2009-12-10 / Sports

Busch Wins Snowball Derby


PENSACOLA, Fla.– The 2009 Nationwide Series champion, “Rowdy” Kyle Busch passed “Fast” Eddie Mercer of Pensacola on lap 282 of the 300-lap race to win Sunday’s 42nd Snowball Derby, before the largest crowd in the history of the event.

When asked about his thoughts on next year’s Cup season, he said, “I’d like to say we are going to win the championship, but you never know. We had some good runs this past year, and we had some bad runs. The bad runs overcame the good runs. I’m proud of all the guys on my Cup team, but today is what it’s all about and we won the Snowball Derby.”

Eddie Mercer finished second. Steven Wallace, another Nationwide Series driver and 2004 Snowball Derby winner, finished third.

Race fans might have thought the 2009 racing season ended on Nov. 22 when NASCAR’s three major series competed at Homestead. But they were wrong. Fans know the racing season is never complete until a champion is crowned in the Snowball Derby, the country’s most prestigious short-track race that occurs each December.

The polesitter was Johanna Long, the 17-year-old daughter of racer Donald Long. Ross Kenseth, the 16-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth started second, while Kyle Busch qualified third. Chase Elliott, son of Bill Elliott qualified ninth.

With the regular racing season over, several of NASCAR’s bigger stars headed south to Five Flags Speedway in hopes of finding victory lane.

Those entered in this year’s classic included Cup driver David Stremme, Nationwide drivers Steven Wallace, John Wes Townley, Cale Gale and James Buescher, Brian Ickler, and Ryan Sieg from the Camping World Trucks.

Past winners of the Snowball Derby include such notables as Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Ted Musgrave, Rich Bickle, Gary St. Amant, Rick Crawford, Bobby Gill, Pete Hamilton, Ted Musgrave and Jody Ridley.

Joey Logano, who finished the Cup season 20th in points with one win, was also the youngest driver to earn the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award and became the youngest Cup winner when he won the rain-shortened June 28 race in Loudon, N.H.

He beat out veteran openwheel and sports car racer Max Papis and former Formula One driver Scott Speed for the honor.

He will share a $114,000 top rookie bonus with his team along with the $5.3 million he won in Cup races.

He has been modest throughout his first full Cup season after being elevated to replace Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota when Stewart announced his plans late last year to start his own team.

“If Tony hadn’t left, I probably would have run a full (NASCAR) Nationwide series this season with maybe some Cup races at the end of the year,” said Logano.

He won five of the 22 Nationwide races he entered.

Kansas Speedway’s application to operate a Hard Rock Casino on speedway property has been approved by the Kansas Gaming Commission. International Speedway Corp., which owns the track and is controlled by the France family, promised the track a second race, beginning in 2011.

Mike Helton, president of NASCAR, said they would not add a race to the current 36-race schedule. The big question is which of the current ISC tracks will lose a race to Kansas?

Most fans would favor Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., but Michigan Speedway might be one to lose out. Sponsors want to race twice at ACS because it’s in the second largest market in the country. Michigan, an almost identical track to ACS but 30 years older, lies in one of the most depressed areas of the country. Being in the backyard of the Big-3’s headquarters was a big reason Michigan had played host to two Cup races a year since 1969. No one knows whether all three automakers will survive. Michigan Speedway also could become a victim of the problem.

Martinsville, the oldest facility in NASCAR, was thought to be the location that would lose a race. But the resurfaced track at Bristol has eliminated much of the bumping, and banging that made the short track so popular. NASCAR officials aren’t going to mess that up and take a race away from the old Virginia track, a move that would cause a revolt by many fans. Martinsville appears safe for keeping both Cup dates.

ISC currently has two other Cup races at Daytona, Talladega, Richmond and Phoenix. It has one race at Darlington, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, Homestead- Miami and Kansas.

Racing trivia question: What year did Mark Martin first compete in the Cup series?

Last week’s question: Where is the NASCAR Hall of Fame going to be located? Answer. Charlotte, N.C. It will open in May 2010.

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