The time for the 53rd annual Snowball Derby is upon us. The biggest event in pavement short track racing will take the green flag on Sunday afternoon at the Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. Some of the nation’s biggest short track stars and even well-known figures from the NASCAR Cup Series will attempt to capture the checkered flag in the historic and prestigious event.
So who among those entered will be among the favorites?
Here is a list of the drivers most likely to be in contention and the one driver InsideCircleTrack.com picks to win:
Stephen Nasse– The 25-year-old from Pinellas Park, Fla has won big races in his career including the Winchester 400 and the U.S. Short Track Nationals at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Seemingly, his record in the Snowball Derby doesn’t seem that impressive on the surface having recorded a best finish of only a 6th back in 2014. But the real motivating factor for Nasse coming into the 2020 version of this race might just be revenge.
Keep in mind that this is a passionate driver who once fought with his own pit crew following a crash caused by a loose wheel in this race so there haven’t actually been that many high points in Pensacola for Nasse.
However, Nasse appeared to have scored the biggest win of his career in this race last year when he crossed the finish line ahead of the pack. However, the so-called ‘Room of Doom’ post race technical inspection did in fact doom the No. 51 machine as it was determined that the car was equipped with an unapproved brake component. That finding resulted in a disqualification.
Nasse will be a factor before this weekend is over.
Bubba Pollard– Arguably the most accomplished current driver in pavement short track racing has never won the Snowball Derby. The 33-year-old from Senoia, GA has earned three top-5 finishes in Five Flags Speedway’s premier event with a high water mark of third in 2017, a race in which he led 157 of the 300 laps. However, his last two starts have resulted in 26th and 25th place finishes respectively.
Pollard does enter this race with a bit of momentum following a win in the Florida Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna Speedway last month. But aside from that victory, the No. 26 car has not performed as well of late as might be expected. That said, Pollard will actually drive a No. 71 machine in this year’s race.
Will the change in number result in a much anticipated trip to victory lane for Pollard?
Please also consider reading “Bubba Pollard feels the weight of Snowball Derby“
Ty Majeski– This 26-year-old driver from Seymour, WI seems to always find himself in the mix in the bigger races. Evidence of that can be found looking back earlier in this season when he won his first attempt in a Late Model Stock Car by capturing the South Carolina 400 at the Florence(SC) Motor Speedway. The No. 91 machine has also pulled into victory lane twice, including in 2020, at the end of the prestigious Slinger Nationals in his home state.
There is every reason to count Majeski as a favorite in the Snowball Derby. He led 140 laps of last year’s race before being involved in a late-race mishap that ended his chances.
Look for him to spend time near the front of the pack again this year.
Casey Roderick– The 28-year-old from Lawrenceville, GA comes in riding a wave of momentum after having scored a win in the most recent Super Late Model crown jewel, the All-American 400 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Also, he knows his way around the Five Flags Speedway having earned four consecutive top-10 finishes in the Snowball Derby. The driver of his own No. 25 Rowdy Manufacturing car led 75 laps in this event last year on his way to a seventh-place result while piloting a car for Donnie Wilson.
At some point on Sunday, he will emerge as a factor.
Please also consider reading “Casey Roderick hoping to carry All-American momentum to Snowball Derby“
Carson Hocevar– This year’s winner of the Winchester 400 and the Red Bud 400 will be looking to add another major victory to his 2020 totals. The 17-year-old from Portage, MI looked like a potential winner in the All-American 400 until a late-race tangle dropped him from contention.
As well as Hocevar has run this season, it would not be a surprise to see him in victory lane at the end of the day on Sunday.
Travis Braden– It has been and up and down past twelve months for the 26-year-old Wheeling, WV driver. He won the 2019 Snowball Derby last December after seeming first place finisher Stephen Nasse failed post-race technical inspection, but shortly after the U.S. Short Track Nationals, he was informed by his Platinum Racing team that they would no longer be fielding cars for him.
He will be with an entirely new operation to defend his win of a year ago so the jury is still out on this driver.
Chase Elliott– The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion has already won this race twice. A top star in NASCAR is not making an appearance solely for the purpose of making an appearance. The 25-year-old from Dawsonville, GA will be a factor.
Kyle Busch– Another NASCAR Cup Series champion who has also won this race will also be making an appearance. And there’s no way this owner of Rowdy Manufacturing isn’t coming to Pensacola for any other reason than to win the Snowball Derby. Like Elliott, the 35-year-old star from Las Vegas will be in contention.
Derek Thorn– With all of those other drivers mentioned, it is now time for this writer to name his choice to win the 53rd running of the Snowball Derby.
Derek Thorn had the car to beat in the All-American 400 in Nashville until he and Carson Hocevar tangled late in the going. The 34-year-old driver from Lakeport, CA has shown that he can be fast at Five Flags Speedway as he started last year’s crown jewel race from the pole then went on to lead 40 laps before being involved in a crash during a late restart.
I am predicting that it will all come together for Thorn this time around.
The Snowball Derby will be aired live by Speed51.com
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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