Middleton Leads Laps, Finishes in Top-15 in First Snowball Derby Team Wins Best Appearing Car at 37th annual Derby LAKE CITY, FL (December 14, 2004) -- What a difference a year makes. One year ago at the Snowball Derby, then 19-year-old Jay ...
Middleton Leads Laps, Finishes in Top-15 in First Snowball Derby
Team Wins Best Appearing Car at 37th annual Derby
LAKE CITY, FL (December 14, 2004) -- What a difference a year makes. One year ago at the Snowball Derby, then 19-year-old Jay Middleton was competing in the last-chance race when he was taken out by short track veteran Bobby Gill. Middleton was dejected after failing to qualify for the show.
This year, the now 20-year-old Middleton left little doubt as to whether he should be in the field. In fact, he put his beautiful Northern Florida Pharmacies #74 on the outside pole. He then led laps before falling victim to worn tires on a long, green-flag run. Middleton still managed to finish 13th.
"This is the first time I've ever raced at this rack besides failing to make the show here last year," said Middleton. "Even though I'm from Florida, I don't normally come here. I had high expectations, but it's a hard race. It is, by far, the hardest race out there to win because of the caliber of drivers that compete."
Middleton started outside the front row, alongside of polesitter Gary Helton, the 2004 Southern All Star Series champion. He found himself in the lead on lap two, but he would relinquish that lead just a few laps later to the eventual Derby winner Steve Wallace.
This year's Derby was postponed a week following rain at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. That may have played havoc on Middleton's early race chances.
"The tires we started on were junk. I guess they just sat around for a week and that may have had some effect on them. We had a lot of stagger in the tires for qualifying, which helped, but that might have been bad for the race.
"So early on, we had to come in and get new tires. We were then stuck in the back from there on and that is hard with a field this tough. Once you get off track like that, it is hard to get back on the right path.
"Then, we had a long green-flag run with tires that were 100-laps old. We went two-laps down during that time because some of the leaders had newer tires than we did. If we didn't have that misfortune, we would have been a contender. The car was good, really good at the end, we just ran out of time. We didn't get a chance to make those two laps up."
Despite his tire trouble, Middleton was able to dodge all of the wrecks and not fall into the heavy attrition numbers to finish the race in the top-15, with a car that had hardly a scratch on it at the night's end.
"Dodging wrecks has always been one of my positives. I just seem to know when to let people go and when to race them. You just have to finish it to win it. You learn everything in a race like this. It is hard to even grasp all of the knowledge you get by competing in the Derby. The list is pretty long, but I'm going to let it all sink in.
"We are going to be twice as good next year because we were twice as good this year than last year. It is all about learning and knowing what is going on."
Middleton's 2005 plans are still up in the air. The team competed in ASA in 2004, but the series direction is still unknown. And watch for a new look to JayMiddleton.com soon.