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The finish of last year’s Snowball Derby is still lingering in the minds of everyone who saw it, especially runner-up DJ VanderLey. He lost a thrilling duel to Chase Elliott by just 0.229 of a second – the closest finish in the 44-year history of the Snowball Derby.

While VanderLey wants those final laps back, he’s also looking forward to the 2012 race as a second chance to seal the deal.

“I’m really looking forward to Sunday’s race,” VanderLey said. “This place has been really special for us over the years with several Pro Late Model wins and then the Derby last year. We came within inches of winning the Snowball Derby and I haven’t stopped think about this race since.”

Despite coming out on the losing end of last year’s Snowball Derby, VanderLey is proud of what he and Elliott were able to accomplish. Previous side-by-side duels have been tarnished by contact and the spin-to-win. VanderLey and Elliott created the event’s most memorable moment, without contact and animosity, a fact not lost on the defending champion either.

“It was a lot closer than I would have liked it,” Elliott said. “It was pretty nerve-wracking to go wheel-to-wheel with DJ but it was also a lot of fun. We gave it everything we had and easily could have wrecked each other with the mindset that “you’ve got to do what you got to do” but we kept it clean.

“That race and finish is one of my proudest moments and I was glad to be a part of it.”

VanderLey has already admitted that he’s second-guessed last year’s finish every day since last December. If provided a similar opportunity on Sunday, will he choose to dump the leader for the victory?

There is more than one way to move a guy here than just wrecking him,” VanderLey said. “Inches from the finish line, you’ll be tempted to wreck your own mother but if there’s mutual respect me between me and that driver, you’ll race him clean.

With that said, I don’t think I could be that clean again if the same thing were to happen on Sunday. This track owes us one.

Here’s a video of last year’s instant classic between Elliott and VanderLey.

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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