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December 2, 2018

Noah Gragson wins 51st annual Snowball Derby with late pass

Noah Gragson kisses the Snowball Derby trophy
Photo courtesy of Jacob Seelman for Toyota Racing

Turns out Noah Gragson had one more win for team owner Kyle Busch in him.

Gragson, 20, cleared Harrison Burton on a restart with seven laps to go in Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby super late model race, then held off a charging Ty Majeski to win the 51st running of the annual event at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Restarting second after the final caution, Gragson used his fresh tires to power past Burton — who stayed out late on older tires — to put the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry in Victory Lane.

Gragson, in the Toyota pipeline for years, just completed his second season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driving for KBM. He won twice and made the Championship 4 this year, finishing second in the final standings to champion Brett Moffitt. Gragson will move to the NASCAR Xfinity Series next year and drive for the Dale Earnhardt Jr. co-owned JR Motorsports.

The annual Snowball Derby is one of the premier late model races in the country, a 300-lap test of short-track racing grit on a half-mile asphalt, and the win may be the biggest of Gragson’s young career.

Majeski, who made 15 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts for Roush Fenway Racing over the past two seasons, finished runner-up. Jeff Choquette, who finished second in the Snowball Derby in 2012 and won this year’s Winchester 400, was third. Connor Okrzesik and Casey Roderick rounded out the top five.

This year’s K&N Pro Series East champion Tyler Ankrum finished eighth, while Burton faded to 10th.

Gragson made it 10 consecutive Snowball Derby race winners to have made starts in NASCAR’s national series. Kyle Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, is a two-time event winner, with his first triumph coming in 2009 along with last year’s victory.

NASCAR’s newest Most Popular Driver Award winner Chase Elliott became the youngest winner in Snowball Derby history in 2011, following it up with another victory in 2015. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones won back-to-back events in 2012-13, while John Hunter Nemechek was victorious in 2014.

The race is hosted in conjunction with the United States Super Late Model Rules Alliance and isn’t sanctioned by a particular racing organization. Drivers from various late model series, including the CARS Tour, PASS North and South, Southern Super Series and ARCA, come to participate during the first weekend of December.

Gragson’s NASCAR brethren — including his new boss — were quick to chime in: