Home / News / Chase Elliott Wins Snowball Derby After Christopher Bell DQ’d, Nemechek Catches Fire Late
(Photo: CIA Stock Photo, Inc. ©2015)

Chase Elliott Wins Snowball Derby After Christopher Bell DQ’d, Nemechek Catches Fire Late

For Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch Motorsports, it was a very interesting weekend at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.  The rookie competitor had one of the fastest cars in town, but he fell victim to technical inspection.  After setting a track record in claiming the pole Friday night, Bell’s time was disallowed due to being out of tolerance on a measurement from the center of the wheel to the rear fender.  John Hunter Nemechek also failed post-qualifying inspection and had his time tossed out as well.

While Nemechek chose to fall back on the Past Champions’ Provisional as the Snowball Derby’s defending champion, Bell was forced to start Saturday’s 50-lap Qualifier from the rear.  It took him just 26 laps to move up into a transfer spot, then Bell methodically moved into the lead and took the win.

That win gave Bell the 31st starting spot for Sunday’s 300-lap Snowball Derby, while Nemechek started dead last in 37th.  By the end of the day, the two Camping World Truck Series competitors were the class of the field.  However, neither would reach pay dirt.

Bell’s DQ on Friday gave the pole to Ty Majeski, this year’s ARCA Midwest Tour Champion, with Chase Elliott alongside.  At the start, Elliott pressured Majeski and briefly took the lead.  However, the Wisconsinite took the lead back a couple of laps later and settled into a steady rhythm at the front.

Unlike many previous Snowball Derbies, Sunday’s affair was relatively clean.  It was green all the way to lap 64, while Augie Grill, Kyle Grissom (son of 1993 Busch Series Champion Steve Grissom) and Bret Holmes came together in turn 3.  All three drivers were ok, although Grill was not happy with Grissom.

Pit strategy resulted in Preston Peltier taking the lead by staying out.  Nemechek won the race off pit road and moved up the order, while Majeski had a bad stop and dropped all the way to 18th.

One of the stars of the race turned out to be 16-year old Californian racer Zane Smith, who took the lead shortly after the restart from Peltier and held off a charge from Bell, who chose not to pit at the first yellow and successfully kept himself in the hunt while others who stayed out fell off quickly.

Nemechek won the race off pit road during the third caution after halfway, then ran down Bubba Pollard (who stayed out) to take the lead on lap 192, bringing Bell with him.  What followed was quite the battle between the two young competitors with Bell coming out on top with 99 laps to go.

Bell’s DQ on Friday gave the pole to Ty Majeski, this year’s ARCA Midwest Tour Champion, with Chase Elliott alongside.  At the start, Elliott pressured Majeski and briefly took the lead.  However, the Wisconsinite took the lead back a couple of laps later and settled into a steady rhythm at the front.

Unlike many previous Snowball Derbies, Sunday’s affair was relatively clean.  It was green all the way to lap 64, while Augie Grill, Kyle Grissom (son of 1993 Busch Series Champion Steve Grissom) and Bret Holmes came together in turn 3.  All three drivers were ok, although Grill was not happy with Grissom.

Pit strategy resulted in Preston Peltier taking the lead by staying out.  Nemechek won the race off pit road and moved up the order, while Majeski had a bad stop and dropped all the way to 18th.

One of the stars of the race turned out to be 16-year old Zane Smith, who took the lead shortly after the restart from Peltier and held off a charge from Bell, who chose not to pit at the first yellow and successfully kept himself in the hunt while others who stayed out fell off quickly.

Nemechek won the race off pit road during the third caution after halfway, then ran down Bubba Pollard (who stayed out) to take the lead on lap 192, bringing Bell with him.  What followed was quite the battle between the two young competitors with Bell coming out on top with 99 laps to go.

The “green-flag feel” of the race was such that a competition caution was thrown on lap 266 after 75 consecutive green laps.  That brought the field to pit road for the final stops of the day.  Bell managed to get off pit road first.  Before the action could truly get back going, Donnie Wilson spun in turn 4, collecting Noah Gragson and 14-year old Derek Kraus.  All three drivers walked away under their own power, but Gragson appeared to suffer a wrist injury.

For the final restart, Bell chose to lead from the outside line.  Nemechek took advantage of Bell’s decision take the lead.  However, heavy smoke started coming out of Nemechek’s right front corner.  Turns out that the brakes were starting to fail on the No. 8.  Bell was able to quickly run down Nemechek and re-take the lead with 18 laps to go.

From there, the issues only got worse for Nemechek.  The smoke dissipated, then came back with force.  A fire broke out on the car while Nemechek continued to circulate.  Eventually, two things happened that forced Nemechek to pull off with a few laps to go.  The engine started to fail on the car.  At the same time, the fire started penetrating the footbox.  Nemechek brought his car to the pits and promptly spun it out due to the lack of brakes.  The now-roaring fire was extinguished, yet no caution was thrown for the general hazard.  He would be classified as finishing 21st.

Bell held on to take the win on the track.  However, in the infamous post-race inspection, Bell’s No. 51 was found to have too much left-side weight bias.  The rules mandate a maximum of 58 percent left-side weight bias.  Bell’s car rolled over the scales with 58.3 percent left-side bias.  In the PASS Super Late Models, it is a strict rule at all races.  With 2750 pounds being the minimum weight, being 8.25 pounds over the 1595 pound bias limit gets you disqualified.  Crew chief Chris Gabehart told Speed51.com that tire buildup from Bell’s Polish Victory Lap was to blame.  A picture posted on Speed51’s Trackside Now update page showed a significant amount of rubber buildup.  Regardless, Bell was disqualified for the infraction.

Elliott, while it appeared that he didn’t have the best car, kept himself in contention all day.  He passed Zane Smith in the final laps to take second on the track.  With Bell’s disqualification, that pass in the last couple of laps gave Elliott the victory that was taken away in post-race technical inspection in 2013, and his second overall.  Elliott’s car passed inspection cleanly, confirming his victory.

Pole-sitter Majeski finished a strong third despite his issues on pit road, while K&N Pro Series East regular Dalton Sargeant was fourth for Wauters Motorsports.  After running off-sequence for a good chunk of the race, Pollard brought his No. 26 home in fifth.  Casey Smith, who started 35th, finished a strong sixth after he ran as high as third.  Peltier was seventh, while William Byron and Thorn were eighth and ninth.  Camping World Truck Series regular Daniel Hemric rounded out the top 10.

 

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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6 comments

  1. Phil Allaway

    No, I’m not trying to “make word count so I get paid.” There was a lot going on at the Snowball Derby. Also, I had the thing pretty much done before I got the news of Bell’s DQ. Would have been a different and likely shorter article had that not occurred.

  2. The heir apparent for the Sprint 24 car, was DQ’D in 2013 for a piece of tungsten “that was mistakenly put in”. Of course it was a mistake….lol.

  3. Fail post-race inspection and get disqualified and lose the win. What a concept!

    • Yes Sir Indeedy Doody… I noticed that one too, but didn’t bother after the discombobulation in my head trying to read it straight through and scrolling up and down.

  4. I thought I was missing something or my computer had messed up when I reread all of the preceeding paragraphs.

  5. Front Stretch Team,
    Does anyone actually proof these articles? I’ve been a fan of this site for years, but Jezus… repeating 5 paragraphs right in the middle of an article? What are you doing Phil, trying to make word count so you get paid?
    SS