Pensacola, Fla. - Johanna Long outlasted two late-race cautions and overtime to clinch the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway on Dec. 5.
The eighteen-year-old became just the second female winner (Tammy Jo Kirk, 1994) and youngest overall to hoist the Tom Dawson trophy. The Pensacola native survived 32 additional laps beyond the 300 scheduled as Five Flags Speedway must finish with five green flag laps, non-consecutive and can not finish under yellow-flag conditions.
Confused? I was too. More on that later this week.
Long, who decided the race could not be won on old tires, pitted for new ones on lap 290, hoping for additional laps. Her gambit paid off, restarting tenth and methodically raced her way to the front, passing Donnie Wilson for the lead on lap 315. She survived two more restarts before the five-lap rule could be satisfied en route to capturing her first Snowball Derby.
"This is what I've dreamed of ever since I started racing," Long said. "It is my family's dream and I couldn't have done it without them - my dad, mom and sisters, my aunts and uncles and grandparents. They were all supporting us in the garage tonight. I'm speechless, and it's the best Christmas present I could ever get. My nephew was born today too so we're joking that if we weren't a racing family before - wow - we really are now!
"I can't wait to see what's next."
Next she hopes is a full-time truck series ride. Long previosly drove in six truck races for Billy Ballew Motorsports in 2010 with a best finish of 17th at O'Reily Raceway Park. Long requires a sponsorship package if she plans to run the full season. Defeating the likes of David Ragan, David Stremme and Chase Elliott should help the cause.
Long started fourth behind pole-sitter Cale Gale, formerly of Kevin Harvick Inc. Landon Cassill and Snowflake 100 winner Chase Elliott also started in the top ten.
Elliott led 61 laps during the middle stages but faltered after sundown. Elliott was gathered himself back to make a late-race charge but was spun by Landon Cassill just before overtime.
Bubba Pollard also led late before being spun hard into turn two by Donnie Wilson. Mike Garvey led for a total 55 laps but was involved in several cautions before finishing 12th. Even two-time winner Augie Grill had his day ended by a late crash.
"It's a tough race," Garvey said. "It's a race that requires aggression and patience at the same time."
Just 12 of the starting 37 teams finished the race.
Previous winners of the event, first held in 1968, include Darrell Waltrip, Donnie Allison, Steve Wallace and Kyle Busch, the winner of the 2009 event.
Busch, who would have had a guaranteed spot in the field as reigning champion, did not compete this year.
"We're here to win. We would not have come down here unless we felt like we could take home the win. -Chase Elliott, pre-race introductions.
"I'm coming in. We're not winning unless we have fresh tires. Passing is just too hard." -Johann Long, with less than 15 laps to go.
The finishing order and photos can be found after the jump.
Results for the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby
1. Johanna Long
2. Donnie Wilson
3. Scott Hantz
4. Landon Cassill
5. Dennis Schoenfeld
6. Derrick Griffin
7. Mason Mingus
8. Travis Kittleson
9. John Bolen
10. Jimmy Garmon
11. Bubba Pollard
12. Mike Garvey
13. David Stremme
14. Casey Smith
15. Dan Fredrickson
16. Casey Roderick
17. Chase Elliott
18. Johnny VanDoorn
19. Ross Kenseth
20. Grant Enfinger
21. Cale Gale
22. Andy Loden
23. Chris Davidson
24. Jeff Fultz
25. Josh Hamner
26. Ryan Sieg
27. David Ragan
28. Augie Grill
29. Jerry Artuso
30. Dennis Prunty
31. Clay Rogers
32. Korey Ruble
33. Brandon Carlson
34. Ryan Lawler
35. TJ Reaid
36. Dave Mader III
37. Eddie Mercer
PENSACOLA, FL - DECEMBER 05: This is what it's all about. The Tom Dawson Snowball Derby Championship Trophy. (Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
Chase Elliot Aaron's Dream Machine Ford Fusion prior to the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby. (Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
The 'Cast of Characters running in the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby. (Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
Two-time Snowball Derby race-winning entrant, Augie Grill. (Photo by Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
Grill's day ended prematurely after being involved in a four-car accident in turn two. (Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
Johanna Long's 43rd Annual Snowball Derby race-winning entry. (Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
He doesn't show it here but Ross Kenseth looks exactly like his father, Matt (Photograph by Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)
The turn one and two grandstands at Five Flags Speedway are the absolute best in short track racing. (John Kenny/John Kenny Photography)
Matt Weaver is the Sports Editor for The Vanguard (USA) and can be reached at jmatthewweaver(at)aol.com