What was the greatest day of Stephen Nasse’s late model racing career turned into the biggest nightmare just over two hours later.
After roaring through the field from a next-to-last starting position (36th in the 37-driver field) to win the 52nd Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, Nasse and his car were disqualified due to an illegal equipment violation found in post-race inspection.
As a result, original race runner-up Travis Braden was ruled the winner, while 14-year-old Jake Garcia, making his first career Snowball Derby start, moved up from third-place to runner-up.
This marks the third time since 2013 that the Snowball Derby winner has been disqualified for violations: Chase Elliott was DQ’d in 2013, giving the win to Erik Jones; and then in 2015, Christopher Bell was DQ’d, giving the win to Elliott.
Nasse was DQ’d for a titanium violation in the brake system of his car, apparently the first time such equipment has been found in Derby cars. Here’s an interview with chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks, courtesy of AutoWeek.com’s Matt Weaver, explaining Nasse’s disqualification:
Braden, a West Virginia native, told Speed51.com about his victory, “It feels very special. But I know it’s going to feel more special with a little bit of time. It stinks we couldn’t have won the race outright, but I know these guys won the Snowball Derby. We brought a car here capable of winning this race outright.”
Nasse took to Twitter to express his feelings about being disqualified:
Nasse’s car was the only one to fail post-race inspection.
Had Garcia won, he would have been the youngest winner in Derby history (Chase Elliott holds that record at 16 years, 6 days old, in 2011).
Rounding out the top five were Canadian native Cole Butcher in third, Jesse Dutilly in fourth and Preston Peltier in fifth. The race was originally scheduled to be run Sunday, but persistent rain pushed the event to Monday afternoon/evening.
Braden adds his name to a long list of Derby winners including Kyle Busch (2009, 2017), Erik Jones (2012, 2013), John Hunter Nemecheck (2014), Chase Elliott (2011, 2015), Christian Eckes (2016) and Noah Gragson (2018).
Several other notables and their finishing positions included veteran Cup driver David Gilliland (27th), JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry (29th), and NASCAR Cup driver Corey LaJoie, who suffered early problems and finished 31st. Former Roush Fenway Racing Xfinity Series driver Ty Majeski finished 13th, and ARCA Menards Pro Series West (formerly K&N Pro Series West) driver Derek Kraus finished 18th.
Majeski appeared headed to the win with less than two laps to go when he was involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 317, bringing out a red flag race stoppage.
That opened the door for Nasse, Braden and Garcia — before Nasse was disqualified.
As a result, instead of earning what would have been the 100th late model win of his career, the 25-year-old Majeski, a native of Seymour, Wisconsin, was left with a wrecked race car and finished 13th.
“I’m just extremely frustrated,” Majeski told Speed51.com. “We had a real good car, a car plenty capable of winning. This is a tough one. Man, it sucks.”
Here are the updated results:
52nd Annual Snowball Derby Official Results
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