PENSACOLA, Fla. – Ty Majeski has seen wins in the Snowball Derby slip away from him on many occasions.
During Sunday’s 56th running of the Super Late Model race at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver thought it was happening again.
Majeski, the 2020 winner of the 300-lap endurance test at the challenging half-mile oval, had just lost the lead after a gripping, multi-lap battle with Stephen Nasse that saw the two exchange the top spot no fewer than five times in a six-lap span.
He then lost second place to perennial Snowball Derby contender Bubba Pollard, who began his own war for the lead with Nasse while Majeski looked on in dismay.
“I thought if I could clear him and Bubba could wiggle Nasse then I could sneak away, but it never happened,” said Majeski, who drives for ThorSport Racing in the Truck Series.
And then, instead of watching his chance at a victory slip away, Majeski saw the pay window open.
Nasse and Pollard crashed in Turn 1 while battling for the lead with six laps to go, allowing Majeski to slip past and win his second Snowball Derby in the span of four years.
“Nasse was lifting to keep me on the outside and it allowed Bubba to close the gap and fill the hole, but that might have been the mistake that lost him the race,” Majeski said. “He was able to let Bubba get to his bumper.”
The victory makes Majeski one of just 12 drivers to score multiple Snowball Derby victories during the event’s 56-year history. The road to that honor was a challenging one, as Majeski spent most of the 300-lap event watching drivers like Nasse, Pollard and defending winner Derek Thorn hold the lead.
Majeski’s first turn at the front of the field came just past the 200-lap mark, when he grabbed the lead from Nasse during a restart. He held the spot for a time, but Nasse proved too good on the short run, and Majeski had to concede the position.
“I had the best car on the long run all night; I just fought short-run speed,” Majeski said. “I let them get away a little bit. I got the lead on that restart with about 200 to go. I was able to hold Stephen off for a little bit, then he got by me. I was able to keep that gap close. On previous runs, I could drop back to fourth and work my way up and just get to his bumper and I was able to keep that gap closed up.
“We had him right where we wanted him. It looked like the race was going to go green with about 30 to go, and I was teeing him up. I was within a couple car lengths of him, and then of course the caution comes out.”
The caution, which was for a spin by Luke Fenhaus after contact with NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones, allowed the entire field to pit for fresh tires and adjustments. Majeski’s crew focused on making changes to his car that would give him the short-run speed he needed.
The first attempt to resume the race proved disastrous, as Noah Gragson, who restarted fourth, missed a shift. A multi-car melee ensued that eliminated a multitude of contenders such as Thorn, William Byron, Jones, Michael Hinde and Jake Finch.
After a lengthy cleanup, the race resumed with Majeski and Nasse engaging in a battle for the ages. Majeski lost that battle, but he won the war when Nasse and Pollard crashed.
He inherited the lead and powered away from runner-up Gio Ruggerio, who had come from two laps down after an issue prior to the start of the race, and 2019 winner Travis Braden, to secure his date with the Tom Dawson Trophy.
“You can’t ever be fast enough to win this race,” Majeski said. “I felt like we were the best car at times, but maybe not when it counted. I’ve been the best car when it counted and didn’t win many times, so I know how it feels. You just have to be a good enough car to maintain the track position. Be in the top-three, four or five at the end and anything can happen.
“Speed helps, but it’s not everything in this race. Situations have to go your way and tonight it was our night.”