Monday, December 3, 2018

Noah Gragson Wins Historic 51st Snowball Derby

Noah Gragson celebrates winning the 51st Snowball Derby (PixelatedSPEED Photo)

“Why not the Snowball Derby? It’s the biggest in the country! Best drivers, it’s a long race and the coolest trophy.”

Those are the words of a very happy Noah Gragson after winning the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL on Sunday, December 2, 2018.

Gragson, in his final race driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, beat Ty Majeski and Jeff Choquette on the final restart with six laps remaining to claim the win.

“I don’t even know what to think right now. It hasn’t sunk in, it feels so surreal to me,” Gragson told

“I’m just so thankful to be able to run with Kyle Busch Motorsports, (crew chief) Marcus Richmond... all the crew guys.”

To get there, Gragson first raced in the final Blizzard Series race held at the Speedway this past September. In that race, Gragson struggled, finishing eighth in what many would consider the prelude to the Snowball Derby.

“We really struggled here these past couple of years,” said Gragson. “We came here in September for the final Blizzard Series race and ended up struggling really really bad. I’m thankful we struggled because I knew what we needed to work on to resolve the issues.”

Come Derby Week, the practice times didn’t really reflect the effort being but into the team’s number 18 Super Late Model. They continued to work on finding speed, and were awarded for their efforts.

“We came here on Thursday and did three 45 lap runs,” he said. “In practice, everybody was counting us out. We qualified eighth, that’s the highest I think I’ve ever started here.”

From that eighth place starting spot, Gragson held strong in the front part of the field as pole sitter Harrison Burton, Jeff Choquette, Raphael Lassard, and Ty Majeski all took turns leading portions of the race.

With 20 laps remaining, Kyle Bryant spun in turn three. This setup a final round of pit stops. Gragson’s crew got the 20 year old off pit road first, lining him up alongside Harrison Burton for the ensuing restart.

“The pit stop guys all did a hell of a job all weekend and during the race,” said Gragson.

Burton, who did not pit, also did not take off well. This caused a classic check up situation that resulted in Ty Majeski turning Bubba Pollard toward the inside wall as the field screamed into turn one.

This setup the final restart with six laps remaining.

“I was a little sketched out on that last restart,” recalled Gragson. “I didn’t know how good we were. It seemed like those other guys could fire off a lot better than we could there at the end of a run, but we just out muscled them and out raced them in the laps that counted there at the end and ended up with the checkered flag.”

While Gragson now gets to reap the rewards and accolades that come with being a Snowball Derby winner, the Las Vegas native is also turning his sight’s toward 2019 and a debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Jr. Motorsports.

“It’s the last race of the year,” he said. “Normally, you get a win and the following week you have to reset. Now I get two months to enjoy it.”

“That doesn’t mean I can ride on that,” he added. “I still have to continue to work hard and continue to try to improve with everything moving over to Jr. Motorsports.”

“It’s a new challenge for me, racing fulltime in the Xfinity Series next year. I’ve just been so thankful to be able to run with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Just gotta keep on working hard and striving everyday to get better.”

Official Results:

1. Noah Gragson
2. Ty Majeski
3. Jeff Choquette
4. Connor Okrzesik
5. Casey Roderick
6. Chandler Smith
7. Donnie Wilson
8.Tyler Ankrum
9.Cole Butcher
10. Harrison Burton
11. Jeremy Doss
12. Derek Thorn
13. John DeAngelis Jr
14. Chase Purdy
15. Jesse Dutilly
16. Derek Kraus
17. Jack Dossey III
18. Kyle Plott
19. Spencer Davis
20. Logan Boyett
21. Paul Shafer Jr
22. Derek Griffith
23. Dennis Prunty
24. Kyle Bryant
25. Raphael Lessard
26. Bubba Pollard
27. Stephen Nasse
28. Michael Atwell
29. Corey Heim
30. Kaden Honeycutt
31. Chris Davidson
32. Preston Peltier
33. Perry Patino
34. Stewart Friesen
35. Carson Hocevar
36. Austin Nason

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