The 2012 Snowball Derby will feature the return of one of the more popular rules from previous seasons -- live four-tire pit stops.
Last year’s race featured a new format that allowed teams to change only two tires per stop. The idea at the time was to eliminate teams from hiring costly professional pit crews and instill an element of strategy into the Snowball Derby race.
As it turned out, teams hired professional over-the-wall crews anyway, assuming that they could still change two tires quicker than everyone else. Other teams responded by making two consecutive pit stops in order to take four tires regardless.
The end result was a congested pit road with track officials burning up too many caution laps in order to determine the proper running order.
So in short, Sunday's race is a return to normalcy. Teams can again change four tires and are welcome to hire professional pit crews to assist in changing them quicker. According to race promoter Tim Bryant, that's just a part of the Snowball Derby experience.
"Fans want to see action on the track and on pit road," Bryant said. "We tried to make pit stops a little fairer last season and ended up with more chaos than what we expected. It eliminated some of the more exciting elements of our race and we just decided to give that back to the fans with our original format."
DJ VanderLey is one of the many drivers who can't afford to hire a professional pit crew. Instead, the Mobile, Ala. native will rely on family and friends to service his car throughout the weekend -- something they've done in previous Snowball Derby attempts.
VanderLey nearly won this race last year and did it without a professional pit crew, a fact not lost on his crew chief and father Dan VanderLey.
"This race is going to be won on the race track and not pit road," VanderLey said. "We don't have the $5,000 needed to bring in hired guns but I think that with the effort we've brought towards preparing for this race that we can beat them on pit road and on the race track."
VanderLey said that his team has been practicing stops for the last two months and are at a point where they can compete with anyone else in the Derby.
“We take a lot of pride in being able to compete with these guys,” VanderLey said. “We have the best equipment and we feel like we have the best team possible. All that’s left is to go out there and try to win this thing.”