At the Snowball Derby, it’s not over until the Technical Director says it’s over.
Chris Bell had the dominant car and took the checkered flag at Five Flags Speedway on Sunday.
But the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports ride did not survive post-race inspection. Just over 90 minutes after the race ended, Chase Elliott was declared the winner.
Still, Elliott felt Bell’s pain. He experienced the same misfortune two years ago when he was disqualified and Erik Jones was named the victor.
“I know the heartbreak and how it felt two years ago standing right here in this exact position and to be on the other end of the stick, loading up when everyone else is going through tech,” Elliott said. “It makes you want to crawl into a hole. That’s a feeling I’ve officially been on both ends of.
“So we’ll happily take this trophy home and get ready for Daytona.”
The weight balance of Bell’s car was 0.3-percent over the 58.0-percent ratio according to the event’s technical director Ricky Brooks. Brooks said he allowed the team to roll over the scales three times in an effort to rectify the situation but to no avail.
“I just had a really good race car,” Bell graciously told Motorsport.com after he was disqualified. “I can’t thank KBM enough.”
It wasn't the No. 51 teams first run in with the Snowball Derby inspectors this week. After breaking the track qualifying record, Bell was disqualified and forced to compete in the last chance race on Saturday — which he won.
His team owner Kyle Busch took to Twitter to vent his frustrations.
On Sunday, Bell started 31st. The No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota took the lead from defending Snow Ball Derby winner John Hunter Nemechek with a little bump and run on the backstretch on Lap 200. He led 93 of 300 laps.
Had it not been for the fifth yellow flag — a competition caution after the event had continued under green for 75 circuits — Bell would have had more than a straightaway on Nemechek by Lap 265. Bell maintained the lead until the race was red-flagged following a three-car wreck involving Donnie Wilson, Noah Gragson and Derek Kraus on Lap 274.
The fight for the win
Nemechek took the lead from Bell on the restart on Lap 277 but Bell regained the point on Lap 285. Nemeche dropped in the field and started smoking with two laps remaining in the race. As the smoke bellowed from the No. 8 car on pit road where Nemechek’s pits were, Zane Smith slowed through Turns 3 and 4 and Elliott was able to pass him for second-place.
“At that point, we were just trying to get round him and give ourselves a shot,” Elliott said. “We had been gaining on him the last couple of laps. There was a big fire down there. I think everybody was trying to take it easy — didn’t know what was going on. But regardless, I was happy to get around him.
“We will certainly enjoy this.”
After inspection, Smith moved up to second-place followed by polesitter Ty Majeski, who led 63 laps, Dalton Sergeant and Bubba Pollard.
“It’s all strategy,” said Smith, 16, who led 40 laps. “This track is so much momentum and it’s how it plays out when you do what and how you do what. I think if I got passed him when John Hunter was blowing up, I could have held him off.
“It’s a little bit different when you’re in clean air. The car handles different. But who knows? Next year will tell.”
NASCAR notables William Byron, Kaz Grala, Daniel Hemric and Corey LaJoie finished eight, 10th, 11th and 14th, respectively. Nemechek, who hit his pit box when his brakes failed, led 18 laps but finished 21st.