Alabama’s Barnhill Exorcises Demons of 2014 to Win Sportsmen Title at 50th Annual Snowball Derby
By Chuck Corder
Victory never felt this sweet for Mark Barnhill.
Three years ago this week, Mark Barnhill left the Snowball Derby with a sour taste in his mouth, feeling as though he had been robbed of immortality.
Barnhill crossed the line first in the 2014 running of the Sportsmen Snowball Derby, but had his heart broken when Five Flags Speedway officials ruled Barnhill’s No. 3 was illegal in technical inspection and denied him a Derby crown.
Thankfully, history did not entirely repeat itself at the 50th annual Snowball Derby on Thursday night at Pensacola’s high banks.
Barnhill set the fast time in qualifying, led all 50 laps of The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen Snowball Derby and safely passed the “Room of Doom” without incident to officially notch his first career Derby title.
“It feels like what I can only imagine those guys racing the Derby on Sunday get to experience,” said Barnhill, who lives in nearby Theodore, Ala. “That trophy means a lot to me. I’ll never get a chance to get in a late model, so this is my Snowball Derby.”
It was an Alabama sweep in Victory Lane, as Lee “Reddog” Reynolds and Steven Allday finished second and third, respectively.
Barnhill, who had four wins during the regular season to finish second to Molino’s Brannon Fowler for the track championship, started from the pole thanks to a blistering qualifying time of 20.658 seconds.
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen delivered a fine preview in qualifying of what was in store for the 50 lapper as the top-five cars were separated by less than one-tenth of a second.
Once the green flag dropped, though, they were all chasing Barnhill, who never relinquished his lead.
“We got a lotta good cars in this class, so this definitely means a lot,” he said. “Those 20 cars behind me wanted to be where I am. There can only be one winner, and I held them off. It was tough. I’m hot, too.”
Sweaty and out of breath, the subdued Barnhill showed a rare level of excitement in Victory Lane on Thursday when he celebrated by banging his hands on the hood of his No. 3 and wildly waving the 50th annual Derby checkered flag.
Reynolds, who was involved in an incident with Fowler early on, was just tickled he was able to navigate his way from the tail end of the field to score a runner-up finish.
“I couldn’t ask for better news,” Reynolds said.
Fowler saw his bid for a third career Derby championship come to a screeching halt with two laps to go. Running second to Barnhill, Fowler was trying to time his push for the lead when all his efforts came undone because he sustained a blowout to his right front tire.
It would’ve been hard to catch Barnhill, who was determined to not be denied on this night.
“I’m glad I got my hands on this one again,” he said.
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
50th Annual Snowball Derby
- 3 Mark Barnhill
- 32 Lee Renyolds
- 65 Steven Allday
- 50 Jim Pokrant
- 81A Lewis Anderson
- 31 Johnny Greene Jr
- 97 Hunter Lambert
- 44 Bobby Jones
- 2 Paul Schloss
- 00 Brannon Fowler
- 23 Eli Bell
- 55 Jimbo Walker
- 16 Tony Boyd
- 197 Tony Jones
- 60 Jimmy Goodwin
- 8 BJ Leytham
- 28 Dayton Sidner
- 07 Johnny McNair
- 29 Shanna Ard
- 357 Jason Huffmaster
- 1 Jonathan Langham