Nemechek Nails It and Davis Dominates
By Chuck Corder
Sons rarely want to follow their father’s advice.
During the last few runnings of the Snowflake 100, John Hunter Nemechek admittedly allowed his bravado to get the better of him, eschewing the advice of father and NASCAR fan favorite Joe Nemechek.
The 18-year-old late model driver decided to listen to dear ol’ dad this year, and discovered sometimes fathers do know best.
John Hunter Nemechek and his No. 8 Pro Late Model dominated the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 on Saturday at Five Flags Speedway, adding another trip to Victory Lane at the famed half-mile asphalt oval to his resume.
The reigning Snowball Derby champion, Nemechek looks to successfully defend his title this afternoon and go for an unprecedented weekend sweep at the 48th running of short-track’s pinnacle race.
He’d be the first driver in the event’s long distinguished history to win both the Snowflake 100 and the Snowball Derby in the same season.
“This is the first step of the week,” Nemechek said. “It’s definitely awesome to win the Snowflake 100 — winning anything during Snowball week feels great. I can’t thank all my guys.”
In past editions of the Flake, Nemechek didn’t adhere the instructions of his father, who preached patience.
Not this time around. Nemechek took the lead from pole sitter Justin South on Lap 1. While he briefly surrendered the lead back to South on Lap 27 of 100, Nemechek reclaimed the advantage three laps later and never looked back.
“I had to be patient,” Nemechek said. “I didn’t listen the last two years, and it didn’t work out. This means a lot.”
The biggest impact, beside the victory, was how convincingly he dictated the race. Chase Elliott — a three-time Flake champion, 2011 Derby champion and the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion — never inched close enough to Nemechek to provide the race with some much-needed tension.
Elliott finished as the race’s runner-up and Auburn University student Brett Holmes, a Talladega, Ala., native opened some eyes with a third-place finish.
“We tried our best, but John Hunter ran a good race, and we just came up short,” said Elliott, who will start second in today’s 300-lap Derby to pole sitter and track record holder Ty Majeski (16.120 seconds).
“I don’t exactly think of myself as a veteran, but (Five Flags) is a special place for me. There’s a lotta great group of drivers that are here all year long. We were a little short tonight, but hopefully we can put on a better show tomorrow.”
Despite some terrific nose-to-tail racing early on, the race was plagued by a slew of early cautions. Six yellows flew in the first 34 laps, in addition to three red flags.
But the race was green for the final 61 laps. That didn’t necessarily make Nemechek’s run to his eventual second checkered flag in as many seasons at Pensacola’s high banks.
He began to deal with a slew of lapped cars around Lap 84. Nemechek deftly navigated his way through, including splitting two cars in a three-wide puzzle coming out of Turn No. 4.
“I was definitely glad to see all those green laps,” Nemechek said.
As were Holmes and Kenzie Ruston.
Ruston, a female driver originally from El Reno Okla., easily made the biggest move of the night when she worked her way back from three laps down and finished fourth.
Ruston, the first female to win an ARCA race and who regularly competes on the NASCAR K&N East Series, was one time three laps down.
She benefitted from several lucky dogs and then began chewing up spots left and right, shooting through the field like a rocket ship.
Holmes, who was the Montgomery Motor Speedway PLM track champion, continues to impress against a stacked 36-car field Saturday.
He started a distant 18th, but contended in the top-10 all night before coming home with his first-career podium finish during Derby weekend.
“I’m glad we could contend in the top three,” Holmes said. “I wish we could’ve gotten a couple positions up, but what can you say? This is pretty cool to finish third at the Snowflake.”
A first is even cooler. Just ask John Hunter Nemechek.
Field No Match for Dominant Davis in Pro Trucks Derby
By Chuck Corder
There have been some awfully fine performances during the 48th annual Snowball Derby.
Track records have fallen in several divisions at Five Flags Speedway. There has been suspense, both in the pits and out on the race track. A 60-year-old legend (Dave Mader III) won another Derby title, this time in the Faith Chapel Super Stocks class.
And Christopher Bell proved his mettle and resolve by working hard to win the last-chance 50 lapper.
After his strong performance in capturing the Better Built Tool Boxes Pro Trucks Snowball Derby on Saturday, add Steven Davis’ outstanding performance Saturday to this week’s highlight reel.
Davis, the Pro Trucks track holder from earlier this season, won from the pole and never trailed. His orange-and-white No. 84 turned a fast time of 18.651 seconds, nearly a full tenth of a second faster than the rest of the 30-car field, and he proved it 50 green laps later.
“I’ve run a few of ’em, but this is the first one I’ve ever won,” Davis grinned. “I can’t do it without all the guys here. This is my family; it’s amazing.”
Veteran driver and 2013 Super Stocks Derby champion Okie Mason earned a hard-fought runner-up finish while Bubba Gale took home third.
Davis led from wire-to-wire, but did feel heat from Mason and Gale, who jockeyed for second and third throughout the night in a throwback battle of seasoned drivers.
“I knew I just had to be smooth,” Davis said. “Okie was racing hard. Bubba was racing hard. I just needed to keep my truck straight and do what we do.”
Davis drove off from the very beginning, and got an early assist in the race when Bubba Pollard, who figured to be one of Davis’ toughest competitors, had a quick end to his night because of mechanical failure.
Gale, the longtime short-track legend between Mobile and Pensacola, drove by Mason on Lap 18, but the longtime Kushla, Ala., resident wasn’t about to be pushed around.
“It looks like Steven was strong tonight,” Gale said. “We were tight. I had fun racing my ol’ buddy, Okie. Steven just drove away from us.”
Mason fought back and moved back in front of Gale with some aggressive racing with just seven laps remaining.
“I’m glad I got to drive clean with Bubba,” Mason said. “Congrats to Steven on the win. That truck of his was working pretty decent.”
Indeed. Multiple times, Davis had to work his way through some rambunctious lapped traffic on Lap 40.
But his lead stayed ahead more than 1.2 seconds despite all the slow cars.
It was plenty of cushion Davis needed for his first Derby win.