At Long Last: Majeski Finally Hoists Tom Dawson Trophy, Captures 53rd Annual Snowball Derbyadmin
At Long Last: Majeski Finally Hoists Tom Dawson Trophy, Captures 53rd Annual Snowball Derby
By Chuck Corder
Here came that moment.
Once again, Ty Majeski was right in the thick of Snowball Derby glory. The 26-year-old Wisconsin native driver had been here before. Coming into the 53rd annual Snowball Derby – short-track racing’s crown jewel – Majeski had led 330 career laps and finished on the podium in half of his six starts. He finished runner-up in 2018 to fellow NASCAR driver Noah Gragson, who failed to make this year’s Derby.
Majeski, a NASCAR Trucks Series driver and Super Late Model virtuoso, led the race on the final restart with California SLM stud Derek Thorn on his outside. Thorn, the Derby polesitter for the second consecutive year, had a rocket for most of the race and led a Derby-record 252 of 302 laps.
The pair were beating and banging on each other for most of the final five laps, but Majeski stuck his No. 91 SLM in front of Thorn’s No 43 on Lap 299 and held Thorn off for the final three laps to earn his first career Derby victory.
Thorn finished runner-up and the NASCAR Cup Series reigning champion Chase Elliott finished third in his quest to hoist the Tom Dawson Trophy for a third time.
“This is the one everybody wants, and we’ve given a couple away, so it means a lot,” Majeski said. “It means a lot. We’ve had the dominant racecar in the past but couldn’t close it out. We weren’t great today, but we were when it counted. We made the right adjustments all day.”
Majeski’s most masterful move Sunday came on Lap 277. After Thorn slammed the door on a few pass attempts, Majeski finally got around him just before the competition caution, which proved pivotal.
Competition cautions occur after 75 consecutive green flag laps. There were three total Sunday and the last meant Majeski had position on Thorn for the final 25 laps.
“Derek had a ton of speed,” Majeski said. “We had a great setup for short runs at the beginning of the race and it paid dividends with the caution there at the end.
“This is why we come back every year. We wanted to win this thing after the ways we lost it the last couple of years.”
Majeski felt a little bit snakebitten in the Florida Panhandle. He lost the lead 26 laps shy of the checkered flag in his 2018 second-place finish. Exactly four years ago, Majeski lost the lead on Lap 287 and finished third for the second year in a row.
A winner of 107 SLM races, Majeski couldn’t contain his excitement for Sunday’s win. Satisfaction was written all over his face. Even more, considering the caliber of drivers he beat.
The Derby had another Cup Series champion in addition to Elliott. Kyle Busch, the 2015 and 2019 Cup champ and another two-time Derby king, threatened early with a top-five appearance but finished seventh.
Bubba Pollard had a miserable day and he ended it just 109 laps in when he pulled it into the infield. A 34th ties his worst career Derby performance. Stephen Nasse, still reeling from a controversial ruling that cost him the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 for Pro Late Models on Saturday, had mechanical issues after a promising start and finished 29th.
“This was the deepest field I’ve been a part of,” Majeski said. “It was crazy how tight the field was.
“I was a little nervous after that first run. We fell back to 11th or 12th, but we made good adjustments all day to put ourselves in position at the end.”
Elliott and fourth-place Chandler Smith were the moving men Sunday after starting 31st and 34th, respectively. Each earned their way into the show during a tense Saturday in which Elliott won the last-chance race and Smith finished fourth then, as well.
Smith’s fourth is his best career Derby finish on a glowing resume. The 18-year-old from Talking Rock, Ga., has finished no worse than seventh in five consecutive and career starts.
They all hope to switch spots with Majeski next year and be the ones to kiss the plastic snowball.