SNOWBALL DERBY COVERAGE
By Jason Buckley
Ninth-Annual Snowball Showdown at Fast Eddie's Fun Center Adds Excitement To Derby Weekend
Twist, Drawdy and Dillner Go To Victory Lane In Wild Night of Go-Karting
First up on the night was the celebrity / media race, which was filled with many folks covering the events at the big track this weekend as well as BDI Racing / Speed51.com owner Bob Dillner and some of his race crew. Early on, it appeared that the youngest Dillner in the race, Bob's daughter Meghan (a Pro Challenge Series racer), was going to win the event. She had built up a lead over the rest of the pack, but Michael Pope, who is at the Snowball Derby as a crew member this year for BDI Racing, took the lead from her. They swapped the lead a few times before Pope used the chrome horn on Meghan's kart, sending her into the spin cycle and out of the lead. That gave Meghan's uncle and BDI crewmember Matt Dillner the lead, but in the end, it was Speed51.com editor Mike Twist getting to the front, around the mayhem and into victory lane.
"That was pretty fun," said Twist. "I started last, but that didn’t worry me too much. Then I got spun at the start and I really thought that was going to kill me, but the kart was really good and everyone else was banging around so much that I was able to catch up to the top-three karts. When Meghan and Pope got together, it was like an early Christmas present to me. Then I got by Matt Dillner and cruised from there. It
didn’t hurt that my kart was just a bit slower to shut down on the cautions either. That helped and I needed for every advantage I could get!"
In Pensacola, Florida, during the early part of December, the Snowball Derby week is filled with excitement, frustration and tension, all leading up to the big Super Late Model event. But, prior to the big dance on Sunday or even the Pro Late Model Snowflake 100 event on Saturday, drivers, teams and members of the media take a night off from Five Flags Speedway to race at a different track and a different venue.
Fast Eddie's Fun Center is just minutes from Five Flags, and that is where many headed to on Thursday of Derby week for the ninth-annual Snowball Showdown. The action on the track lived up to the billing in three feature events, which put Speed51.com Editor Mike Twist, Super Late Model racer Justin Drawdy and Speed51.com co-owner and SPEED TV commentator Bob Dillner in victory lane as the big winners of the night.
SPEED51.COM'S EDITOR TWIST DRIVES THROUGH MAYHEM FOR CELEB/MEDIA VICTORY
Mike Twist won the trophy, but was given a good ribbing over the win. (51 Sports Photo)
While the Speed51.com main office is located in North Carolina, Twist operates out of the Speed51.com North office, which is located in Maine. Twist was thrilled to bring the north another trophy from above the Mason-Dixon line.
"It feels really good to bring home a trophy to Maine just like the Rowes, the Clarks and Jay Cushman’s drivers have all done through the years," explained Twist. "Then again, if any of those guys were racing karts with us at Fast Eddie’s, it wouldn’t have been a question of whether I could beat them, but how many laps down I would have finished to them."
JUSTIN DRAWDY TAKES DRIVER'S RACE VICTORY WITH DARING THREE-WIDE PASS
After two heat races for the Snowball / Snowflake driver's race, which were won by Ryan Preece and Justin Drawdy, Preece took off in the feature event and had a solid lead on the pack. That was until Josh Hamner pulled up to the back bumper of Preece, challenging him for the top spot. As the two went side by side coming out of turn four, Drawdy made the move from third to the inside of the two drivers, making it three wide down the front stretch. He snagged the top spot going into turn one and held serve, taking the Drivers Race victory.
Meghan Dillner got spun out while leading by Michael Pope (top left). Meanwhile, Mike Twist (top center) kept his momentum up to get by for the win. (51 Sports Photo)
Even though he got into victory lane during the feature, Drawdy almost missed the show.
"We got a good kart there and it was a pretty good race. It was probably the best race we have had here the last couple of years. With Hamner and Preece there, it was a pretty fun deal. I got a bumper on them there and pushed them up the track, so it was pretty cool."
Winning the race wasn't the only thing Drawdy will enjoy. He will be known as the driver's champ at Fast Eddie's for one full season, until the 42nd Annual Snowball Derby week.
"We have a little bit of bragging rights for next year, so it is a pretty cool deal."
Justin Drawdy won the feature for the Snowball Derby / Snowflake 100 drivers. (51 Sports Photo)
BOB DILLNER WINS SNOWBALL SHOWDOWN WITH ASSISTANCE FROM TEAMMATE PREECE
Bob Dillner takes a victory lap with the checkered flag. (51 Sports Photo)
The big Snowball Showdown took 16 heat races to narrow the field to three semi-final events. Drivers like last year's champion Jeff Choquette tried multiple times to get into the semi-finals and into the feature, only to come up a bit short. With the feature's field set by taking the top-three racers from the three Semi-Final races, with the 10th driver being the fastest fourth-place finisher on the clock in the Semi-Final events rounding out the field, the big race of the night took the green flag. When the checkered was thrown, it was BDI Racing owner and Speed51.com co-owner Bob Dillner taking the win as the Snowball Showdown champion.
Dillner's road to victory lane wasn't easy and didn't happen on his own. Earlier in the day, Dillner helped block on the track so his Snowball Derby driver Ryan Preece could get locked into the big race. Unfortunately for Dillner, that strategy backfired for him as he wasn't initially in the feature event, finishing one spot out of the transfer position.
"We talked before the race and he (Preece) asked me to step on the brake going into the first turn and pile everyone up, so that is what I did," said Dillner. "I went to the back of the field and he won. He did an awesome job; he turned the fastest lap of the night at the race track. I came back and finished fourth. The fastest fourth-place finisher in the semi-finals went to the feature and that was me."
Once in the big show, Preece faded to the back of the pack and even a lap down to his Derby car owner Dillner, but it wasn't due to a lack of skill or power underneath him. After Dillner swung by while in the lead, Preece played blocker to the rest of the field, keeping Dillner in the front spot until the checkered flag.
The winners, who had a lot of fun, were Mike Twist (top - media race), Justin Drawdy (middle - driver race) and Bob Dillner (Snowball Showdown race). (51 Sports photos)
"My brother was telling me I had a big gap, so I kept slowing up so I wouldn't pass any cars, then I saw Oliver chasing me down in that #88 car. Then I saw that Ryan (Preece) had spun, so I told him to block them. He did a nice job playing jam car, so we returned each other's favor tonight. Half of the trophy, or maybe 25-percent, belongs to Ryan Preece."
For winning the event, Dillner pocketed a cool $151, but he wasn't going to just keep the money for himself.
"Dude, this is all about fun and having a good time. Everybody from Speed51.com and BDI Racing means a lot to me, so we are going to take the $151 and go out and have a good time, either tonight or tomorrow."
YES, HE STILL WORKS FOR SPEED51.COM
After winning the media race, Speed51.com Editor Mike Twist joked around as to whether he still worked for Speed51.com or not at the end of the night.
Earlier in the evening, during the practice sessions, Twist's kart made contact on a few occasions with Speed51.com co-owner Bob Dillner, sending him into the spin cycle. While Dillner wasn't mad, Twist wondered if he would have a paycheck coming from the boss anytime soon.
"It’s a good thing that Bob won the big race at the end of the night," said Twist. "I spun him out twice in practice and was wondering if I’d still have a job after that. But he ended the night on a good note, so I’m sure he forgot about that by now.
"Oops. I guess that I just opened my big mouth and reminded him about it huh?"
Twist was indeed still with Speed51.com for the rest of the weekend, but many wonder, when will Dillner get revenge for the two incidents on the track?