Local Semmes, Alabama driver Donnie Hamrac used a second row starting position to catapult him to the lead in the second half of the 50 lap Snowball Derby weekend Modified race, but needed to fight off a hungry Billy Melvin.
Melvin started from the outside pole but gained the lead when polesitter Bubba Gale, father of Snowball Derby competitor Cale Gale, got off to a slow start. It would prove to be terminal for Gale, as he slowed and his motor caught fire. He was able to limp back to the pits and the race remained green for the first 21 laps.
On the restart, Snowball Derby regular and 2011 Modified winner Bubba Pollard dove low under Hamrac for second, but a lap later a major melee resulted in a red flag. Among those involved were the cars of Scooter Grice, John Heil, Zach Knowles, and Mike Maddox.
Pollard would not find the handle on his Hammond Racing car and would backslide outside of the top five as the laps went on.
Zach Webster had moved into the top five but brought out a caution, followed by another wreck involving Brandon Curren with eleven to go.
After a false start, Melvin got loose on the ensuing one and Donald Crocker moved into second. Melvin would gain the spot back in the closing laps and suddenly pressured Hamrac for the lead. Hamrac was able to narrowly hold Melvin off in a thrilling side-by-side finish to the checkered.
"I'd like to thank Billy for racing me clean," remarked Hamrac regarding the final laps.
Melvin, Crocker, Joe Aramendia, and Jeff Letson rounded out the top five.
"We gave it everything we had," an exhausted Melvin stated. "We just ran out of motor."
Racing continues on Saturday with a last chance race for the Snowball Derby, the 50 lap debut of the Pro Truck division, and the Snowflake 100 for the Pro Late Models.
Continuing coverage of the Snowball Derby can be found on the Ranting and Raving short track blog. Visit our Facebook page for all the updates and links to our stories leading up to the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing.