The big week of the 53rd Annual Snowball Derby is finally upon us. To preview this year’s biggest race for Super Late Models, here is a look “By the Numbers” of the previous 52 editions of the race.
4.33 – The average finish of the top rookie at the Snowball Derby in the last six years. We talk a lot about how you have to know Five Flags Speedway, but Travis Braden was in his first Derby start when he won a year ago, and Zane Smith and Dalton Sergeant both posted runner-up finishes as newcomers. The top rookie in the past six years has not been outside the top 8.
5 – Rich Bickle is the all-time winner at the Snowball Derby having won five times in the 1990s. He told Speed51 on “The Bullring” that next season’s Snowball Derby will be his last.
6 – Eddie Mercer holds the record for most front-row starts at the Snowball Derby, but some drivers who are racing this weekend could be getting closer to that.
Active Front-Row Starts
Bubba Pollard 3
Chase Elliott 2
Cole Butcher 2
8 – With the addition of Noah Gragson and Kyle Busch to the entry list, the number of past victories represented is now at eight. That includes two by Busch, two by Chase Elliott, two by Augie Grill, one by Gragson and one by Travis Braden. This is a strong number because the 2018 Snowball Derby did not feature a former winner in the field.
9 – Nine times in the last 19 years, the leader with 10 to go didn’t win the Snowball Derby.
12 – Jody Ridley holds the record for most top-five finishes in the Snowball Derby with 12. We think that is a safe bet to say it won’t be broken, at least not for a while. Of the drivers entered in this year’s Derby, several have three top-five finishes with no one boasting more than that.
13 – This will be the 13th start in the Snowball Derby for four-time Blizzard Series champion Bubba Pollard. His best finish was third in 2017. Only Eddie Mercer and Jody Ridley had to wait as long, as Mercer won in his 17th start and Ridley in his 14th. It will also be the 13th start for Grant Enfinger, who has been second twice and sat on the pole in 2008.
19 – A total of 19 drivers have led 100 laps in a single Snowball Derby event and failed to win the race. Chase Elliott heads that list with 233 in 2013. In case you are wondering, how many have led 100 laps and won? It’s only eight.
33 – While this is the record we have watched for years, it simply is hard to imagine it will be topped. Last December, David Rogers ran his record setting 33rd Snowball Derby. Rogers passed away in March, leaving Augie Grill with the most active starts at 15.
53 – This will be the 53rd running of the Snowball Derby. The race started in 1968 with a distance of 100 laps. It grew to 200 laps and then 250 before going back to 200. In 1986 and 1987 it was again 250 before it went to 300 laps in 1988. From 1990 to 1997 the race was the 300 plus the annual number of the Snowball Derby. If that was the case this year it would fictionally make the race 353 laps. Wow.
300 – The race is scheduled for 300 laps, but it has to end under green. 15 times the race has ended on the 300 lap mark.
330 – In his career, Ty Majeski has led the most laps of an active driver who has not won the Snowball Derby. He has commanded the lead for 330 laps at Five Flags Speedway. Bubba Pollard is close behind, with 305 laps led in the Derby without a win.
398 – Freddie Query holds the record for most laps led by a non-winner at the Snowball Derby. He led over 100 laps twice, and didn’t go to victory lane. He said in an interview years ago with 51 that the crew was the weakest part of his racing at the Derby. Most of the races he was doing back in North Carolina, he didn’t need to pit, so he had to gather a group of guys to compete against the big money pit crews.
1983 – Way back in 1983, Bobby Allison was the last current NASCAR Cup Series Champion to come to the Snowball Derby to race. This year, Chase Elliott will be the first since then.
2005 – The last time the winner came from the pole was back in 2005, when Eddie Mercer won the Snowball Derby after his 17th attempt.
13,935 – The number of laps run at the Snowball Derby is now up to 13,935. Very few people can claim they have seen all of those laps, but there are some out there who have been to every single running of the Snowball Derby.
25,000: The winners share of the Snowball Derby is $25,000. The pole sitter has the option to drop to the rear, and if they win the race they will gain another $25,000 courtesy of Phoenix Construction.
Brother-to-Brother: Kyle and Kason Plott are entered into the Snowball Derby. In 2017, they became the first set of brothers to start the race since the Allison brothers who did it a record nine times.
What Does it Take?: You can look at the numbers all day long and understand it takes being good and being lucky to win the Snowball Derby. The formula is lost somewhere in the numbers and the magic and that’s what makes the Snowball Derby so great.
In Memory: We take a moment to pause and think about who are no longer with us in the Snowball Derby family. Of course, we mentioned David Rogers. Former two-time winner “The Beaumont Flyer” Freddie Fryar passed away in April. The men behind the legacy of so many wins also suffered losses. Ray Stonkus, a crew chief for several Snowball Winners including Mickey Gibbs and Rick Crawford, passed away this year. Veteran car builder and crew chief Frankie Grill passed away just a few months back in September. Grill was a part of at least 11 Snowball Derby wins. Another famous car builder, Robert Hamke, also passed away and he was the builder of at least six Snowball Derby winners. They will all be greatly missed.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Correspondent