PREVIEW: Kyle Busch to start 15th in Sunday’s 50th Snowball Derby

Jerry Bonkowski
NBC Sports

The golden anniversary of one of the most popular short track races in all levels of stock car racing takes place in Sunday’s Snowball Derby.

The 50th running of the Super Late Model classic takes the green flag at 3 p.m. ET at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. The race will be televised on pay-per-view on Speed51.com.

Only 37 of the 67 cars that submitted entries will take part in Sunday’s 300-lap main event around the high-banked paved half-mile.

Qualifying took place Friday, with the top 30 drivers locked into Sunday’s show (see full qualifying list below). Three other drivers will receive a provisional position start, while four additional drivers will have one final try to qualify for Sunday’s field in Saturday night’s 50-lap “last chance” race.

Among notables in Sunday’s race are 2015 NASCAR Cup champ Kyle Busch, along with a number of young NASCAR drivers including Noah Gragson, Mason Mingus, Ty Majeski, Brandon McReynolds, Harrison Burton and Corey LaJoie.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series former champion Johnny Sauter was originally entered into the Snowball Derby before a hard wreck during practice Thursday forced the Wisconsin native to withdraw his entry.

Preston Peltier will start from the pole, while defending Derby winner Christian Eckes failed to qualify on a tiebreaker Friday, but will race Sunday because of a past champion’s provisional.

Kyle Busch was not happy with his 15th place qualifying effort, particularly since he and his team had a strong two-day practice at 5 Flags right after the NASCAR Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Obviously 15th isn’t where we wanted to qualify, but Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and all the guys made our Toyota, Phoenix Construction Camry a lot better for final practice,” said Busch, who was sixth-fastest in Saturday’s final practice session.

“We made some 20-lap runs and we feel like we have good long-run speed, but we’re probably still lacking a little bit of speed firing off compared to the guys that qualified up front.”

Busch has one Snowball Derby win to date, in 2009.

Several well-known former NASCAR drivers are past Derby winners, including the late Pete Hamilton (1974), Donnie Allison (1975) and Darrell Waltrip (1976), Ted Musgrave (1988) and Rick Crawford (1989).

NASCAR has really taken a hold of victory lane at the Derby in recent years. Starting with the younger Busch brother’s win in 2009 and Johanna Long’s triumph in 2010, NASCAR drivers have captured the Derby in virtually every year since, including two-time winners Chase Elliott (2011 and 2015) and Erik Jones (2012 and 2013), and John Hunter Nemechek (2014).

Snowball Derby winners

  • 1968 Wayne Niedecken

  • 1969 Friday Hassler

  • 1970 Wayne Niedecken, Sr.

  • 1971 Dickie Davis

  • 1972 Ed Howe

  • 1973 Dickie Davis

  • 1974 Pete Hamilton

  • 1975 Donnie Allison

  • 1976 Darrell Waltrip

  • 1977 Ronnie Sanders

  • 1978 Dave Mader III

  • 1979 Freddy Fryar

  • 1980 Gary Balough

  • 1981 Freddy Fryar

  • 1982 Gene Morgan

  • 1983 Mickey Gibbs

  • 1984 Butch Lindley

  • 1985 Jody Ridley

  • 1986 Gary Balough

  • 1987 Butch Miller

  • 1988 Ted Musgrave

  • 1989 Rick Crawford

  • 1990 Rich Bickle

  • 1991 Rich Bickle

  • 1992 Gary St. Amant

  • 1993 Bobby Gill

  • 1994 Tammy Jo Kirk (first female Snowball Derby winner)

  • 1995 Jeff Purvis

  • 1996 Rich Bickle

  • 1997 Bobby Gill

  • 1998 Rich Bickle

  • 1999 Rich Bickle

  • 2000 Gary St. Amant

  • 2001 Wayne Anderson

  • 2002 Ricky Turner

  • 2003 Charlie Bradberry

  • 2004 Steve Wallace

  • 2005 Eddie Mercer

  • 2006 Clay Rogers

  • 2007 Augie Grill

  • 2008 Augie Grill

  • 2009 Kyle Busch

  • 2010 Johanna Long

  • 2011 Chase Elliott (At 15, youngest winner in Snowball Derby history)

  • 2012 Erik Jones

  • 2013 Erik Jones

  • 2014 John Hunter Nemechek

  • 2015 Chase Elliott

  • 2016 Christian Eckes

Here’s how Friday’s qualifying played out. Just the first 30 drivers are locked in. Three others, including defending champ Christian Eckes, are locked in with provisional spots, leaving four remaining positions to be filled in Saturday night’s last chance event.

1             48          Preston Peltier 16.319

2             26          Bubba Pollard   16.344

3             112        Augie Grill           16.419

4             5M        Mason Mingus 16.437

5             75          Jeremy Doss      16.441

6             81          Chase Purdy      16.460

7             14D       Chris Davidson 16.461

8             91          Ty Majeski         16.475

9             53B        Cole Butcher     16.480

10          55D       Spencer Davis   16.514

11          9C          Jeff Choquette 16.514

12          18          Casey Roderick 16.520

13          14C        Connor Okrzesik 16.521

14          36          Dan Fredrickson  16.521

15          51          Kyle Busch          16.530

16          4             Kyle Plott            16.530

17          26S        Chandler Smith 16.544

18          99L        Raphael Lessard  16.552

19          11B        Logan Boyett    16.553

20          18G       Noah Gragson  16.571

21          20          Brandon McReynolds  16.573

22          12          Harrison Burton 16.576

23          46          Cole Rouse        16.582

24          00          Anthony Cataldi 16.609

25          53J         Boris Jurkovic    16.621

26          07          Corey LaJoie      16.624

27          19          Kason Plott        16.649

28          01          Jake Crum          16.653

29          13          Cassius Clark      16.658

30          51N       Stephen Nasse 16.660

31          2W        Donnie Wilson  16.660

32          15          Christian Eckes 16.660

33          9K          Derek Kraus       16.664

34          55          Brandon Oakley 16.705

35          32D       Tyler Dippel       16.705

36          8F          Tate Fogleman 16.734

37          88          Garrett Jones    16.743

38          33          Dustin Smith     16.744

39          7             John DeAngelis Jr  16.749

40          11R        David Rogers     16.769

41          79          Kyle Bryant        16.778

42          89          Jeremy Pate      16.782

43          22          Donald Crocker 16.786

44          79A       Joe Aramendia 16.815

45          16          Steven Davis     16.843

46          45          Rich Bickle Jr     16.847

47          5             Jerry Artuso       16.855

48          58C        John Coffman   16.882

49          43          Dennis Schoenfield  16.897

50          4R          Ben Rowe           16.947

51          64          Garrett Evans    16.967

52          32          Stuart Dutton   17.137

53          58F        Jeff Firestine     18.159

 

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