For the first time in months, Chase Elliott finally came up short in a must-win scenario, finishing third in the Snowball Derby on Sunday at Five Flags Speedway.
Elliott closed out the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season with wins at Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway to claim his first championship and continued the theme when he won Saturday’s last chance race to make the Snowball Derby.
He was only in that race because he failed to post a top-30 qualifying speed in time trials for the most prestigious pavement short track of the year. That came after a week where Elliott just couldn’t get the feel needed for his new Phoenix Racing owned Senneker chassis.
Elliott claimed a lot of it was just rust from being out of a Super Late Model for almost five years, but he seemed to pick it up pretty fast once racing began.
He drove from 11th to win the 50 lap Last Chance Race and drove from the back again to mix it up with leaders Ty Majeski and Derek Thorn over the final two restarts of the Snowball Derby 300. Elliott even briefly took second from Thorn on the penultimate restart, but just couldn’t keep the Campbell Motorsports No. 43 behind him.
Elliott finished third but had every opportunity to steal a win if Majeski and Thorn crashed during their thrilling duel for the win over the final five laps.
“Good, just not good enough,” Elliott said about his Snowball Derby effort. “First off, congrats to Ty. I’m not sure there’s a guy that didn’t have a Tom Dawson Trophy who deserves it more than him here.
“They’ve been so close over the years. There aren’t a lot of guys who can leave their home area and win anywhere, and he’s probably been the best at it over the years. I’m really happy for them.
“We were good, but just not good enough. Those two guys, Derek and Ty, put on a great race and left me every opportunity possible to join them. I just couldn’t get there. I was trying really hard, probably too hard. I wasn’t able to join them and wound up third.”
Due to making the race from the last chance race, Elliott started the race from 31st. He reached the top-10 by the one-third mark and remained there for the remainder of the race. He spent the middle stages of the race and methodically picked off sports over the final 100 laps.
After struggling for much of practice, Elliott returned to the top of the scoring charts in final practice, and that speed manifested itself in both the LCQ and main event.
Would having track position sooner than the final 50 laps have made any difference?
“I don’t think so,” Elliott said. “To restart third, behind the control car was the best spot to be in besides him, and I just couldn’t capitalize. I was happy with our position. I had the track position, but we just didn’t have enough to get up to them and make a good run at it.”
It was his first Super Late Model race since his victory in the 2015 Snowball Derby and Elliott hopes it’s not as long for his next appearance.
“Yeah, I’d love to come back sometime,” Elliott said. “I really enjoyed my time here this week. I’d really love to do more Super Late Model racing in general. This is a big race obviously, but there are a lot of big races across the country that deserve attention. I think those would be fun to do and would be challenging.”
And that’s coming from a two-time Derby winner, All-American 400, Winchester 400 and World Crown 300 winner.
“I would love to be more involved, but it’s just tough with everything going on and doing it the way I want to do it. We’d love to come back here. We’ll talk about it. I’d love to race more in general as the years progress.”