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30th Annual Snowbal Derby: Super Late Model Report and Results

8 December 1997

Pensacola, FL - In a race that saw Red Farmer make his 30th consecutive
start, Bobby Gill of Dalton, GA drove his Terminal Trucking Chevrolet Monte
Carlo to victory in the 30th Annual Burger King Snowball Derby at Five
Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. The win was the second for Gill in the
prestigious race, his first win came in 1993. Finishing in second spot was
polesitter Eddie Mercer of Pensacola, FL and third went to Mobile, AL
native Rick Crawford. 

There were over 8,000 people packed into the stands at Five Flags
Speedway as 40 of the best Late Model drivers and cars roared under the
green flag to start the race. Scott Carlson took the lead as the field
headed into turn one while behind the leaders Harold Fair Jr and Matt
Hagans spun in the middle of the pack with Hagans sustaining major damage
to the front of his car. The first of 19 cautions flew and Hagans was
forced to retire. 

The green came back out on lap 5 with Carlson leading Mercer, Rich
Bickle, Gill, and Freddie Query. On the twelfth lap Mercer went to the
inside of Carlson in turn one and Bickle, Gill and Query followed him
through the gap before Carlson could close the hole. On lap 16 Gill moved
inside Bickle in turn one to take over second and set off to run down
Mercer who had opened a gap between himself and the field. Gill quickly
caught Mercer and then on lap 20 went around the local favorite on the
outside in turns 3 & 4 proving just how good his car was. Query worked his
way past Bickle and on lap 24 as the cars roared down the front straight
Query passed Mercer on the outside to move into second spot.

Following two quick cautions Gill and Query led the front five out
to a large gap over sixth place Carlson who had lost fifth to Carwford on
the restart. On lap 47 Query got tired of following his nemesis, Gill, and
went to the inside in turn three to take the lead. Gill stayed right on his
bumper with Mercer, Bickle and Crawford all ready to pounce should the
leaders make  a mistake. Following a lap 65 restart it was Gill's turn to
retake the lead as moved past Query in turn two. One lap later Joey Clanton
Spun in turn three and the cars of Steven Christian, Jeff Purvis and Red
Farmer all got together at the top of of turn four against the wall.
Christian's car was severely damaged while the others were able to drive

The leaders remained in order as the race progressed towards the
100 lap mark, with Gill opening a huge 10 car length lead over his
pursuers. The leaders were beginning to slip and slide as their tires began
to go away and this allowed those who had made earlier pit stops to move
towards the front. Jody Ridley was one who took advantage of a previous
caution to get fresh rubber and he was making a move towards the leading
group. Then on lap 96 Canadian Lloyd Ritchie and Tracy Goodson got together
in turn three with Goodson hitting the wall hard. This gave the leaders the
chance they had needed to get new tires and they all headed for pit road.

With the leaders in the pits, Tim Sauter took over on the point
with Carlson second and Jody Ridley third. The green came out and then
before a lap was completed the yellow came back out for a Mike Arnold spin
in turn two. Sauter now headed to the pits leaving Carlson on the point. On
the restart the order was Carlson, Ridley, Purvis, Johnny Brazier, and
Brian Ross. Two laps later Ridley went inside Carlson in turn three to take
the lead in his 25th Snowball appearance. 

Gill was coming fast from the middle of the pack after his stop and
by lap 119 he was up to third and then on lap 132 he took second and began
to run down Ridley who had a 15 car length lead. Also moving back into the
top five was Mercer who was in fourth. 1992 Snowball winner Gary St Amant
blew his engine as he entered turn one on lap 155 bringing out yet another
caution. On the restart Gill and mercer both slipped past Ridley on the
back straight and Crawford moved around the Georgia veteran on the next
lap. By lap 175 Gill was leading Mercer, Crawford Ridley and Wayne Niedeken

Crawford would momentarily drop out of the top five as he headed
for the pits under Yellow on lap 189 but by lap 200 he was back in the
thick of the battle. Mercer moved inside Gill and took the lead on the
front straight, much to the delight of the partisan crowd, but when caution
flew again on lap 221 the leaders all headed for the pits, except Crawford
who inherited the lead. 

Crawford would hold the point until Gill, with fresher tires, moved
under him on lap 240 as the cars exited turn four. As the lap count reached
250 Gill was leading Mercer, Crawford, Scott Hansen and Ridley. Hansen, who
had run a steady race all day, staying in the top ten, and Ridley both
pitted on lap 259 with Ridley retiring with broken rear suspension. 

With just over 50 laps left the battle at the front was heating up
Mercer taking the lead on lap 285 and Sauter had moved up to third and then
second as he got past Gill one lap later. Carlson was also back in the mix
taking third right behind Sauter. Caution on lap 293 for a front straight
spin by Tim Bryant sent all the leaders to the pits for fresh tires in
preparation for the final 30 lap sprint to the checkers. Sauter was the
first out of the pits and when the green flag flew on lap 300 he led
Hansen, Crawford and Tony Walls. Crawford was the first to make a move as
he passed Hansen and then Sauter to take the lead by lap 302. 

Following the last two of the nineteen cautions in quick
succession, Crawford continued to lead but Gill was coming through the
traffic like a hot knife through butter. On lap 316 he went to the outside
in turn 3 to pass Sauter and Mercer followed him around the Wisconsin
driver. Two laps later Gill was up behind Crawford and as the two cars came
out turn four on lap 319 Gill went low down the front straight and they
were dead even as they crossed the start/finish line. Gill held the inside
into turn one and emerged from turn two with the lead. Mercer now closed on
Crawford and with one lap left he was able to work his way around and take
second, but there was no time left to try and run down Gill who took the
checkers three car lengths ahead of mercer with Crawford third. Tony Walls
worked his way into fourth at the finish with Sauter taking fifth in his
Snowball debut. Carlson, Darrell Brown, Niedeken, Hansen and Joey Clanton
rounded out the top 10.

Despite the large number of yellow flags the race was completed in
2 hrs and 48 minutes and there was plenty of good racing all through the
field. This was one the best Snowball's and one of the coldest with
temperatures never rising much above the 50 degree mark all week and
dipping into the 20's at night. 13 different sanctioning bodies were
represented in the starting lineup from Texas to Canada and drivers came
from 15 states and one Canadian Province to try and make the 40 car field.
Once again the Snowball lived up to its mythical title of the "Championship
of Short Track Racing".

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel

Five Flags Speedway -- Official Results for the    
30th Annual Burger King Snowball Derby, 
Super Late Models:
Ps.Ql.No.  Driver , Car                                          Laps  
-- -- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- ----- 
 1  4   5  Bobby Gill      Terminal Trucking                Chev 330       
 2  1  72  Eddie Mercer    Eddie Mercer Auto/Fast Eddies    Chev 330       
 3  9  14  Rick Crawford   Hogan Lumber/Circle bar Motel    Chev 330       
 4 30  81  Tony Walls      Chandeleur Homes/Walls Accessory Chev 330       
 5  6   3  Tim Sauter      Build-A-Mold/Trimplas            Chev 330       
 6  2  54  Scott Carlson   Advance Construction/Willie Rest Chev 330       
 7 20  58  Darrell Brown   Gr.American Race Car/Veterans OilChev 330         
 8 35  99  Wayne Niedeken Jr Norwood marine/Everwood        Chev 330       
 9  7  52  Scott Hansen    AFCO/Victor Ford                 Ford 330       
10 24  83  Joey Clanton    Southern Linc/Racing Radios      Chev 328       
11 39 711  Johnny Brazier  Frogg Toggs/Moody Monday's       Ford 328       
12 38  24  Mike Harmon     Lonesome PineTimber/S&N Products Pont 328       
13 22  51  Jeff Purvis     Victor Ford/Phoenix Construction Ford 328       
14 31 181  Tim Bryant      Harrington Elec/P'Cola Auto BrokrChev 327       
15 18   1Y Keith Cahela    Y-Mart/Big Ed's/Boaz Tax Serv    Chev 326       
16 28  24  Keith English   Eagle Tire Serv/Matthews Roofing Chev 325       
17  8  42  Brian Ross      Ultra Tech/Royal Purple/Wade ConsChev 309       
18 25  77  Tom Hernly      Sawyers Pontiac/Miller Racing    Chev 297       
19 10  53  Robert Burroughs Burroughs Motorsports           Chev 285       
20 36  60  Mike Arnold     Strickland Tire/AMC Trailers     Chev 280       
21 27  98  Jody Ridley     El Puente/Pro Line Door          Ford 259       
22 17 111  Donald Long     Group III Asphalt/Sam's Seafood  Chev 254       
23 40  62  Lloyd Ritchie   Orange Blossom Special           Chev 244       
24  3  45  Rich Bickle     Terminal Trucking                Chev 201       
25 34  59  John Wilkinson III Quality Lube/City Auto/Hamner Chev 189       
26 37   7  Gary St Amant   Wynns/Birk Transfer              Chev 155       
27  5   8  Freddie Query   W.J. Plemons Ins/Hamner Engines  Chev 140       
28 23  40  Mike Garvey     Coors Light/AFCO                 Chev 121       
29 32  65  Andy Kirby      Bob Williams Auto/S&H Chrome     Chev 118
30 12   1  Tracy Goodson   Lifestyle Vinyl/Southern LightninChev  94       
31 13 F97  Red Farmer      K.C. Racing/Long Lewis Ford      Chev  71       
32 21   0  Steven Christian Bell South/Clements Engines     Chev  69       
33 16  11  David Rogers    TM Ranch/RC Dunn                 Chev  66       
34 11  96  Greg Davidson   W Side Performance/Davinci Carbs Chev  58       
35 15  84  Dave Mader III  Hamner Engines/BRJ Racecars      Chev  37       
36 33 152  Ronnie Couture  Pensacola Tractor/Hicks Ent.     Chev  30       
37 14  44  Derrick Gilchrist Drinkard Litho/Emerald Coast   Chev  24       
38 19  25  Scott Wimmer    Lee Ceramic Tile/Kipley Perf     Chev  24       
39 26  71  Harold Fair Jr  Left Hander/VP Fuel/Lane Auto    Chev  18       
40 29  61  Matt Hagens     Eagle Creek Aviation/Port City   Chev   1       
Time of Race      : 2 hrs 48 minutes
Margin of Victory : 3 car lengths
Cautions          : 19 for 134 laps
Track Length      :  0.5000 Miles

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel