Sunday's Snowball Derby closely resembled a demolition derby at times, leaving many drivers merely thankful that they finished the race.
NASCAR driver David Ragan was one such driver. Ragan sat on the pole and led the first 31 laps before dropping the lead to John Hunter Nemechek just before the first round of yellow flag pit stops. Ragan had a tire coming apart throughout the second green-flag run and eventually lost a lap to the leaders. He received a free pass on lap 175 and eventually got as high as second by lap 223. He just wasn’t fast enough at the end to contend for the victory.
He finished eighth but had mixed opinions about his weekend.
"I'm satisfied but not overly satisfied," Ragan said. "I sat on the pole and led some laps which was fun and rewarding... We've gotten better each time we've come here and that gives me a lot confidence for next year."
Ragan has become a Snowball Derby veteran over the last three years, with Sunday's finish his career-best. His previous attempts have resulted in 27th and 18th-place finishes, respectively.
In hindsight, Ragan's mid-race problems might have led to him finishing the race. Ragan believes he could have been involved in the lap 158 accident between Kyle Busch and TJ Reaid. The accident collected Bubba Pollard and Chase Elliott, two of the drivers Ragan had been racing against before his faulty tire – a fact not lost on Ragan.
Ultimately, the Georgia native was just happy to finish the race with an undamaged race car, something many of the other race favorites couldn't say for themselves.
“It was a long day but we made it to the end and we fought hard,” Ragan said. “Our team worked really hard and we had a lot of fun. We’ll be here next year if we can afford it.”
Kenseth waits on NASCAR and will run more Late Model races in 2013
Ross Kenseth does not expect to compete in any NASCAR national touring series races next year, instead choosing to complete his education at Clemson University and compete in select Super Late Model races across the country.
Kenseth was previously linked to Kyle Busch Motorsports' vacant Truck Series ride before the team signed Joey Coulter.
The Snowball Derby wrapped up Kenseth's most successful season yet, winning the prestigious All-American 400 and Winchester 400 while finishing ninth in the Pro All-Stars South Series. He finished 11th in Sunday’s race despite suffering damage in the accident between Busch and Reaid. He was satisfied with a top-15 considering all of the adversity he faced during the race.
“We had some decent speed on our first run but I don’t think we ever had a car or the strategy to win the race,” Kenseth said. “We got caught up in something early in the race and it just took a while to work our way through traffic.
“It’s not hard to pass here but it can be difficult if you’re working on older tires or if your car isn’t right. That’s where we found ourselves at different points today.”
DJ VanderLey looking forward to 2013
Other drivers in the top 15 were equally satisfied to have just finished the race without accident or controversy. That includes last year's runner-up DJ VanderLey, who spent the entire race in the front half of the field but never seemed to be fast enough to contend for the win. VanderLey called surviving the race and finishing 13th a "small victory."
"Not having to take home a wrecked race car is always a positive,” VanderLey said. "I feel like we made a lot of progress at the second-to-last run but the new tires just killed us. I really thought we had a good chance on new tires but something was just off.”
VanderLey will continue to race Super Late Models in 2012 while finishing his education at Auburn University -- completing an honors program in mechanical engineering.
The Mobile, Ala. native will focus his racing efforts on the new Southern Super Series which will include 12 races at five Southeast short track tracks. Events include the World Crown 300 at Gresham, the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and the non-points Snowball Derby.