(Photo courtesy Five Flags Speedway)

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

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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

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”