SNOWBALL DERBY LEFTOVERS by Jeremy Troiano, Bob Dillner & Matt Dillner
All Of The Scoop From 300 Laps Of Wild Short Track Racing
With son Steve winning the Snowball Derby in just his second try, NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran Rusty Wallace became a very proud papa on Saturday evening.
“I am so proud of that kid; I just really don’t even know what to say,” said Wallace, a former Winston Cup Series champion. “When I found out that Steve won, I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, I could believe it, because Steve just has a ton of talent, but that race is so darned hard to win. The guys that Steve beat last night are the best of the best in short track racing.
“When Steve went to the Snowball Derby last year, patience wasn’t his best virtue. I think those guys down there taught him a big lesson. He got his butt kicked and realized that there were things he needed to work on. Since the halfway point of this year, Steve has been a totally different driver. He’s learning that to win the race, you have to finish it. He’s more patient and calculating. He’s learning that there are times to push it and times that you have to ride it out and let the race come to you. He’s becoming less of a daredevil and more of a focused race car driver.
“I think everyone’s starting to realize that the kid has totally unlimited potential. He’s just finally starting to
"The lapped cars were on the inside and going everywhere. I had a run and was all the way up beside the guy (Dorer) and he just never saw me or something. I was all the way up to his door. I don’t’ know how he didn’t see me. I don’t know if he had his eyes closed . He came all the way down like I wasn’t there and hit me in the door and that was all she wrote.”
“I had a car to make it two in a row,” said Bradberry. “I think it was a better car than last year. I was in a position to win.”
Bradberry used the term “was” because there is no accounting for luck, or the actions of lapped cars, in racing. Within 25 laps of the finish Bradberry’s promising day ended against the frontstretch wall along with the lapped #70 car of Steve Dorer.
“All day and all night I was just saving my car and riding,” said Bradberry. “I was just trying to stay in a safe spot. There at the end I pitted and I had a rocketship.
Steve Wallace celebrates with Snowball win along with a friend and sister Katie (right). (51 Photos)
learn how to use it. Once he does, I think it’s going to be bad news for the competition. Last night’s race just proves it.”
Rusty knows something about running at the Derby too. In nine attempts, Rusty's best finish was second, coming in both 1979 and 1985.
“A Snowball Derby win doesn’t come easily. We took some of the baddest short track cars in the country there in the 70’s and 80’s and just could never pull it off. There are just so many elements to that race, especially for a young kid like Steve: the terrible tire wear, having to make pit stops, the closure rate because of new tires—these are all things that you really have to work on as a young driver. Tracks like Pensacola are so frustrating sometimes because you can have the fastest hot rod there and get totally run over by a lapped car with new tires. You really have to be patient and race the racetrack.”
BRADBERRY SHOWS HOW IMPORTANT THE DERBY IS
When Charlie Bradberry won last year's Snowball Derby, he realized how important a Derby win really was. This year, it looked like he had a good shot at making it two-in-a-row, having one of the fastest cars in the late stages of the race. It looked as if Bradberry would be the only one that could even compete with race leader Steve Wallace.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Dorer. “I guess Charlie got into turn one a little harder than I did. I’m not sure. He got into our left rear and the next thing I know we were in the fence. I ruined the car. I guess you are suppose to move out of the way since he won it last year.”
After the wreck, the normally calm Bradberry walked over to Dorer’s car and voiced his displeasure. There was a small confrontation, but those who watched the incident knew that Bradberry was pretty dejected.
“I was just so mad,” said Bradberry. “I really had a good shot at winning. I was so upset for someone that was not
paying attention to take out a winning car. I normally don’t have a temper. He was just the closest one out there I could take it out on. I’m ok now though. It was just one of those deals. That’s the way racing goes.”
“He likes to fight while a guy is strapped in the car with his helmet and seat belts on,” commented Dorer on the incident. “I guess he wants to come kick someone’s ass while they are locked up in a jail cell. That is pretty tough I guess. I’m not that bad.”
Eddie Mercer has been trying to win the Snowball Derby for years. In 1994, it looked like he had it won, but Tammy Jo Kirk passed him for the lead late in the race. He finished second.
In 1997, he was battling Bobby Gill for the Derby title when he ran out of time. He finished second.
In 2004, Mercer was chasing down race dominator Steve Wallace, but again, ran out of time. He finished second.
Charlie Bradberry looks over the damage to his wrecked race car on Saturday. (Dan Butler photo)
Charlie and Dorer look over their wrecked race cars. (51 Photo)
entry into that corner and spun and took out (Gary) St. Amant. I really hated that. That tore all the fenders up. Then, we stayed out and lost a lap and then made that back up.”
Mercer also got banged up in a battle with Wayne Anderson for the second spot in the closing laps.
“Steve (Wallace) got Wayne off the bottom and I got my right front up to Wayne's door and I thought he'd give me the lane,” Mercer said of the contact between the two drivers. “It was 'get a biscuit' time and I understand because Wayne was trying to keep second place. I was just trying to keep up with Steve. It was just a racing deal. There is no problem with us. We are still friends.”
LATE ACCIDENT TAKES OUT CONTENDERS CYWINSKI, LONG
For the second year in a row, Kevin Cywinski had the best car at the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida's Five Flag Speedway.
And for the second year in a row, Cywinski fell just short of the Snowball victory.
“I'm running out of chances,” joked Mercer after the race. “We'll just have to keep doing the best we can do. We'll probably be here again next year. And the next.”
It was a great turnaround from the Derby of a year ago for Mercer, who also won the Five Flags Speedway track championship this year for Super Late Models, after finishing last in the 2003 Derby. Looking at his car though, it looked as if he went through hell just getting to second.
“It was really a rough race for us. Some cars hit some mud and threw it on the track early and I made a low
For the third time in his career, Eddie Mecer finished second at the Derby.
Cywinski's #1, the exact same car he dominated the 2003 Derby with, was fast and led the most laps during the 2004 version of the race, but a bad pit stop late in the going put Cywinski toward the back of the pack, where he became the victim of an accident and also took out then-top 10 car Donald Long just 24 laps from the finish. Cywinski finished 24th, Long 26th.
"We just had a bad pit stop and got caught in the back of the pack," said Kevin, the 2004 ASA National Champion. "We were down there (in turn two) and just got caught up in someone else’s deal. Down in (turns) three and four, the #72 (Eddie Mercer) got pushed to the outside. We came up here (to turn one) and he was still trapped on the outside and some other cars got trapped on the outside and someone just got impatient.”
The contact sent Cywinski up the track, where Donald Long hopped his right rear tire, briefly got airborn, and slammed into the wall.
“That was one of the wildest rides... that was about a good as I’ve ever had,” said Long. “I don’t know what happened. We were on the outside going into two trying to make up some ground. Someone got bunched and when they did, they got shot into me and then I ended up
jumping Cywinski’s car and about KOed the wall in the air. It was a wild deal.”
Both Cywinski and Long had cars that looked like they could contend for the top five. Cywinski's looked to be one of the new cars that could challenge Steve Wallace.
"I think by far our car and the 5 car (eventual race winner Steve Wallace) were the best cars here tonight. We don’t even have any spare parts for our car. We came here for one thing, to win the race. I think our guys did an awesome job. We had the car to win. Maybe next year."
“That long green flag allowed us to catch up to the leaders,” added Long. “We felt real comfortable. I felt like we had a chance. You never have a chance though until the last two laps.”