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Snowball Derby results: Erik Jones fends off Kyle Busch for signature victory

Matt Weaver | STS

Erik Jones delivered Five Flags Speedway yet another Snowball Derby moment on Sunday afternoon, defeating Kyle Busch in a Super Late Model instant classic. It was an epic conclusion to a fantastic weekend that featured a little bit of everything.

The 16-year-old Jones, who competes part-time in the ARCA Racing Series, raced side-by-side with one of NASCAR’s best drivers for 10 laps off a lap 280 restart. He would pull away with eight laps to go and become the fourth first-time winner in as many races in the Snowball Derby.

Jones was stuck on the outside of Busch after the final round of pit stops but quickly found the bottom lane and powered under Busch with 17 laps to go. Busch stayed right behind Jones after losing the lead and moved to the inside two laps later. Busch made light contact with Jones’ bumper on several occasions but not enough to move him out of the lead.

The contact was enough to move Jones out of the bottom groove and Busch was able to get to his fender by lap 287. The duo would stay side-by-side until lap 292 when Jones finally carried momentum off the high line and into the lead. He would never look back and Busch was eventually passed for second by Jeff Choquette.

“I can’t believe it…I just can’t even believe it,” Jones said as soon as he climbed out for his victory celebration.

“You know, I thought he got me there at the end,” Jones said. “Once he got me on the outside I thought he would be able to carry that momentum but he didn’t. I still can’t believe we won.”

Once Jones escaped with the lead, Busch was gobbled-up by a hard-charging Jeff Choquette. Choquette had won the last 100-lap Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway but didn’t believe he had anything for the leaders.

“That was a heck of a race and we were even able to get by Kyle for second,” Choquette said. “My car was fast enough to hold on to the lead if we could have taken it but that wasn’t going to happen without the leaders making a mistake.”

Busch was humble in defeat and even hopes he can come back to the Snowball Derby someday under better circumstances. He was able to compete this weekend as a result of missing the NASCAR Chase for the Championship. Busch was amongst the first to congratulate Jones in victory lane and was proud of the way they raced at the end.

“Tires are so important here with 25 to go, so we had to pit,” Busch said. “We were able to get out front and I thought that would give us the advantage — but Eric drove a great race and he raced us clean.”

The battle with Jones capped an eventful afternoon for Busch who led three times for a handful of laps but was also sent to the back of the field for hooking T.J. Reaid for the lead on lap 158. The two had raced aggressively on the prior lap and Busch retaliated in turns three and four. The accident also collected Chase Elliott, Ross Kenseth and Bubba Pollard — three of the early race favorites.

Pollard was done for the day while Elliott and Kenseth battled back to finish fifth and 11th-place.

With his victory, Jones became the first driver to win the Snowball Derby in his first attempt since Gary St. Amant in 1992. He had only competed in a handful of races at the Speedway, including last year’s Snowflake 100. He led 124 of the 300 laps on Sunday, the most of anyone in the field.

Seven different drivers led, exchanging the lead 12 times while six drivers failed to finish the 300-lap race.

Here’s the complete finishing order of the 2012 Snowball Derby:

  1. Erik Jones
  2. Jeff Choquette
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Jeff Fultz
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Grant Enfinger
  7. Kyle Benjamin
  8. David Ragan
  9. Chris Davidson
  10. John Hunter Nemechek
  11. Ross Kenseth
  12. Dwayne Buggay
  13. D.J. VanderLey
  14. Johanna Long
  15. Donnie Wilson
  16. Hunter Robbins
  17. Chuck Barnes, Jr.
  18. Clay Alexander
  19. Kyle Jones
  20. Austin Theriault
  21. Casey Smith
  22. Steve Wallace
  23. David Rogers
  24. Ben Kennedy
  25. Brad Rogers
  26. T.J. Reaid
  27. Bubba Pollard
  28. Nelson Piquet, Jr.
  29. Daniel Hemric
  30. Logan Boyett
  31. Mike Garvey
  32. Stephen Nasse
  33. Jeremy Pate
  34. Brian Campbell
  35. Paul Kelley
  36. Augie Grill
  37. Steve Dorer

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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  1. Pingback: Erik Jones and the birth of a Toyota NASCAR driver development system – SportsHeadlines.News

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