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Looking Back on Infamous Snowball Derby Races

There are plenty of great stories from the 50-plus year history of the Snowball Derby

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There have been plenty of infamous stories from the Snowball Derby and the activities surrounding the race, both before and after. We picked 10 of them to share as the best-of-the-best infamous stories at the Snowball Derby.

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Lucky Brake for Braden
In the span of just a few laps to close out the 2019 Snowball Derby, Travis Braden went from battling up front to falling to the rear of the field following a spin to avoiding a multi-car restart melee and eventually passing Jake Garcia to cross the line second. Then, a post-race disqualification for provisional winner Stephen Nasse due to a violation in the car's brake system gave the Tom Dawson Trophy to Braden.

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Hamilton
No, we are not talking about the Broadway musical. Pete Hamilton was in the limelight twice in a two-year period. First, he took the pole for the 1973 Snowball Derby. Officials and other drivers didn’t like the way his car looked, so after review he was forced to make adjustments to his car. As a result, he didn’t win the race that year. He vowed to win the pole in a legal car and he did just that the following year before going on to win the race.

Wauters' Exit Stage Left
In 2008, a morning meeting took place behind the Richie Wauters rig and the team was escorted off the property after soaked tires were found in the team’s hauler. The rule has been a big no-no and Wauters was forced to sell the team in order to represent the car the next day. Shane Sieg was the driver and was under the microscope all weekend. He made the show and finished fourth after starting 36th. Sadly, Sieg passed away this year.

Sockets in the Pockets
In 2007, Steve Wallace had a little trouble making post-race weight after the last chance race. After being light over the scales, the car seemed to get heavy on the second time across the scales. Track officials caught him with sockets in his pockets and the rest is history. Wallace was out of the Derby and the story became legend.

The Fight: Allison vs. Sanders
Daytona had that little fight in 1979, but Bobby Allison was in another scuffle that was a little more known in the Pensacola area. Ronnie Sanders told it best earlier in our 50 for 50 series, but he was upset with Bobby Allison after the two tangled late in the race. Two things occurred after the two drivers tangled: Bobby Allison didn’t win the race and nobody messed with Ronnie Sanders.

Bickle’s Hood
Accounts of what exactly happened differ and some people claim that on several occasions Rich Bickle won the Snowball Derby without a hood. After speaking to several drivers, including Rich, we know this was true. In 1996 and 1998 he won the race without some of his car’s body parts. Many thought they had a special trick going on, but each time Bickle passed tech and took the win.

Scoring Snafu 1.0: Waltrip vs. Sanders
Darrell Waltrip got out of his car and saluted the crowd as the winner of the 1977 Snowball Derby. However, an error was made in scoring and he was found to be a lap down. Waltrip got the trophy and the glamor with the local interviews. In the end, Ronnie Sanders got the money and another trophy the next spring. Waltrip has yet to return the actual trophy.

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Scoring Snafu 2.0 and $100,000
The start of the 1999 Snowball Derby was to be the finest hour in the race’s history. Three drivers were chasing an extra $100,000 if they could win the race. Rain and a power outage pushed the race deep into the night. Bobby Gill ended up out in front in the late stages, but he was actually on the tail end of the lead lap. He was flagged the winner, but it was overturned after a check of the scoring, giving the $100,000 to Rich Bickle. The whole deal was a media mess, but at least the change didn’t cost all the drivers $100,000.

Dickie Davis Goes the Distance
He was already a winner of the Snowball Derby before the 1973 running, but Dickie Davis wanted to win the race again. His trick to winning was to not make a pit stop, which led to many confused drivers and some protesting the win by saying he couldn’t go 200 laps without fuel. Both his wins were surrounded by controversy. The only things the record books officially show is that he never stopped for fuel and he’s a two-time Derby winner.

The Long Road Back
The 2010 Snowball Derby became interesting when local driver and fan favorite Johanna Long pitted for tires late and came through the field like a hot knife in butter. Along the way, she turned Landon Cassill to get the lead. After the race, Cassill admitted after the race he would have done the same thing if the roles had been reversed.

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-Text by Elgin Traylor, Racing America Southeast Correspondent