CONCORD, N.C. – This weekend, the 52nd annual Snowball Derby will take the green flag, and it brings back plenty of memories for a pair of Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
Chase Elliott and William Byron know the iconic race well, having competed in it multiple times.
“I miss running it,” Elliott said. “Those were some of my favorite years that I’ve had in racing, going down there and competing, trying to make the race and the whole nine yards. It didn’t always go good, but it was fun to be there.”
The 300-lap Snowball Derby takes place in Pensacola, Florida, at the half-mile Five Flags Speedway. This year’s event goes down on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. ET, and it’s one of the most well-known super late model races in the country for a reason.
“That’s certainly the most hyped-up one to where people will travel from the northeast or people out west, wherever, so you kind of get the best of every little part of the country at one time, which is a rare thing in short-track racing because typically you’re kind of racing around your region,” Elliott explained. “Just the best cars and the best drivers around the country at the time are there, and it’s challenging, it’s tough and it makes it what it is.”
With so much talent in one place, it creates plenty of drama even before the race begins.
Both Elliott and Byron recalled a “pressure-packed” qualifying session just to even make it into the show.
“If you don’t qualify on time, you miss the race,” Byron said.
That’s why one of his favorite Snowball Derby memories came in qualifying.
“When we won the pole there in 2016, that was a big deal,” the 22-year-old driver said. “That was just cool to be able to start on the front row.”
View this post on InstagramA young @chaseelliott9 gets ready to compete in his first #snowballderby. Little did he know then he would end up being a two-time winner of the event! 🏁🏆#tbt . Check out @speed51dotcom and click the link in their bio to order this weekend’s Snowball Derby PPV so you don’t miss all the racing action!
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As for Elliott, he has found Victory Lane at the event multiple times – but one of those wins was taken away after the fact, which created a cumulative effect that became his favorite Snowball Derby memory.
“We had swept the whole weekend, sat on both poles, won both races and then got thrown out after the race,” he recalled. “That one certainly hurt, but then to go back a couple years later and win the race – after the race was over, it just kind of seemed like everything came full circle and made everything feel right. I enjoyed that journey. It wasn’t necessarily fun in the moment, but the journey after it was over was pretty cool to look back on.”
Thanks to Speed51.com, fans have an opportunity to watch the iconic event even if they can’t make it there in person.
The site offers a variety of pay-per-view packages for the Snowball Derby weekend, which are available here.
That fact isn’t lost on Elliott, who said that has likely helped grow the race even further and strengthen its importance.
“Just that race itself being on the map to a larger audience, it draws people to seeing it,” he said. “It can potentially boost a career and if the right person’s watching, you never know where it could lead you. We were lucky to have some good runs down there and I think that played a pretty big role in why I ended up where I did.”
Byron agreed with that assessment when looking back on his experience with the Snowball Derby and why it draws so much talent year-in and year-out.
“It’s one of those classic short-track races that has a lot of meaning,” he said, “because it can promote you to the next level.”
Check out this year’s Snowball Derby for yourself on Speed51.com here.