ENFINGER IS OFF ANDERSON’S CHRISTMAS CARD LIST
Tempers flare in racing, and to no surprise, someone reached the boiling point in the 41st Annual Snowball Derby.
Right after a round of pit stops, Grant Enfinger saw an opening on the inside of Mitch Cobb’s car and made his move. As the cars hit turn on, Enfinger and Cobb got together and shot up the track collecting Wayne Anderson and Ryan Sieg. As the four cars pounded the wall, the finger pointing started. When Anderson climbed from his car and pointed at Enfinger when he came by.
Anderson then walked down the track on to pit road where he had to walk past the Enfinger pit. More words were exchanged and officials had to step to prevent a scuffle. Anderson had this to say in the heat of the moment.
“He (Enfinger) is the most ignorant son of a bitch on the G-----n track,” said Anderson. “He just went in there nine miles over his head. He starts one every G-----n year.”
Anderson then ran at Enfinger’s car as it came down pit road and took a few swipes at the #82 before walking down to his pit to cool off.
Cobb was also in the wreck and was also put some blame on Enfinger, but not to the extent that Anderson did.
“The 82 (Enfinger) ran out of talent at the start finish line and kept on driving,” said Cobb. “It all happened in about a split second. I was looking at the inside of Anderson and all of a sudden the 82 (Enfinger) went by me on the inside. He had no room and he wrecked two good race cars and mine is destroyed, it was a hard hit. He caused the whole thing, no question about it.”
Ryan Sieg was also in the mess and really had no idea at the time what happened.
“I just got stuck on the outside there,” said Sieg. “The spotter didn’t clear me to get down and someone jumped down under me and I just got stuck on the outside and something happened in front of me.”
Enfinger made repairs and made it back out not losing a lap. He drove all the way back to the front and finished second. After the race, Enfinger offered his angle of the wreck.
“That’s just one of those things,” said Enfinger. “I didn’t do something stupid. I did something crazy, but you don’t win this race by being cautious. Sometimes when you’re waiting around and being cautious, you’re involved in those wrecks, we were trying to get away from the pack. But that’s really the only issue that we had. I know I pissed Wayne Anderson off, but that’s the stuff you have to do to try to win the Snowball.”
Anderson did also do his final Derby Diary after the race. click here to watch it
The most popular driver at this year’s Snowball Derby isn’t old enough to vote. She is not old enough to see an R-rated movie, and not old enough to spare champagne in victory lane. We are talking about 16-year old Johanna Long. The local driver won the Pro Late Model track championship at Five Flags Speedway this season and won the fans over all year long with her smile and her positive attitude.
You could say that all the fans around the track where suffering form Johanna-Mania - and it’s not just because she is a girl. It’s the fact that she’s truly talented.
Long’s first goal was to get into to the Snowball Derby. That turned out to be easy as she was one of the few drivers to break the track record in qualifying. Her race was going pretty smooth when a radio problem ended her day in a big way.
“Freddy’s (Query) radio went dead,” explained Long. “He was my spotter, and he was putting on his other radio and someone else came on the radio and told me to go low, which no one was there and I don’t know who was behind me but they came up hit me. We had a really good first Snowball, qualified fourth, nothing better I could ask for.”
Long may have finished on the truck, but she handled the media frenzy that surrounded her all week long very well.
“I have been able to deal with it pretty well,” said Long. “It’s been a fun week, we hope to be a lot better here next year.”
ICKLER HIS FIRST DERBY – BEFORE TECH AT LEAST
The 2008 Snowball Derby was Brian Ickler’s first trip to Five Flags Speedway. Given the results of post race technical inspection, it could be his last trip there as well. Ickler crossed the finish line in the first position, but was disqualified after the race.
Immediately after the race ended though, Ickler was in awe about his first Derby experience.
“I’ve been hearing about the Snowball Derby since I started racing and followed along with it every year. I had never been here and didn’t know what it was all about. When I moved to Mooresville, my best friend Alex Haase had been racing these Late Models all year. He introduced me to Kyle [Busch] and we started hanging out. So here we are. He let me drive his car.”
Getting to lap 300 of the Derby was a real roller coaster experience for Ickler.
“I showed up here on Tuesday morning never having seen the place. I had s spin out in qualifying and wrecked the car. They patched it back together for the last chance race. We started last and won that. Then we started 31st or something and won it. I’m speechless because this has just been a dream.”
Little did Ickler know at the time, but he was soon going to have that dream turn into a nightmare.
BUBBA CAN YOU HEAR US?
It is impressive in itself that Bubba Pollard brought home a top five finish in his first ever Snowball Derby, but it is even more impressive that he did it with minimal radio communication. It was determined during the first caution period that Pollard was only able to hear static when his spotter Jon Bell (who is also the spotter for Frank Kimmel in the ARCA RE/MAX series) tried to send him vital information. The team quickly decided that no one would speak on the radio except for Bell and he would simply key his mike when there was a car inside or outside of Pollard.
Fortunately, their strategy was a success and Pollard brought his #26 home in fifth.
LAPPED TRAFFIC IS NO FRIEND TO FULTZ
Three-time NASCAR Southeast Series champion, Jeff Fultz, didn’t have the kind of day he’d hoped for in the 41st annual Snowball Derby. After qualifying 10th, Fultz spent the majority of this afternoon battling lapped traffic when it all came to a head on lap 99.
“David Rogers was holding everybody up and they finally just turned him around,” said Fultz. “I tried to go in and somebody hit me in the door and knocked me up into him. That broke the rack. It’s a shame because when those guys start backing up they just don’t let anybody by so it stacks everybody up. You try to give them some room front and back and you have to go when you can go. It’s just a shame, we’ve had a great year but we haven’t won a race and this is the one we wanted to win.”
RODGERS HAS A RACE FOR THE AGES
This year’s 41st running of the Snowball Derby marked David Rogers’ 25th Derby and despite a fourth place finish in 1979 this year tops them all.
“It was actually one of my best Derbies,” said Rodgers. “We had probably the best car I’ve had up here in 25 years. We finished sixth, but normally we have trouble when we come up here. We had a little problem and got down a lap and made that back up so obviously we had a pretty good car. There at the end we still had a pretty good car but to make that lap up we had to use a set of tires that we didn’t really want to use. We wanted to have some for the end and it just didn’t happen.”
Despite an unfavorable turnout, his 25th Derby will definitely be one to remember. Maybe he’ll finally get the victory in his 26th?
PREECE ADAPTS TO FENDERS
Some of the 60 plus drivers who entered the Snowball Derby had decades of experience in the race. Meanwhile, the driver of the #51 BDI Racing/Beef O Brady’s Chevrolet Impala SS had never raced a fendered car before in his career. But NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standout Ryan Preece didn’t let that phase him. The Connecticut racer successfully qualified for the event in the 30th position and then brought home a solid 14th-place finish.
Preece was actually poised for a top 10 finish until he became a victim in a multi-car wreck on the frontsretch with just 37 laps to go. Still, the day was a successful one.
“It was a marathon,” said Preece. “We had a top 10 run going. It all came down to being in the right pit stop sequence. For my first Snowball Derby, I’m happy. We made up a lap and we survived. There were a lot of guys who tore up stuff. The BDI crew gave me quick pit stops and it was fun. These cars are like Sprint Cars on asphalt.”
And while the Super Late Model that Preece drove was fun, it was also a precision instrument that didn’t quite take the level of beating and banging that Preece is used to seeing in the Northeastern Modified world.
“You actually have to be a lot more cautious with these cars,” said Preece. “That whole deal at the end of the race would have just been a bumper on the Modified. Modifieds aren’t that fragile and you have to be up on the wheel. With these, you have to be more consistent and careful with the throttle.”
ENGINE ENDS A TOP 10 RUN FOR CLARK
There were several drivers in this year’s Snowball Derby hailing from distant lands. One of those drivers was Maine’s Johnny Clark.
Clark, who is the 2008 PASS North Super Late Model Champion, was headed towards an impressive finish when engine troubles interrupted.
“The motor let go,” said Clark. “It was skipping the last hundred laps and we were just trying to hang on. We were a lap down but there were only seven cars on the lead lap and we were eighth. But on the white flag it just let go on the back stretch and we ended the race two laps down.”
Fortunately, since it was so late in the race, Clark was able to salvage a 13th place finish.
CATCHING UP WITH KYLE
Immediately after the Snowball Derby finished, Kyle Busch was the proud car owner of what appeared to be the winning entry in the Snowball Derby. Busch owned both the cars of Brian Ickler and eventual 12th-place finisher Alex Haase.
“I own the thing and my name is on it, but they prepared it and did an awesome job of putting it together,” said Busch. “Everyone at KBM built and awesome racecar and NOS Energy Drinks said “sure, we’ll be on the car.”
The Kyle Busch Motorsports team had a long week at the Derby. On Friday, Haase wrecked his #51 in practice. Later in the day, Ickler wrecked the #15 car in qualifying. Both cars made it into the race eventually though and endured what Busch deemed to be a tough race.
“I about called them [on Friday] and told them to load up and come home,” said Busch. “They came through though. Everybody who is on the Ickler Motorsports team or at Kyle Busch Motorsports worked so hard. They have the determination.”
“I guess I know why they call it a Derby now that I’ve seen it. This was a crashfest, so I’m glad that both of my cars made it out of here tonight.”
ROOKIE SCHOENFELD SCORES A TOP 10 FINISH
When looking at Dennis Schoenfeld’s #43, the name might sound familiar or you may recognize him as Kyle Busch’s Craftsman Truck Series spotter but you certainly wouldn’t think rookie; however that is precisely what he was this weekend.
This marked Schoenfeld’s first ever attempt that the Snowball Derby and the veteran driver from Concord, North Carolina proved he was a force by snagging a top ten finish.
“It was a pretty good run, I can’t complain,” said Schoenfeld. “We got a lap down and made it up but we couldn’t keep it because of the timing of the cautions but it’s alright. It’s the first time we’ve ever been here for the Derby so I’ll take that. We made the race and finished in the top ten so I can’t really complain.”
CASEY SMITH VS. TIM MARTIN
It may not have been a heavyweight fight on HBO, but things got pretty heated in the third turn at Five Flags Speedway after Casey Smith and Tim Martin got together just before the 100 lap mark. Scott Carlson spun starting the mess, after which Martin got in back of Smith. The wreck ended each drivers’ shot at winning. Smith was pretty hot about the whole deal.
“The caution is out and I’m slowed up on the back straightaway and he (Tim Martin) comes running 150mph or however fast you run,” said Smith. “I guess he doesn’t have a spotter and he’s not smart enough to see that everyone else was slowing down, he just wants to run over everybody. He’s a low-life scumbag piece of s***. It’s bull****. I feel bad for all the guys who worked hard all year for us. We struggled here real bad, and we had a car to win.”
Martin felt bad about the exchange as he explained it was just one of those things that happens in the blink of an eye.
“We were just trying to find a place to ride for a while and my spotter said there was a wreck in turn three,” explained Martin. “By the time I heard him and put my foot on the brake, the car in front of me evidently had gotten notified a little sooner than I did because he got slowed up and I just got in the back of him.”
Smith ran around Martin’s car and displayed his disapproval of the wreck with Martin. After a few words were exchanged, Smith walked to the pits.
“He’s a nobody and never will be anybody,” added Smith. “He destroyed a bad ass race car. They won’t let me whoop his ass here, but I’ll get him.”
Martin was pretty cool about the situation and offered up his words when his car was towed back to the pits.
“I don’t blame him for being upset,” added Martin. “He didn’t do anything wrong, he slowed down and I just didn’t get the information as soon as I could have.”
Smith ended up 39th while Martin made more laps to post a 34th place finish.
RYAN CRANE STRUGGLES IN THE DERBY AGAIN
Ryan Crane had a great year on the track as he took home six wins at various places, including a pair at Five Flags Speedway. So it was no surprise that several people were looking at him as a potential Derby winner. After running second the night before in the Snowflake 100, Crane was running well early on in the Derby when contact with Shane Sieg sent him for a spin on lap 15.
That wasn’t even half of the story for Crane. After a handful of laps Crane’s day ended for good as he got tore up in a wreck with Tim Currey in turn three.
“Those guys just got tangled up in front of me and I had nowhere to go,” said Crane. “It just wasn’t our weekend.”
FAST EDDIE MERCER IS A SPECTATOR EARLY
Eddie Mercer had a pretty easy week at the 41st Annual Snowball Derby. He spent most of the week walking around talking to people and answering the question, “When are you going to take your car out?”
Mercer didn’t practice much, but had a very good car in the race and was running in the top five when the race played out against him. A tangle between leaders Wayne Anderson and Heath Hindman created a stack-up that caused Mercer to get stuffed up against the inside wall with Georgia driver David Hole.
“I am not sure what happened in front of us,” said Mercer. “A few of the leaders had nowhere to go and I got in the mess. That was probably the best racecar I have ever had here at Five Flags Speedway.”
POLESITTER STAYS STRONG
Grant Enfinger became only the third driver to finish in the top five since 1999 after winning the pole position. Enfinger had a scare on lap 206 when he dove into the first turn causing a multi car wreck. Enfinger received damage from the wreck, but the team repaired the car and he worked his way back to the front and ended up in the runner up spot after the Brian Ickler disqualification.
“It was amazing,” said Enfinger. All of these guys fought hard and the funny thing is starting from the pole, you wouldn’t think your biggest complaint was track position. Part of it was my fault and part of it was circumstances.”
Enfinger might have raced differently in the final laps if he knew he was giving up the lead when Augie Grill passed him on lap 288. Still it was a solid finish for the pole sitter.
“The longer the run, it kind of hurt us a little bit,” added Enfinger. “We got tight in the center, but a great job by everybody. Everybody wants to win, but second in the Snowball with the weekend we had, you can’t complain about that.”
TYLER MILLWOOD COMPLETES THE DOUBLE
For Tyler Millwood the goal was to race both the Snowball Derby and the Snowflake 100. He accomplished that goal, but his finishes left him wanting something more. The ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour regular ended up 16th in the Snowflake 100 and 17th in the Snowball Derby. Each race saw him getting incidents on the track, but running both races is something for him to build on next season.
“I can only remember about 50 laps of the Snowball or something,” said Millwood. “Someone got into me and I cut a left from tire down and I thought the lower A frame had broke, so I got the wrecker to come over and take me to the pits, but it was just a left front tire so I went down and they came over and put another one on it and we went back out.
The transition from day to night helped Millwood out in the handling department.
“When the sun went down, the car turned to the awesome side, and it was good and I could run with the leaders all day long. I just wish I would have come in the pits when I cut that tire down and thought it was an A frame.”
The foul up with the A frame cost him a bunch of laps, at the end of the day he finished 14 laps off the pace of the leaders. When asked if this could prepare him for next season we got a truthful answer.
“I don’t know if anything can prepare you for Pensacola, it’s a track of its own. There’s no other place like this, at least that I’ve been to.”
ALEX HAASE FALLS JUST SHORT OF TOP 10
While his teammate Brian Ickler stood in victory lane (prior to a disqualification) Alex Haase could only sit and wonder what might have been after his setback in Fridays practice. While making a mock qualifying run, Haase sailed down into turn three only to feel a tire blow - sending his black number 51 Rowdy Busch Machine into the wall. After a few minutes of talking it over with the crew, the back up car was rolled out and Haase had very little time to work with the car before qualifying.
After missing the race on time and in the last chance race, Haase was saved by a promoter’s provisional. In the race he slowly worked his way to the front, but the car never had what it need to be competitive.
“We tried different little pit strategies,” said Haase. “We came in twice and didn’t have a set of tires there in the middle, when I think we needed to. It wasn’t a real good weekend for us. We went through one car and one motor and these guys are just burnt up, they still kept working, I have to thank them for where we finished, I think 12th or something like that. We changed everything right before the race. We just couldn’t figure out how to get this thing through the center and get up off.”
Haase will look for bigger and better things next year after scoring three wins and a Championship in 2008. A return trip to the Snowball Derby will hopefully offer him some salvation.
KELLEY HAS SOLID WEEKEND AT FIVE FLAGS SPEEDWAY
Paul Kelley is a well known Pro Late Model driver in the Southeast, but he’s been out of the Super Late Model ranks for about two years. After making the race in both the Snowflake100 and the Snowball Derby, Kelley was very impressed with his finishes considering that the crew had their heads spinning trying to keep up with both cars. Kelley finished fourth in the Snowflake and 10th in the Derby.
“We didn’t have any time with the Super Late Model and little with the Pro Late Model,” said Kelley. “We took it (The Super Late Model) from the World Crown straight to here and ran it like it was and it did really well. This race (The Derby) is so hard, we were just happy to get in, and to come out with a 10th place finish is just awesome.”
Kelley, like any racer, would welcome the opportunity to run both races again. He said they would go about their strategy a little different.
“I would do both,” said Kelley. “I would just be a little more prepared. We got it ready two and a half weeks before we even came, two and a half weeks before we even knew we were going to run the super. We would do a lot more testing if we try this again.
HAWKINS OVERCOMES MAJOR MECHANICAL PROBLEMS TO FINISH THIRD
It was hard for Matt Hawkins to crack a smile in the days leading up to the 41st Annual Snowball Derby. A blown head gasket reduced Hawkins practice time to just 38 laps for the whole weekend. With a sick engine in the car, Hawkins drove the car hard in qualifying and managed to squeeze a lap out of it that was quick enough to make the show. After qualifying, his team pulled their motor to ensure they could go the distance on Sunday in the Derby.
They had to drop to the rear for the start of the race, but quickly moved back into the top 10 and ran strong all day long. Hawkins said after the race it was fun to come form the back, but he knew he never had as strong of a car that he had in 2007.
“It feels good to know you have the car to beat,” said Hawkins. “This weekend was tough. Even though we finished third, we overcame so much with the sour motor in practice. We had to change it before the race. To come from the back was fun, but our car was definitely better last year.”
Hawkins though he finished fourth, but if had made the pass on Grant Enfinger in the closing laps he would have finished second to Grill for the second straight year after the winner was disqualified.
“Everybody did a good job on pit stops and stayed out of the mess. We had good car that lasted and another lap there at the end we would have finished second. (Grant) Enfinger got into me when he went by. I caught him and I was getting ready to set him up for a pass (for second), but we were just a little short.”
HANTZ HAD GOOD SHOW GOING
Three time CRA champion Scott Hantz had a good race going during the Snowball Derby. After using some pit strategy, he got himself into the lead after the 200 lap mark. It didn’t take long for the first car with fresh tires to catch up with Hantz. After giving up the lead, it was only a handful of laps later when the motor shut off ending Hantz’s run. He will be back in 2009 looking for another CRA championship and hopefully another attempt at the Snowball Derby.
LAWLER IN THE HOUSE
One of the members of the Kyle Busch Motorsports entourage at Five Flags Speedway (FL) was a familiar face to short track racing fans – 2007 PASS South champion Ryan Lawler.
Lawler wasn’t just there to watch either. He kept busy during the race.
“I was down here helping Kyle and Alex,” said Lawler. “Working with Hamke, I got to know these guys really well. I was doing the sign board, but I got to get out there to pull a fender out and patch some things up. It was pretty fun.”
POLLARD FINISHES FIFTH ON SUNDAY AND SIXTH ON SATURDAY
Bubba Pollard was the only driver to finish all 400 laps during the weekend between the Snowball Derby and the Snowflake 100. Pollard finished sixth in the Snowflake and then backed it up with a fifth in the Derby. Both races had unique twists as he had a tire go down late in the Snowflake and then he got off pit sequence in the Derby.
“I am very pleased with the whole weekend, especially the Derby,” said Pollard. “We overcame a lot to score a fifth-place finish. It’s the Derby. It was all about survival this weekend.”
Over the course of the two days Pollard overcame dodging wrecks, a pair of spins (one in practice) a tire rub, losing a lap and radio problems on Sunday, just a typical weekend at the Snowball Derby.
AUGIE GRILL MAKES HISTORY
As if winning the Snowball Derby isn’t history making enough, Augie Grill is now in an elite class. With his victory Grill becomes only the second driver in Snowball Derby history to win the race in back-to-back seasons. The only other time it was done was by Rich Bickle Jr. who in fact did it twice in ‘90 and ‘91 and ‘98 and ‘99. Can Grill cook up a three-peat?
GAS IS GOING DOWN RIGHT?
Each team was required to buy 25 gallons of racing fuel at Five Flags Speedway during the Snowball derby weekend. So we decided to do the math on the gas bill.
25 gallons per team at $7.75 a gallon is = $193.75
With 60 Super Late Model Teams = $11,625
With 71 Pro Late Model Teams = $13,756.25
Total for the Snowball Derby Weekend = $25,381.25
Just for the record, that’s enough for pay room and board plus tuition for year at most colleges and universities.
BLIZZARD SERIES CHAMPION’S DAY ENDS EARLY
At the end of the 2007 Snowball Derby, Josh Hamner was all ready to go for the 2008 Derby. He knew that he was in position to win and he was hungry for another shot at one of the toughest races in short track racing.
In the ’08 version of the race, Hamner was waiting for the right opportunity to make his move to the front. After a late race yellow Hamner hit pit road running in the middle of the pack. His crew did an amazing job to get the car back on the track in the second position. It looked as if Josh was in the right seat to win the Snowball Derby. As the cars went back green, a trailing arm mount broke on the #38 - sending him to pit road just a few laps latter.
“We had ourselves a pretty good little hotrod,” said Hamner. “It wasn’t as good as it was last year at the start of the race. We worked on it through the day and made adjustments accordingly. That got the car really good. It was just a freak deal that took us out. What do you do? Something like that is not on the check list.”
BENNY GORDON FINDS NO COMEFORT AWAY FROM PRO CUP
Benny Gordon had a remarkable year in the USAR Pro Cup Series by winning six races and the Overall Series Championship. So you would figure that they could carry the momentum over to the Snowball Derby. After a run in with Shane Sieg during the last chance race, Gordon struggled to get back on track. He did run well in the Derby, but a late race wreck forced them out and they posted a 19th place finish.
DAVID HOLE KEEP UGLY CAR GOING
Speed51.com hosted a Derby Weekend best looking car contest, but it was hands down David Hole who actually had one of the worst looking cars at the end of the race. Hole was running his Pro Late Model in the Snowball Derby after a motor problem left his Super Late Model in the truck on race day. Despite a car short of power, and some ugly body damage, Hole managed to finish 16th.
The Snowball Derby is one of the toughest races in the county. Just making the show is hard enough, not to mention the 300 lap race and the tire strategy. When the green flag flew on the 41st Annual Snowball a total of 14 drivers were making their first ever start in the historic event. The rookies proved to be very patient as they took eight of the top 15 finishing positions. That included two in the top five and a total of five in the top 10.
BOLEN HAPPY AFTER DERBY RUN
John Bolen was pretty pleased with his Derby effort after having to get into the show through the last chance race. After loosing a lap early on Bolen dodged a few in race wrecks and posted an 11th place finish. Not too bad for a Derby rookie.
“We came in and got tires and then got out lap back,” said Bolen. “We had a 40 lap run and we burned the tires off. Then the leaders came in and got tires. Basically we got off sequence with the leaders.”
Bolen hopes to use what he learned this year and transfer it to next season. He plans on running all Blizzard races again in 2009.