(Photo courtesy Five Flags Speedway)

Snowball Derby shocker: Chase Elliott wins after Christopher Bell DQ’d

1 Comment

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell’s victory in the 48th annual Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida lasted less than 30 minutes.

After taking the checkered flag, Bell, 21, was subsequently disqualified after post-race technical inspection at Five Flags Speedway found his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota over the limit of left-side weight.

As a result, runner-up Chase Elliott – who will replace Jeff Gordon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2016 – was awarded the victory in the 300-lap Super Late Model race on the ½-mile asphalt track. It was Elliott’s second Snowball triumph, having also won there in 2011.

Zane Smith finished second, followed by Ty Majewski, Dalton Sargeant and Bubba Pollard.

According to Speed51.com, the left-side weight ratio is capped at 58 percent. Bell’s car was weighed at 58.3 percent.

“I have no idea, I really don’t,” Bell told Speed51.com. “KBM built a great race car and it was fast. I crossed the finish line first.”

Bell’s crew chief Chris Gabehart subsequently told Speed51.com that the build up on the left side tires from the victory lap possibly contributed to the weight issue.

It is the fourth time in the last 10 years that the Derby winner has subsequently been disqualified.

Elliott can probably feel for Bell, as he went through a similar situation in the 2013 Derby. Elliott was initially declared the winner, only to be disqualified in post-race inspection.

The win that year then went to Kyle Busch Motorsports driver and 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ Erik Jones, who also won the 2012 Derby.

Obviously, team owner and 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Kyle Busch was not happy with the turn of events, tweeting:

Added Ricky Stenhouse Jr.,

It was the second disqualification of the weekend for Bell, who competed in seven Truck races for Kyle Busch Motorsports this past season, including winning at Eldora Speedway.

Bell, 21, had his top qualifying effort on Friday disqualified in post-race technical inspection. He had to start Saturday’s 50-lap “last-chance” qualifying race to regain a spot in the Derby, and did it in convincing fashion. Starting from the back of the 27-car pack, he went on to win the race and move on to Sunday’s main event.

Prior to being disqualified, Bell dominated Sunday’s race, leading an event-high 91 laps, taking the lead the first time on Lap 201 (through 275), and then regained it from defending Snowball Derby champ John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 283, holding on for the final 17 laps to take the checkered flag.

Nemechek, who captured Saturday night’s Snowflake 100, had a good chance to repeat in Sunday’s event. But with 25 laps to go, Nemechek’s Chevrolet began to show smoke from what appeared to be a tire rub that eventually led to a flat right front.

He brought his car to pit road with five laps remaining – spinning in the process – only to see his car erupt into flames. Nemechek scrambled from the burning ride and was uninjured. Nemechek finished a disappointing 21st in the 37-car field.

OFFICIAL Snowball Derby Results
Presented by Racecar Engineering (courtesy of Speed51.com and TheThirdTurn.com)

Fin St # Driver Laps Led Status
1 2 9 Chase Elliott 300 3 running
2 19 77 Zane Smith 300 40 running
3 1 91 Ty Majeski 300 63 running
4 4 5S Dalton Sargeant 300 0 running
5 18 26 Bubba Pollard 300 0 running
6 35 99 Casey Smith 300 0 running
7 3 48 Preston Peltier 300 0 running
8 15 9B William Byron 300 0 running
9 12 43 Derek Thorn 300 0 running
10 11 5H Daniel Hemric 300 0 running
11 10 3 Kaz Grala 300 0 running
12 28 17 Quin Houff 300 0 running
13 5 11 Logan Boyett 300 0 running
14 30 7 Corey LaJoie 299 0 running
15 27 67 Clay Jones 299 0 running
16 33 13 Cassius Clark 298 0 running
17 17 5 Jerry Artuso 297 0 running
18 34 29 Caleb Adrian 296 0 running
19 23 83 Scotty Ellis 295 0 running
20 7 21 Johanna Long 295 0 running
21 37 8 John Hunter Nemechek 294 0 fire
22 32 15 Christian Eckes 291 0 running
23 21 2W Donnie Wilson 273 0 crash
24 20 9K Derek Kraus 270 0 crash
25 29 8G Noah Gragson 269 0 crash
26 24 12 Harrison Burton 214 0 suspension
27 8 51N Stephen Nasse 190 0 mechanical
28 6 7 Casey Roderick 175 0 crash
29 22 45 Kyle Plott 167 0 crash
30 16 2 D.J. VanderLey 165 0 mechanical
31 26 42 Chad Finley 140 0 engine
32 36 1 Garrett Jones 137 0 mechanical
33 14 31 Kyle Grissom 63 0 crash
34 13 112 Augie Grill 63 0 crash
35 25 H2 Bret Holmes 62 0 crash
36 9 20 Spencer Davis 29 0 mechanical
37 31 51B Christopher Bell 300 93 running/DQ

Follow @JerryBonkowski

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
Leave a comment

Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter