Snowball Derby crowns three first-time champs on Night 1; Derby qualifying tonight at 6

After the first-place finisher in Pro Trucks 50 was disqualified, Casey Roderick earned a victory to get the 55th annual Snowball Derby presented by Hooters underway Thursday, Dec. 1 at Five Flags Speedway.
After the first-place finisher in Pro Trucks 50 was disqualified, Casey Roderick earned a victory to get the 55th annual Snowball Derby presented by Hooters underway Thursday, Dec. 1 at Five Flags Speedway.
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My, what a difference a year makes.

Casey Roderick opened last year’s Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway with an apparent win in the Pro Trucks 50-lap feature. He soon vacated the win, however, when he was disqualified in post-race technical inspection.

Twelve months later, the shoe was on the other foot.

Allen Carter crossed the line first in the Pro Trucks 50 to get the 55th annual Snowball Derby presented by Hooters underway Thursday at Five Flags. Carter took the checkered flag, posed for photographs with Miss Snowball Derby Kaylee Jordan and celebrated with family and friends in Victory Lane. But, like Roderick a year before him, Carter couldn’t escape the tech shed. Carter’s win was thrown out for an unapproved driveshaft.

The DQ vaulted Roderick from his runner-up rung to the title perch, giving one of Five Flags’ most-decorated drivers his first career Derby crown. Jay Jay Day finished second and young Seth Christensen rounded out the podium.

Roderick and his team had a few issues in practice, he said initially after finishing second. Some of those challenges carried over to the race and caused him to be tight in the middle, which allowed Carter to pull away.

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Day was steady all night and scored second a year after the recently retired Jerry Goff—in the same truck—finished runner-up after Roderick’s DQ.

“This team, we worked hard for this,” Day said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. We had a good truck at the end. I was hoping for a yellow, but you never know. I always have a blast racing at the Snowball Derby.”

Sportsmen Derby 

Jonathan Langham endured plenty of hooting, hollering, hugs and head rubs while the moment sank in.

Once it was time to answer questions about how he dominated the Sportsmen Snowball Derby 50-lapper, Langham was struggling through tears of joy. The veteran driver from Irvington, Ala., dominated the last 30 laps Thursday night to win his first career Derby title.

“Now, I know how Jeff Gordon felt after he won his first race and cried,” Langham said. “I’ve been a bridesmaid in this thing so many times. I’ve destroyed two race cars and I’ve never been able to get this thing.”

Langham was at a loss for words. He started fourth and was looking for the lead from polesitter B.J. Leytham from the start. Langham found clean air on Lap 20 and quickly built his lead. He maintained a comfortable cushion after several restarts and withstood a late charge from runner-up Kevin Mitchell to seal the win.

“My arms feel like SpongeBob,” Langham said. “Something popped in the front end with about 15 to go and I had to drive with two hands. I’m outta shape for that.”

Mitchell, the dirt tracker who enjoyed a string of podium finishes at Five Flags this season, had the time of his life Thursday despite not recording a win. Mitchell kept inching closer on Langham as the final laps ticked off. Unfortunately, time ran out.

Chad Robinson finished third.

“I had a really good car,” Mitchell said. “All year long, we burned the right rear tire on this thing. We made it good and the gameplan was not to go before Lap 30. And it happened perfectly. These guys drove me really clean.

“I worked really hard the last 10 years to get to this point. I’m the luckiest guy here on Earth. I wanted it so bad. I saw (Langham) getting loose, but we were a little too tight.”

Pure Stocks Derby 

Jimmy Hollingsworth made the most of his lone trip to Five Flags Speedway this season.

Hollingsworth, who won the track championship at his home track of Mobile International Speedway, showed up at the first night of the 55th annual Snowball Derby presented by Hooters loaded for bear.

Hollingsworth was fastest in qualifying (21.569 seconds) and led every second to win the Pure Stocks Derby 35-lapper on Thursday. Hollingsworth finished third at last year's Derby.

“It’s like a dream come true. I never thought I’d be here in Victory Lane at the Snowball Derby,” an ecstatic Hollingsworth said. “We’ve been trying for years, and it finally came in.”

Hollingsworth easily held off all challengers, as reigning track champion and 2021 Derby winner Robert Loper struggled mightily. Bobby Suarez finished second and Cameron Leytham came home third in what has been dubbed the “submarine machine.”

The fact that Leytham finished on the podium was a miracle. Less than 24 hours earlier, Leytham was fishing his No. 8 out of a Mobile motel pool with a boom truck.

“We were driving down the road,” Leytham told Racing America of his adventure Wednesday, “and the strap broke on the tailer, and the car rolled into a swimming pool.”

Leytham and team burned the candle at both ends to get his No. 8 ready, draining it of all its water and replacing the transmission and engine.

“It took a whole lotta luck and hard work for this thing to get here,” Leytham said. “These guys that worked on it did not disappoint. It didn’t run its prime, but it worked.”

The best battles all night took place behind Hollingsworth. Leytham was engaged in a four-car battle for fifth before separating himself from that pack and moved toward the front with six laps to go.

The race saw several cautions and some theatrics from Robert Barber. After he jumped a restart, Barber was black-flagged. Instead of coming to the pits, per race officials’ orders, he stayed out on the racetrack until another yellow flew. Under caution, and obviously upset with being parked, Barber lit up his tires and delivered a lengthy burn out into Turn No. 1 before finally being removed from the speedway.

“I told myself that I had to get outta the mirror,” Hollingsworth said. “It was crazy behind me.”

Welcome to the Derby.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Five Flags: Snowball Derby crowns three first-time champs on Night 1