Super Late Models
Ty Majeski Scores Second Tom Dawson Trophy in Eventful Snowball Derby
Dec 3, 2023
The two bitter rivals were once again in a position to score their first-ever wins in the Snowball Derby Sunday at 5 Flags Speedway, but both drivers ended up in a late-race crash while battling for the win.
The thrill of victory; rivals Bubba Pollard and Stephen Nasse have experienced it countless times throughout their legendary Super Late Model careers. However, when it comes to the Snowball Derby, each driver has only suffered the agony of defeat.
The agony continued on Sunday evening.
In the closing laps of the 56th-annual Snowball Derby Presented by Hooters and Safe Locator at 5 Flags Speedway, both drivers were at the front of the field and were exchanging blows for the race win, when all hell broke loose between them, and another chapter of their storied rivalry was written.
Following the scuffle, both drivers once again left Pensacola, Florida with nothing to show for it in Super Late Model racing's biggest event.
Coming off of Turn 4, heading to seven laps to go, Pollard made slight contact with the rear of Nasse's car, which gave Pollard the room he needed to make a move for the lead on the inside line. Nasse attempted to crowd Pollard down in Turns 1 and 2, but either misjudged the move, or simply went over the line, and both drivers went for a hell of a ride as a result.
While Nasse would soldier on to finish a respectable sixth in the race, Pollard's night was over in one fell swoop.
The 36-year-old Pollard climbed from his No. 26 machine and would spend considerable time with his team and family surrounding him in the garage area in an attempt to decompress. After changing into street clothes, Pollard would share a warm embrace with his daughters.
After he gathered himself up, Pollard spoke to the Racing America broadcast team about his latest heartbreaking result in the Snowball Derby.
"We wrecked," Pollard stated. "What else do you want to know? It's the same shit. Different day."
You could feel the emotion in his voice. Pollard knew this was perhaps his best shot to date at scoring a win in the race that has eluded him for so long, and it slipped from his grasp due to contact from his biggest rival.
"That's what we work for all year. Try it again next year. We had a good race car, put ourselves in position to win, and could have raced it out, but it didn't happen that way," Pollard anguished.
While Pollard fought back his emotions, Nasse called the incident unfortunate.
"Yeah, it's unfortunate. Definitely don't want it to end that way. Just hard racing," Nasse detailed. "I tell you what, we're going to win the Snowball Derby, I'm not going to give it up, that's for sure. I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I wasn't trying to crowd Bubba, and I'm sure he'll sit here and say he was trying to get into the left rear to get me a little bit out of the track. We're just racing to win."
At the end of the day, Nasse isn't beating himself up about the finish. The driver explained that he had kind of convinced himself that he was either coming back with the checkered flag or on a hook heading into the late-race battle with Pollard.
"I'm not super upset about it," Nasse admitted. "I knew sitting under that red flag that it was going to be either checkers or wreckers, basically."
Nasse continued, "I hate it for both of us, definitely don't want to end up with wrecked race cars. But going for wins, it happens sometimes."
Maybe a win in the Snowball Derby just isn't meant to be for Pollard, who has 16 failed attempts in the prestigious event in 18 trips to the Derby, or Nasse, who now has 13. But even with how cruel motorsports can be sometimes, the notion that either, or both drivers, won't eventually collect a Tom Dawson Trophy seems too cruel to be true.
Pollard started Sunday's race from the third position, but he experienced electrical issues from the outset, which caused his engine to miss from the center of the turn, and off throughout the event. But it turned out to matter very little as Pollard had what he needed to snag control of the race around the mid-way point of the event.
Just as the driver of the No. 26 machine looked to be the man to beat, a couple of competition cautions down the stretch would allow Pollard's competitors, Nasse included, to wrench on their cars, and close the gap.
Eventually, it was Nasse who took over near the end, and it appeared he was on the path to victory.
Then, a massive pileup, triggered by Noah Gragson missing a shift with 18 laps to go, gave Pollard a second wind, and with his first Snowball Derby win within sight, Pollard came to life and took the fight to his biggest rival with under 10 laps remaining in the race.
What ensued was disappointment. Now, the possible Snowball Derby breakthrough for Pollard or Nasse will have to wait until the 57th annual Snowball Derby in 2024.
Photo Credit: Koty Geyer, Racing America