For the third time in 10 years, a victory in the Snowball Derby was decided in post-race technical inspection.
Travis Braden inherited the victory following the disqualification of flagged winner Stephen Nasse.
Nasse’s Jett Motorsports No. 51 was stripped of its victory due to a titanium violation in the brake system. The Snowball Derby rule book specifically states:
1. Vehicles must be equipped with four-wheel hydraulic brakes
2. No carbon fiber rotors. Only steel rotors are allowed (no titanium).
3 Brake fluid circulators permitted. Liquid or gas cooling not permitted.
The 5 Flags Speedway ‘additional’ Super Late Model rules section also states the following:
10. Titanium, inconel or exotic metal are not allowed for use in any way on the race car
Meanwhile, Braden passed his inspection and was declared the winner shortly afterwards.
Rumors had begun spreading about 30 minutes before the official word was given that the No. 51 had failed inspection. At that point, chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks had called track general manager Tim Bryant down to the inspection room to discuss the matter.
Then, it was made official, with the Jett Motorsports team frustratingly putting their car back together and pushing it back towards the infield. Nasse exited the tech room, made a sharp left turn away from the inspection area and towards his hauler.
Brooks said after declaring Braden the victor that the Jett Motorsport team’s infraction was clearly a violation of the rule book while also detailing how it was a competitive advantage.
“It had titanium piston caps all the way around the whole entire car,” Brooks said. “It’s blatant in the rule book — no titanium allowed. They were fastened to an aluminium piston and an aluminium caliper. And what that does, is it keeps the heat from sinking into the caliper and the piston. They were drilled to keep from holding the heat going into an aluminum piston and aluminum caliper.
Brooks said there is an advantage but couldn’t say if it made a difference on Monday night.
“There is an advantage,” he said. “I don’t know if it helped him win. But it’s like any other disqualification we’ve done. It’s in in the rule book in black and white. If we don’t go by that, none of this matters.”
And why wasn’t the piston caps checked throughout the week, during any of the previous countless inspection attempts?
“That’s something inside the car that we can’t check during the week,” Brooks said. “It’s just like an illegal motor.”
In a social media post, Nasse suggested the Monday night discovery was much more nefarious.
Nasse recently defected from PFC Brakes to Brembo Brakes. The 24-year-old suggested that his disqualification stems from a tip provided by PFC representative Chris Dilbeck:
“First of all, let me start by saying that I have the best guys in the business behind me. My Jett Motorsports guys are amazing and we had two badass cars tonight. I drove from 36th to first with no power steering. We also have the best people supporting us and one of those are Brembo Brakes, whom I highly recommend for all your brake needs.
“We left PFC Brakes because they weren’t willing to help us and were playing favorites. The first thing tech asked us to do is remove the brakes because they had a ‘tip’ from their major supporter at PFC Brakes, Chris Dilbeck. In our brake system there was a small titanium cap which does not enhance performance at all.”
In a statement released on Sunday night, Dilbeck didn’t deny the allegation but suggested that he would prefer to see races won on the track. AP Racing provides brakes for Braden.
“I don’t want to see any race decided in tech,” Dilbeck said. “It was unfortunate that PFC didn’t win the race on the race track. I feel like PFC probably had the best car of the day, along with the vast majority of the field. Myself, representing PFC at the Snowball Derby, I try to help every PFC customer to the best of my ability to go win the race.
“It’s very unfortunate that the race was decided in tech. At the same time, the car that won the race was not a PFC customer, either. Stephen Nasse is a great race car driver, and we were glad to have him on PFC the time that we did. I enjoy watching him race just like any other race fan.”
UPDATE: A Tuesday morning statement from PFC Brakes denied any involvement whatsoever: “PFC Brakes in no way shape or form was involved with the discovery during the technical inspection and has nothing to gain from the unfortunate disqualification.”
Nasse also pointed out in his statement that the winning car from the 2018 Snowball Derby featured an engine that needed to be regulated via a Balance of Performance.
That was a reference to the Hamner engine, which spent much of spring 2019 under scrutiny from the industry for a perceived power advantage following a December dyno test.
“Last year, the winning car was cleared with an illegal motor, which was an advantage,” Nasse said. “This sport is nothing but playing favorites. I’ve been the classy guy and I’ve been the nasty guy.
“But at the end of the day, I’m just a guy trying to be the best I can and to win the biggest race of my life and have it taken away like this just sucks. I appreciate all the support.”
Chase Elliott was disqualified after the 2013 Snowball Derby for having tungsten as his weight instead of lead, leading to Erik Jones’ second-consecutive victory. Christopher Bell was tossed in 2015 for a weight violation.