With a star-studded entry list for this year’s Snowball Derby, each of the 36 spots in the field was hard-fought and well-earned. Even drivers such as NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor and 2018 Snowball Derby winner Noah Gragson and 2020 Winchester 400 winner Carson Hocevar failed to qualify for the biggest Super Late Model race of the year.
The process was particularly harsh on first-timers, as 10 of the 13 drivers on this year’s entry list making their first appearance at the Derby failed to qualify for the event. Daniel Dye had no such issue, qualifying sixth and finishing 14th, top marks among the rookies in this year’s Derby field.
Dye reflected on the strong weekend, pleased to have held his own against some of the top short track racers in North America and NASCAR stars alike.
“It was a pretty good run,” Dye told Speed51. “299 laps is a lot of laps, and we beat a lot of good race cars. There were probably 40 cars that could have won that race. Being 14th out of the 55 cars that were there is pretty cool.”
Going into his first Snowball Derby, Dye admitted the pressure of qualifying night was daunting him. With only two provisionals and four Last Chance Qualifier transfer spots to fall back on, it’s imperative to qualify in the top 30 on Friday night of Derby week. A video previewing the drama of qualifying night on Speed51 only added to that.
“All the hype built around Derby qualifying, we talked about it on The Bullring before the Governor’s Cup. After that video Speed51 put out, I was definitely nervous for it.”
However, the young gun from Florida leaned on his experience from competing in the Blizzard Series throughout the season. Dye laid down a 16.380-second lap time, enough to not only make the field but qualify sixth out of the 53 cars who took time.
“I just went out and tried to do what I did in all the Blizzard races, make the corners and lay down a decent lap. Somehow, it ended up being a .38 and we were sixth by the end of it. That was pretty awesome.”
Dye would fall into the midpack as the race progressed, as he and his team worked on the handling of his Super Late Model throughout the race. However, he was able to come home 14th, the best out of the three rookies who made the field.
“We ran pretty well that first run during the race. As we started putting tires on, we had to chase the car a little bit and went a lap down pretty early. We had to fight to get it back, and got it back once but lost it again.
Looking back, Dye was blown away by the amount of attention focused towards the Snowball Derby. While he’s always had an appreciation for the magnitude of the event, being a part of the starting field was an eye-opening experience.
“It was pretty cool, seeing how many people there and how many people were following it. You check Twitter throughout the week and see how many people are paying attention. The texts my dad got from people like Richard Childress, just saying good luck and stuff.
“The amount of hype and attention the Snowball Derby gets is crazy. It doesn’t compare to any of the races we run all year. Being a part of it and able to be successful with all those eyes on it was really cool.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com