Hometown Girl Johanna Long Wins the 43rd Snowball
Derby at Five Flags Speedway in True Fairy Tale Fashion
18-Year-Old Started Her Career at Pensacola’s
Short Track and Now Has Won Its Biggest Race
51 Sports PR Report

Fairy tales of popular princesses like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Belle, are often told to children of all ages.  All of these stories share a common theme.  A young woman finds strength to prosper through numerous plot twists and turns on the way to a happy ending that involves a great and crowning moment.

Today, Johanna Long is living the same life of a princess in her hometown of Pensacola, Florida – but it’s reality instead of a fairy tale.  Her glass slipper was a firesuit, her coach was a Super Late Model racecar and her moment at the ball took place in victory lane at Five Flags Speedway.

That is because the 18-year-old driver put her name in the record books as the winner of the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby on Sunday evening.  Long joins Tammy Jo Kirk as the only female drivers to win the race over its run of over four decades. 

“It’s absolutely amazing. I just still can’t believe it,” said Long shortly after taking the biggest checkered flag so far in her young career.  “I could cry right now.  It’s just so amazing and we’ve worked so hard for this.  It just feels awesome.  My Dad (noted Pensacola short track racer Donald Long) and everyone worked so hard for me to get here and run this race tonight.  There were so many cars that could win this race and we did.  It’s just amazing and I still can’t believe that I did it.  I’m shocked.”

Young drivers from all across the United States dream of winning the Snowball Derby.  This year’s race drew former NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year Landon Cassill from Iowa, 2010 Blizzard Series champion Chase Elliott from Georgia and 2009 Big 8 champion Ross Kenseth from the upper Midwest just for starters.  However Long had even closer ties to the track.  She grew up just a few miles away from it and visited the facility frequently throughout her life as she watched her father Donald wheel a Super Late Model there.  A few years back, Donald recognized his daughter’s talents and stepped out of the driver’s seat himself to focus his team’s efforts on Johanna.

Johanna Long proved to be a quick learner, winning Pro and Super Late Model feature races, the 2008 Pro Late Model championship at Five Flags, the 2009 Blizzard Series championship at Five Flags, the pole position for last year’s Snowball Derby and the 2009 Gulf Coast SLM title.  This year, Long has entered into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and was rewarded with impressive top-20 finishes in her first two career starts.

Along each step of her journey, Long has gotten just a little bit better.  Now, she has progressed into an elite group of Snowball Derby winners that includes such greats as Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Rich Bickle, Ted Musgrave, Butch Miller, Kyle Busch and the late Charlie Bradberry.

“I have grown a lot,” said Long.  “Starting here, my first big race was the Snowflake and I’ve grown a lot since that.  The Truck races this year have helped me a tremendous amount with the competition.  I can’t be thankful enough for that.”

Long had to work hard for her Snowball Derby victory.  The battle for the lead throughout the day turned physical for many of the drivers who fought for it.  Long and Cassill beat and banged each other late in the going of the race, with Long slipping by and Cassill recovering for a fourth-place finish.  The contact between the two young drivers might have been more because Long had a quicker car with newer tires than due to over-aggressive driving.

“He (Cassill) said that he understood (the contact),” said Long.  “He knew that we had better tires than he did and that I had to do what I had to do and I didn’t mean to do it.”

“I just congratulated her, told her that she had to do what she had to do and she’s the Snowball Derby Champion,” said Cassill.  “I was on old tires and she was on new tires.  I got nothing to be mad about.  She did a great job and I’m just real proud to be in the top five here.  You know, we had a real shot a winning and I think we could have done it.  I think we could have won that race even with her behind me on new tires, but it would have been difficult.  She was real strong there and she did a great job.

“To run fourth here at the Derby is a great accomplishment.  It’s a really big race and I know that we can win this in the end some day.  I’ll come back here again and do it again.  Maybe we’ll take it away from her next year.”

Oklahoma driver Donnie Wilson led laps during the Snowball Derby and recorded a career-best second-place finish in the race.  His day was a story that also had more than its fair share of ups and down.

“In the middle of the race, we had some bad pit stops and we were way in the back and I thought we were done,” said Wilson.  “It just kind of worked out . It’s a miracle that we got up there.  It worked out.  I thought we were going to win it if the caution wouldn’t have come out (late in the race).  I brought the caution out, so I have no one to blame but myself.

“I didn’t know that Jo had come in with like 10 laps (to go) to put tires on.  That kind of helped her and gave her an advantage.  We were still on 65-lap tires.  We were just all trying to go for it.  It’s all good.  I’m happy.

Rounding out the podium finishers was Indiana native Scott Hantz, while Cassill was fourth and Arkansas driver Dennis Schoenfeld rebounded from being four laps down earlier in the race to record a fifth-place finish in this year’s Snowball Derby.

For more information on the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby, contact Five Flags Speedway by calling (850) 944-8400 and be sure to visit www.snowballderby.com and www.fiveflagsspeedway.com.

43rd Annual Snowball Derby
December 5, 2010
Five Flags Speedway
Pensacola, Florida

1. Johanna Long
2. Donnie Wilson
3. Scott Hantz
4. Landon Cassill
5. Dennis Schoenfeld
6. Derrick Griffin
7. Mason Mingus
8. Travis Kittleson
9. John Bolen
10. Jimmy Garmon
11. Bubba Pollard
12. Mike Garvey
13. David Stremm
14. Casey Smith
15. Dan Fredrickson
16. Casey Roderick
17. Chase Elliott
18. Johnny VanDoorn
19. Ross Kenseth
20. Grant Enfinger
21. Cale Gale
22. Andy Loden
23. Chris Davidson
24. Jeff Fultz
25. Josh Hamner
26. Ryan Sieg
27. David Ragan
28. Augie Grill
29. Jerry Artuso
30. Dennis Prunty
31. Clay Rogers
32. Korey Ruble
33. Brandon Carlson
34. Ryan Lawler
35. T.J. Reaid
36. Dave Mader III
37. Eddie Mercer

Johanna Long's 2010 Snowball Derby trophy.