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Five Flags Speedway

'Twenty-Thousand Dollar' Chase, Elliott Edges VanderLey at Line to Win 44th Snowball Derby

By Chuck Corder

It just keeps getting better.

Few thought the Snowball Derby would ever live up to the drama and excitement created in 2010.

And while the storybook ending of hometown girl Johanna Long racing to Snowball glory might never be topped, the 44th running’s finish was unparalleled Sunday at Five Flags Speedway.

Chase Elliott stood alone. Barely.

The 16-year-old racing prodigy fought door-to-door in the closing laps with Five Flags stalwart D.J. VanderLey to win the nation’s most prestigious short-track race by less than a quarter of a second.

The 0.229 margin of victory was the closest in Snowball history.

“I think I’m going to carry it forever,� Elliott said of the Tom Dawson trophy he held close to his body.

Elliott, who runs on NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series, earned the right to do whatever he wants. He outlasted VanderLey in a similar finish to the green-white-checkered theatrics last year.

VanderLey, just 19 himself, actually put his No. 4 in front of Elliott’s No. 9 for the first four laps following a late restart as the pair of teenagers raced side-by-side.

VanderLey’s problem was he was on the outside. He never managed to clear Elliott. Instead, VanderLey fell in line behind Elliott between turn Nos. 3 and 4 with an eighth of a mile remaining.

VanderLey was content on etching his name in Snowball lore another year.

“Anytime he wanted to, he could’ve turned us,� he said of Ellliott. “Running with Chase was a lotta fun. No one makes the outside work.�

VanderLey nearly did.

Ross Kenseth, whose father Matt is a current NASCAR star, took third. Kenseth is 18. So you’re your top three goes 16, 19 and 18. Just a bunch of teenagers dragging Main on a Sunday.

“I’m not gonna stop coming until I win one of these things,� Kenseth said after his third appearance produced the best finish. “Chase is one heck of a wheelman. I thought I could’ve given him a run for his money.�

Instead, Elliott accomplished something his famous father never did. Bill Elliott, part of NASCAR’s Mount` Rushmore, raced two Snowballs in the early 1980s with meager results.

“Million Dollar� Bill’s boy took home close to $23,000 on Sunday.

The prize money seems only a parting gift compared to the immortality drivers deposit for winning the Snowball.

Chase Elliott broke the bank Sunday.

“This is indescribable,� he said. “It’s unreal, not only to win this thing, but to win it with Ricky Turner on as crew chief, now that’s awesome.�

Turner snatched Derby nirvana in 2002, beating five-time Derby king Rich Bickle.

He watched his young driver Sunday get back up front after recovering from an early crash. Elliott passed cars on the outside, thought to be taboo at the famed half-mile, asphalt oval.

But there he was sixth by Lap 163. Outside again, this time waving to Hunter Robbins as he passed him for third on 202.

Elliott humbled Casey Smith for second on Lap 219 with VanderLey leading.

“Nerves, man, I can’t describe that,� Elliott said. “New tires with a whole lotta fresh on them, it was a great advantage helping me catch back up after the wreck.�

The irony to Sunday was he got out front without having to pass a single car.

When a caution came out around Lap 220, the leaders decided to pit. Elliott, he with the Hendrick Motorsports pit team, enjoyed a perfect stop and beat everyone back to the speedway.

“Everybody worked so hard,� he said. “My guys did a great job.�

A great job for a great driver in a great race to create a great result.

Can it get any better?

Official Results for the 44th Annual Snowball Derby
44th annual Snowball Derby

Super Late Models

Sunday at Five Flags Speedway

Pensacola, Fla.

Official resultsName Laps Difference

Chase Elliott 300 —

D.J. VanderLey 300 0.229

Ross Kenseth 300 0.528

Landon Cassill 300 1.159

Heath Hindman 300 1.163

Cale Gale 300 1.771

Boris Jurkovic 300 2.433

Grant Enfinger 300 2.643

David Rogers 300 2.701

Casey Smith 300 3.266

Hunter Robbins 300 3.442

Bubba Pollard 300 3.598

Ben Kennedy 300 3.928

Stephen Nasse 300 4.332

Dillon Oliver 299 1 lap

Donnie Wilson 298 2 laps

Stephan McCurley 298 0.368

David Ragan 298 0.983

Derrick Griffin 298 1.272

Jeremy Pate 298 7.136

Jeff Fultz 298 7.703

David Odell 297 3 laps

Josh Hamner 295 5 laps

Johnny Van Doorn 295 0.452

Ken McFarland 291 9 laps

Jerry Artuso 280 20 laps

Dennis Prunty 220 80 laps

Chris Davidson 182 118 laps

Andy Loden 182 3:06.473

Kenzie Ruston 145 155 laps

Augie Grill 142 158 laps

Jeff Choquette 141 159 laps

Mike Garvey 134 166 laps

Steve Wallace 131 169 laps

Erik Darnell 99 201 laps

Johanna Long 97 203 laps

Cautions: 12 for 107 laps.

Lead changes: 12 among seven drivers.

Margin of victory: 0.229 seconds, a Derby record.

Laps leader: Casey Smith led twice for a total of 73. Elliott led twice for a total of 72



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