan Sieg was not happy with Enfinger's driving after a tangle sent him hard into the wall.  (51/Jamie Williams Photo)
“It’s been a long year, and I didn’t get into anybody out there that hasn’t got into me this year,” said Enfinger.  “We kind of put a hit list together this year and got about half of them.  That stuff happens, and I know Ryan’s (Crane) pretty pissed and he should be anyway.  He ruined our night at Peachstate a while back and it’s been a while, and I think he deserved it.  Other than that, we just moved a couple people, not any hard enough to wreck them, but we moved and we got moved.
“I think they’re used to me running like mister nice guy, and it’s just been a frustrating year.  At the end of the year, we don’t need these things to go into next year.  If they’re mad, then they’re mad, but I think we did everything right tonight.”


Hal Goodson finished the Snowball Derby a few years ago in the top-five with a car that had more duct tape covering it than body panels.  Since that entertaining performance, 51 has affectionately awarded the driver finishing with the most battered and pieced together car with the “Hal Goodson Award.”  The one driver finishing with the least sheet metal and possibly the most perseverance this year was Jason Young.

“Somebody told me that without the hood it looked exactly like a Modified. It’s unfortunate but we had a lot of fun this weekend. You get frustrated when something like this happens and say heck with it because you are already 15-laps down. But when you come here as a team and do this together, you cut the front-end off of it and go out there and run some laps. We picked up about ten-spots  more by getting back out there. You have to work hard to keep things going and the team together.

The Speed51.com staff had Cassius Clark leading the voting for the “Hal Goodson Award” at one point in the race because of some creative repair. David Stremme gave the #8 Maine crew a hand holding the rear of the car up with a rachet-strap.  Unfortunately for Clark, he was eliminated from the Goodson award after dropping out.  A close second to Young was Casey Smith. Both racers drove cars that looked more like Modifieds by races end, but a little creative duct-tape work gave Young the nod.

“It looks like they duct-taped what was left of the fender to the cowl-brace so it wouldn’t flap in the wind. It looks like they did a pretty good job.

A rachet-strap holds Cassius Clark's spoiler up.
Jason Young's #27 chases Casey Smith in a battle of Modified look-a-likes.
Kory Ruble made his Super Late Model debut earlier this season at Five Flags Speedway.  The Dothan, Alabama driver, who was last year’s Snowflake polesitter, knew that being a part of the 40th annual Snowball Derby would take a weekend of hard work along with some luck.
“It was a neat experience to be apart of the race,” said Ruble. “We learned a lot of stuff that will help the next time we race here. Considering were we came from after how far off we were this was a positive result.”

The Derby was up and down for Ruble as he stayed out for a long green-flag run early on. In that time he picked off eight cars in the first 35 laps. By the 100 lap mark, they cracked the top five before hitting the pit road for fresh rubber.

The run ended up getting spoiled when Ruble lost the right side door with less then fifty laps to go. The lack of body panel didn’t aid Ruble at all.

“To tell you the truth the exhaust was about to blow my ears out. I looked up and the door was flapping and it finally blew off when I was coming into to the pits. It made for a breezy ride to the finish.”
Kory Ruble's car looked as if it fought a can opener.
“It was good to finish the race,” explained Ruble. “it’s not where we wanted to finish. When you finish seventeenth it just makes you want to get it right for next year. We’ve got all of next season to get ready for this race. As were today we were just hoping to run up front.”


There was probably no more disheartening story this weekend in the garage than that of Clay Rogers’ weekend.  The 2006 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Champion and 2006 Snowball Derby winner came back to Five Flags Speedway to have a little fun and defend his title.  When he arrived in the infield on Wednesday to help his team unload, he received a call no racer wants to hear.

“I thought I was the driver of the number 75 Spears truck until Wednesday morning,” said Rogers.  “That’s the truck I finished out the season with and had things going pretty good, and I thought we were going to sit down with the owners next week and work everything out for next year.  They had already asked me to come back.  Wednesday morning, I got a phone call from the shop saying they closed down, which is unfortunate for all the employees that work there.”

As for his plan of attack for securing a ride for the 2008 season, he said he would like to talk with at least one of the heavy hitters in the Five Flags Speedway pit area, 1989 Snowball Derby winner Rick Crawford.

“I just hate that it happened so late in the season, I mean, all the rides are gone,” said Rogers.  “If you don’t have a couple million dollars in your back pocket to go buy one, it’s tough.  As of right now, I’m going to try to beat on Rick Crawford to see if I can get a ride in that number 10 truck.  Rick’s a good guy and I know they have to make their deal make economic sense too.  If not, you might see me back in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, or maybe run some more late model races.  That could always benefit our program if we decide to come back down here.”
Clay Rogers managed to keep a positive attitude throughout a difficult weekend.

Josh Hammer ran in the top-ten most of the race, and got up to fourth before pit stops shuffled him back. Despite a minor tangle with Eddie Mercer, he kept his #38 pretty clean throughout the race earning a sixth place finish.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Hamner. “we all wanted to come down her and win we brought the same car that we had last year and it was really good so we brought it back this year and it was just as good. I can’t thank these guys enough this car was just awesome. When everything started getting cooler the car just freed up to much.

"But hey it was good, to come out of here with that little bit of damage and to be able to race with the caliber drivers that we raced against was great. I mean I went door to door with Clay Rogers for like ten laps. He’s a pretty good driver I have a lot of respect for him. You know I just say enough for these guys, everybody got me in and out of the pits quickly. You know my guys are all volunteer we didn’t go out and higher any guys we do this for fun because were short track racers."


For the second year in a row, a late race tangle took Dave Mader, III out of contention. This year, an incident with Matt Hawkins ended his day. Hawkins survived the get-togeher and motored on to finish runner-up in the Derby.
“Young dumb and in-patient,” said Mader of Hawkins. “The key is that the contact was behind my rear wheel. Matt was wanting to pass me. I had changed tires earlier but was taking it real slow to save tires and be in position to win the Derby. We had to short-pit to get track position to have a chance. I understand that he was the leader when he came in. He was obviously a little better than I was because he got to my left-rear quarter panel but not even up to the tire. He turned me around. If he’s up to my door that’s racin.. Anyone can make it up ten inches on another car and turn them around. These kids, I just wish they would learn some patience. There are so many good talents out here. I am not trying to be old and stubborn but I do hold my ground when I have my ground.

The tangle almost erased a very impressive Snowball Derby debut for Matt Hawkins.  It knocked Hawkins back a bit, which might have cost him a shot at the win, but the Georgia driver battled back and nearly won the race.

“I was passing Dave Mader for third and I was up to his left rear tire,” said Hawkins. 
The tangle that ended Dave Mader III's day and got him a iil' upset with second-place finisher Matt Hawkins.
Jason Young’s 2007 Snowball race provided such a classic tale.

“It was the last caution, when all the leaders took tires together, and it was about 70 to go or something, long after the car was already torn up.  The guys on the radio were talking about eating ice cream in the pits, and someone had a cookie. 

"We just talked about it and I said ‘I want a cookie,’ and they were like ‘Well what do you want, a chocolate chip or a white chocolate macadamia nut?’  I said ‘Give me a white chocolate macadamia nut.’ 

"When the lap cars could pit, we came in and pitted, and they broke the cookie in half since I wasn’t that hungry and I didn’t need milk or anything.  So I got the cookie, they buffed the chrome air cleaner with polish to make things look nice, and went back out and finished the race.  I actually ate the last half of the cookie under green flag when I was riding around with about five to go. 

"The funniest part of the story is a little girl came up to me after the race was over and asked me if I could sign her program, and all of a sudden she goes ‘Oh by the way, how was that cookie?’  I was like ‘How did you know about that cookie?’ and she told me that her and her mom had scanners and she heard the whole conversation, which I thought was pretty funny.”

Jason “The Cookie Monster” Young and team earned a 22nd place finish in the race. 

“I guess he didn’t think I had position on him and we got together. He spun and I went back to eighth or ninth. I got back up to second and was three-tenths a second a lap quicker, but Augie was too far out and couldn’t be caught. If we would have had a late caution, we’d have definitely had something for him, but we didn’t get one.”


Johnny Clark made it two Snowball Derby attempts in a row. This time, a spin cost him a great finish. Clark ended up loading the car up to go home to Maine after a 16th place finish.

"We tried to salvage a top ten finish and the 22 (Hawkins) decided to run us over," said Clark.  "We weren’t going to finish fifth, but the spin flat spotted our tires and that was it for us."

Clark enjoys his trips far from home and says that they can get it done below the Mason-Dixon line.

"I think it’s the old myth that us Northerners can’t come down and race in the south. Let’s see them come north and race with the Clarks and the Rowes and see what happens. We're the only ones that ever dare come race out of our region."    


The relaxing environment at Five Flags Speedway, combined with it being the last race of the year for most drivers, allows for some pretty comical moments throughout the weekend.  Most of these “Derby stories” are reserved for the drivers and teams in the infield and become inside jokes for years.
New Nickname?  People might be calling Jason Young "Cookie Monster" after this year's Derby.
Gale (right) and Matt Hawkins led the Derby to green.
Click Here to See Part One of 51's Snowball Derby Leftovers