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WrestleMania is four days away and I couldn’t care less.

For my longest-tenured friends, this must sound pretty blasphemous. Professional wrestling has always been a favored passion right alongside motorsports, baseball and otaku culture — my own personal pillar of geek.

The cliché is spoken all the time, that wrestling just ain’t the same, for the most part harkening back to the so-called Attitude Era of the late 1990s. But that’s not what I mean. I wasn’t a fan of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara’s “Crash TV” style of promotion.

When I say professional wrestling ain’t the same, I’m referencing actual professional wrestling and not sports entertainment, the overly theatric and cheesy brand of choreographed athleticism produced by World Wrestling Entertainment.

My fandom goes back to southern style, with roots centered on names like Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South and World Class, my appreciation of the business starting with Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling.

I like my professional wrestling sports-based and without flash and seriousness and that died a death in the United States the moment that WCW hired Russo and Ferrara back in 1999.

Today’s legitimate professional wrestling, at least stateside, is a WWE monopoly and the reasons that have pushed me away have finally outnumbered the reasons that I kept tuning in week-to-week, the final straw breaking violently in half when CM Punk suddenly called it quits following the Royal Rumble.

PunkRRPunk was the last vestige of the professional wrestling world that didn’t bow to corporate pressures. He overcame his lack of size and muscle, making it in the Land of Giants, based purely on athleticism, work-rate and his uncanny ability to make you believe whatever he told you on a microphone, regardless of if he was playing the role of a baby face (hero) or a dastardly heel (villain.)

He was authentic in a wrestling world overran with bright colors and silly conflicts in no way based in reality. The latter is a reason why MMA has thrived at the behest of pro wrestling, by the way. People want to believe that the characters are real, and that the conflicts are genuine, something that WWE fans are unable to do when Scooby Doo occupied television time on the prior segment.

Today’s WWE is a variety show of nonsense … enough is enough and it’s time for a change, to quote the late and great Owen Hart.

But more than anything else, I’m insulted by WWE giving Daniel Bryan the push and moment that CM Punk so desperately wanted and deserved, doing so after his departure almost as if a FU … err, Attitude Adjustment to the legacy of Chicago’s Straight-Edged Superstar.

I have no doubt that Punk, despite his hard-edged attitude and moodiness would still be at the company today if he had been treated like the superstar that so many, still chanting his name two months later, knew him to be.

Instead of giving Punk the obvious Stone Cold treatment, he was forced to job (lose) to Triple H, a non-regular who has long since moved into a corporate position with the company. Punk, who was trusted with the longest championship reign in company history, was continually overlooked for his WrestleMania main event for returning Hollywood stars The Rock and Dave freaking Batista.

The latter has already lost favor with the company, the other reason that Bryan was inserted into the main event — and that should be CM Punk.

But Punk, the last true professional wrestler in the WWE, has taken his ball and went home to Chicago. And without Punk, I really don’t care anymore.

With that said, I will always watch the Showcase of the Immortals, so here are some thoughts and predictions for WrestleMania XXX.

Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. TBD

The TBD is of course, Daniel Bryan or Triple H. This will certainly be Daniel Bryan’s spot and I’m totally done with the business Triple H places himself into the main event. Daniel Bryan will defeat Triple H earlier in the night, earn his spot in the main event, and complete one of the greatest feel-good storylines in the history of modern professional wrestling.

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

See above.

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

The streak will never end — take it to the bank. I believe The Undertaker has three matches remaining in his career and he will win all three of them. He and Brock Lesnar will put on a pretty fantastic show on Sunday and Undertaker will bow out after defeating Sting and a heel John Cena in his final two appearances.

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

John Cena has nothing to lose in losing this match but he’s going to win because he’s Superman and this is WrestleMania. If the WWE was serious about establishing Bray Wyatt and his creepy Deliverance gimmick as a main event player, he would win on Sunday in the Big Easy.

André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

It just makes a lot of sense for Big Show to win the inaugural Andre the Giant battle royal, right?

Thank you to my supportive friends and family

ImageJimmie Johnson made history on Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, capturing his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in eight seasons.

I’ve learned that the business of motorsports is hard work. While Johnson makes it look easy at times, it takes an incredible amount of effort, resolve and focus to do any job at the highest level of racing.

While I would never compare what I’m trying to do to what the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team has accomplished over the past decade, I can tell you that racing is most certainly very difficult to find even the smallest success in.

At 25-years-old, racing is the absolute only thing that I have.

I’ve dedicated my entire life to chasing race cars that go around in circles. Each of you reading this know what I am trying to accomplish in making it as a motorsports journalist — and that this is the most grueling grind I have ever experienced in my life.

I didn’t intend to share this out of vanity but to recognize that whatever success that I have found this year — like Johnson’s 2013 season — came down to the people that have supported and helped me. I’m just a kid from Axis, Ala., (the stereotype that comes to mind when you envision Alabama), who wants something more.

And this year, I’ve started to find it.

In addition to my long-standing jobs at SB Nation and Mobile International Speedway, I earned my coolest title to date in Executive Editor for Popular Speed, a new NASCAR concept website, envisioned by Sprint Cup winning spotter Mike Calinoff.

When he and his metaphorical right arm Amanda Ebersole invited me to spearhead their newest project, it was the biggest honor I have ever received that someone so notable would trust me to be one of the faces of something with such lofty goals.

And because of everyone involved, Popular Speed has grown beyond our biggest expectations, breaking numerous news stories, providing hard hitting analysis and quickly earning a positive reputation (I think and hope) around the NASCAR garage.

Just based on what the site has been able to accomplish in just four brief months, the moon is truly the limit for the next season now that the beta phase of Popular Speed has passed with flying colors.

Through SB Nation, I was also able to cover much of the IZOD IndyCar Series season and the inaugural Southern Super Series Late Model tour this season. I think it must be frustrating to some of my readers and motorsports friends who follow me for just one discipline.

But like I’ve said before, racing is all I have — racing of every kind.

To those who humour me when I go to an IndyCar or short track event, I thank you and hope that I provided something has some degree of appeal.

Many people don’t realize or understand that I’m still in school at the University of South Alabama. I’ve yet to graduate because I spend more time chasing race cars than attending classes. So needless to say, my budget resembles every college student’s ever.

Like many young journalists before and after me, I’ve been known to sleep in haulers, trucks and most recently the homes of my widely expanded motorsports social circle.

So the point of this post is to thank everyone who has been a part of my journey this season.

I really feel like I’m making a lot of progress and I couldn’t do this without each and every one of you who give me a place to stay, a traveling mate, a shoulder to bounce my wackiest ideas off of or to just hang out the coolest diners until 3 a.m.

tavern

(I’m looking at you Texas Tavern with Langley, Kim and Andy)

You make this a lot of fun and I hope that 2014 brings more of the same. This is what I live for and may my checkered flag come far down the road. And with that in mind, I have to thank every one who of you who have clicked a story, retweeted, interacted or said hi at a tweet-up.

Thank all of you so much.

We’re just getting started.

——–

Mom, Dad, April, Jeff, Bob, Mike (all three of you), Yvonne, Chris (both of you), Kenn, Andy, Tim, Rick, Cassie, Josh, Jenna, Kelly, Amanda, Aaron, Alanis, Jordan, Brian, Cone (seriously), Virginia, Farrah, Chase, Kane, Brandon, Tony, Allen, John, Shaun, Christley, Cunningham, Sara, Jessica, Adam, Unique, Rick, Stix, Langley, Kevin, Jerry, Dontae, Dustin, Aunt Cynthia, Uncle Terry, Matt, Dave and everyone… the list is far too long.

I can be hard to deal with because I almost have this dogged tunnel vision approach to my career and you have worked with me accordingly. Ya’ll rock.

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PopHangout “Spingate”

Chase Wilhelm, Kelly Crandall and Matt Weaver discussed the Michael Waltrip Racing penalties last night live on Youtube. It’s the second of a weekly planned special we like to call the “Pop Hangout.” Interact with the team live in the future by using the hashtag #PopHangout and contact them on Twitter at @Chase_Wilhelm, @KellyCrandall and @MattWeaverSBN.

This week’s Pop Hangout features an in depth discussion of all things Spingate and couldn’t be contained in just one video. We had to split it into two different videos!

Okay, the truth is that we had a technical issue but enjoy the videos nevertheless. They have been provided in their entirety below.

Brad Keselowski celebrates a Richmond Nationwide Series win.

Brad Keselowski celebrates a Richmond Nationwide Series win.

When Brian Scott led the first 200 laps of Friday’s Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway, what were your initial thoughts?

Mine were spent guessing which issue would be the one to ultimately derail Scott’s milestone moment and deny him his first career series victory.

Nothing against Scott, who has grown into his own as a driver this season at Richard Childress Racing, but the stats did not favor him as the likely winner of that race. It just feels like an inevitable outcome that either Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski is going to win every event they are entered in this season and that’s exactly what happened.

With a combined 13 wins this season behind him (15 if you count Regan Smith), Brian Scott may have been the most dominant underdog in recent NASCAR history. And he may have pulled off the feat if not for the caution that fell on lap 236 as Scott was steadily maintaining the gap between himself and Keselowski.

“Faulty restart” was the issue that plagued Scott on Friday as he spun his tires and surrendered the lead for the first time on lap 239. Keselowski beat Scott to the finish line on the restart, which is grounds for penalty in NASCAR, but Nationwide Series director Wayne Auton told MRN Radio that officials were correct in not calling a foul.

Auton and company were again faced with a decision on the final restart when Keselowski clearly jumped on the throttle before the first of two restart lines but once again avoided a penalty.

“We felt it was the right call at the time [of the restarts],” Auton told PRN radio. “We’re not going to micro-manage that part of it.”

Restarts are becoming an annoying talking point far too often in recent seasons and my solution is to take it out the drivers’ hands entirely. Meanwhile, did you know that the proper title for the flagman (or flagwoman) is the ‘starter?’

That title is derived from their original role as the starter and re-starter of the race, a task that has been given to the drivers by NASCAR. Putting the restarts back in the hands of the flagman will eliminate all the problems that are born from the status quo.

My solution is one that works — generally without error — at short tracks all across America.

The currently existing restart zone will remain and the leader must go within those lines. And as soon as the leader clears that second restart line, the flagman will drop the green flag and all bets are off. Under this scenario, it doesn’t matter who gets to the finish line first and drivers will no longer feel the need to trick or snooker their rival into drawing a penalty.

A similar approach is used in the IndyCar Series too with the green flag signaling the start of the race, with passing allowed even before crossing the line.

It makes too much sense not to use one of these two policies in NASCAR, lest races continue to be decided by drivers attempting to trick one another on the start. That’s not in the spirit of the sport and that’s not what most fans pay to see.

It is however a valuable skill, one that Keselowski has found success and discipline for using in the past. It earned him the former on Friday afternoon at Richmond.

Do you like the current NASCAR restart policy? Tell me on Twitter @MattWeaverSBN.

BGU Clock Tower

Bowling Green University Clock Tower

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of doing an honest-to-God road trip.

It’s the modern-day equivalent of getting the chance to leave everything behind and setting sail in the pursuit of new worlds or adventure. If that sounds a little Star Trek, it’s because I’m admittedly a bit of a fan.

This week’s trip wasn’t as spectacular as those penned by Jack Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson but that’s the spirit I was hoping to capture in driving cross-country on Wednesday afternoon.

Road trips were all the rage in the 60s and 70s. The expansion of the American highway was well under way and the automobile was arguably at its most durable during this time as well. General adventure defined the American culture and feminism, freedom and Woodstock were the watchwords.

With diner inns – like Howard Johnsons — still popular during this time, the road trip was still an affordable investment too, given enough participants.

An open road and clear skies represent clarity and we could all use a little bit more of that from time to time.

So when my buddy Chase offered to pay my gas and meals for driving up to Bowling Green, Ohio to get him in advance of the NASCAR weekend at Kentucky, I was willing to make it work. After all, I had never driven beyond Cincinnati and I wanted my own Kerouac novel — or something close.

So around 11 a.m. CST, I set off on an 11-hour trek from St. Claire Ala. to Bowling Green.

Along the way, I found a town called Arab, pronounced “eh-Raab” but still humorous from a visual perspective when paired with local establishments like the “Arab American Union.” And as a local beat reporter friend of mine pointed out later that day,

“School nickname is a cool play on words – Knights. (I’ve also seen it listed as Arabian Knights).”

I laughed.

All jokes aside, the farm town of Arab was actually very picturesque as was the countryside when I traveled further north up Tennessee and Kentucky. The highways were chiseled from hills and mountains, with the twisty roads resembling a classic Grand Prix street race than an open highway.

I was widely grinning, rolling the apexes around US Highway 31W, an obvious reminder as to why I rarely take interstates when I drive to races — they just aren’t as exciting or visually stimulating.

A White Castle in Kentucky.

A White Castle in Kentucky.

Once into Kentucky, I found a White Castle fast food joint and to my disappointment, discovered that it was just like Krystal’s. While I’ve always known that they were carbon copy products, the legends surrounding White Castle had grown beyond that simple fast food — it was supposedly an experience.

But it tasted just like a Krystal’s, making me wonder if Northerners hype Krystal’s the way White Castle is spoken about in the Deep South?

In any case, darkness approached much quicker than I was used to — crossing over into the Eastern Time Zone played a slight role in that. I really wasn’t able to marvel or explore under twilight until I arrived in Bowling Green, where Chase treated me to a hoagie made by a regional chain called “Mister Spots.”

Mister Spots wings and subs in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Mister Spots wings and subs in Bowling Green, Ohio.

More importantly, the downtown gave me a chance to explore a new downtown. At the time of writing this, it is 4:30 ET and I’m near-fatally tired. Instead of waxing poetic on the eve of NASCAR work, another four hours back south to Kentucky Speedway, I’ll just let the photographs do the talking.

I will make one last note, that Bowling Green shares several similarities with Mobile, down to the nightlife and architecture. Of course, aren’t most towns really the same at their cores?

Additional Photos from Bowling Gree, Ohio can be found below.

Clock (1)Clock (2)

Farmland near Arab, Ala.

Farmland near Arab, Ala.

Blogging is a tricky thing. When writing about personal experiences or travels, it’s an admittedly self-absorbed process.

It’s kind of showy — like you’re saying ‘look at me.’

But the truth is that, I’m just a guy chasing a dream like anyone else. I want to share that dream a little bit over the next few days.

But more importantly, blogging and social media is really intertwined.  It’s the diary mentality that people have had since antiquity. I’m just hoping I have something to share over the next few weeks.

So what am I doing exactly?

For the second year in a row, I’m embarking on a massive road trip of sorts to work back-to-back NASCAR weekends at Kentucky and Daytona.

The trip will also take me to the ARCA Racing Series event at Winchester Speedway on Sunday and the PASS South races at Anderson Speedway early next week.

I had a lot of fun doing this last year so I’ve decided to share it with my friends this time around as I traverse the Southeastern United States over the next two weeks, visiting new short tracks, watching movies and catching up with old friends.

I’ll also get some work done, which you can access — as always — at sbnation.com/nascar.

But I’m far from all work and no play, so I left home a little earlier than necessary to find additional entertainment.

I left Mobile, Ala. at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and traveled non-stop to Birmingham to a local theater (off the fittingly titled Kentucky Ave.) to watch ‘Man of Steel’ — the latest Superman Reboot produced by many of those who recently put the reset on the Batman continuity.

Makeshift Man of Steel at the theater near Birmingham, Ala.

Makeshift Man of Steel at the theater near Birmingham, Ala.

In short, it was…

Gratuitous.

Everything about Man of Steel was overdone.

The origin story which has admittedly been seen a million times felt rushed in this film. Clark’s transition from humble farmer to superhero occurred way too quickly, especially in comparison to Bruce Wayne’s decade-long self-discovery tour in Batman Begins.

In short, everything from scene setters to action occurred way to quickly, making Man of Steel feel like a viewable video game and that just didn’t work for me.

I’m far from a movie critic and I don’t intend to set the bar for what a good movie entails but I just expected something more provocative from Chris Nolan, David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder.

That was how the first stage of my trip ended. Next up was the quick shunt over to a rest area off Interstate 59 North, the first place I ever slept at when I first started working NASCAR races (at Talladega) in 2011.

Despite still being six hours away from Kentucky Speedway, there is something to be said for familiar territory. So I crashed here to rest up for my long drive on Wednesday.

We’ll pick up from here in my next post.

In the meantime, tell me what you thought about the new Superman or travel in the comments section or on Twitter at @mattweaversbn.

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Chase Does It Again; Wins His Second Snowflake 100

Chase Elliott with Snowball and Miss Snowball Derby after winning the Snowflake 100.

Chase Elliott with Snowball and Miss Snowball Derby after winning the Snowflake 100.

Chase Elliott has won on many occasions at Five Flags Speedway including the 2011 Snowball Derby and the 2010 Snowflake 100, but the Dawsonville, Georgia teenager proved once again that he is wise beyond his years in Saturday night’s running of arguably the biggest pro late model race of the year.

Elliott and fellow young gun Kyle Benjamin from Easley, South Carolina ran identical lap times in qualifying; however, it was underfunded Alabama competitor Justin South who surprised many by setting the fast time for the 100 green flag lap event.  South himself was not surprised, remarking that “we expect nothing less.”  He proved this was the case as he shot into the lead from the start and pulled away from the field for the first 23 laps.

Elliott bided his time, which was the focus for the race.  “We got to be there when it counts and go get this thing,” Chase said over the radio to his team prior to the green flag.  Elliott began his move to the front following a brief caution and cleared South for the lead a quarter way through the race.  South was not finished yet and took the lead back two laps later and led past the halfway point.

At this point in the race, South’s machine began to free up allowing Elliott to move back to the lead in turn three.  Benjamin followed to second.  Another caution would fly shortly thereafter, but Elliott proved that he is a master at restarts in these cars.  Throughout a longer green flag run towards the closing laps, Ben Kennedy was moving swiftly through the field.  Kennedy started seventh, but slipped back a few positions before making his run to the front later on.  Closing in on the ten lap to go mark, Kennedy had driven past Benjamin for second and set his sights on the leader.

Things would change at lap 91, when during a caution Kennedy was forced down pit road with an oil leak.  A series of cautions and restarts then culminated in a nine car pileup in turn two forcing a red flag period.  South caught a part of the wreck and was relegated to a 17th place finish.  Following the race, South recapped that “it was a matter of time before they would get us.  We felt we could be there for all 100 laps, but we weren’t.”

After a brief break in the action the race resumed and despite another caution period, Elliott continued to get the jump on the competition.  Five Flags Speedway pro late model champion Mike Garvey ran in the top five the entire race, but didn’t make his move for second until the closing laps.  Benjamin settled for third.

It was once again Elliott’s night though:  “I knew the late caution would come out…that never fails.  I knew to be prepared for multiple restarts and we were able to hold on.”  Most importantly, the over 100 laps on the track will prepare Elliott once again for a possible Snowball Derby repeat and could result in him being the first driver to win both Sunday’s prestigious race and the Snowflake 100 in the same weekend.

I’m currently sitting in the infield on Five Flags Speedway so I can’t get into the SB Nation system to post stories. But I wanted to be able to post something from the track so I hope you don’t mind stopping by the Racing Observer Online blog.

The blog is a place where me and my occasional photographer Aaron Creed post niche racing content. For example, the post below this is a recap of last night’s Snowball Derby Southern Modifieds feature.

So check that out if you feel particularly inspired.

Meanwhile, Snowflake 100 Pro Late Model qualifying just wrapped-up with Justin South winning the pole for Saturday night’s main event. Chase Elliott, Kyle Benjamin, Mike Garvey and Austin Luedtke complete the starting top-5.

Elliott, Benjamin and Garvey are amongst those looking to win both Saturday’s Snowflake 100 and Sunday’s Snowball Derby.

Here’s the qualifying results for the Snowflake 100:

1 43 Justin South 16.905
2 9 Chase Elliott 16.978
3 71 Kyle Benjamin 16.978
4 1 Mike Garvey 17.030
5 6 Austin Luedtke 17.106
6 22 Augie Grill 17.152
7 96 Ben Kennedy 17.164
8 29 Spencer Davis 17.181
9 12 Brandon McReynolds 17.204
10 83 Scotty Ellis 17.208
11 3 Brandon Kelley 17.211
1211Johanna Long17.220
1314Corey Deuser17.230
1466Korey Ruble17.235
15O2Matt Smith17.242
161CCody Coughlin17.253
174JErik Jones17.260
1864David Jones17.280
1929BAnderson Bowen17.295
2054Daniel Hemric17.328
214Donald Long17.365
2277Bryan Silas17.368
23121Joseph Meyer17.372
244PKyle Plott17.381
2536Rodney Benefield17.418
2645Dwayne Buggay17.444
2781Brandon Odom17.452
2891Zak Hausler17.480
2988Garrett Jones17.480
3029TAustin Theriault17.490
3198Russell Fleeman17.492
32112Kenzie Ruston17.498
335Chase Miller17.505
3433Wes Griffith, Jr.17.525
3541Chris Davidson17.543
3656Gus Dean17.544
3799Wayne Niedecken, Jr.17.595
3824Kyle Wolosek17.596
3979Kyle Bryant17.707
4089Bobby Reuse17.840
414MElliott Massey18.040
4230Rusty Sanford18.254
4310Matt MontineriNT
44O7Kevin DonahueNT
4516Terry ClarkNT

Also here’s a the staring lineup for Saturday’s 50-lap Snowball Derby Last Chance Race:

1 20 Brian Campbell
2 10 Paul Kelley
3 29 Austin Theriault
4 83 Landon Cassill
5 47 Allen Karnes
6 1 Stephen McCurley
7 42 Dennis Prunty
8 56 A.J. Frank
9 29 Anderson Bowen
10 10 Danny Bagwell
11 23 Dalton Grindle
12 67 Jeff Fultz
13 31 Kyle Grissom
14 73 Cole Powell
15 43 Dennis Schoenfeld
16 99 Jr. Niedecken
17 29 Spencer Davis
18 21 Scott Carlson
19 02 Matt Smith
20 1 Tim Martin
21 39 Kenzie Ruston
22 88 Roger Reuse
23 7 Erik Darnell
24 9 Brandon Watson
25 8 11Mason Mingus
26 17 Chuck Tuck
27 92 Ron McDonald

Follow me on Twitter @MattWeaverSBN for complete on-site coverage.

Modified race winner Billy Melvin in victory lane with track mascot Snowball and Miss Snowball Derby.

Modified race winner Billy Melvin in victory lane with track mascot Snowball and Miss Snowball Derby.

It certainly did not look like Billy Melvin’s race to win until the first turn of the last restart during Friday night’s edition of the Snowball Derby weekend featuring the IMCA type open wheel modifieds.  The Trussville, Alabama veteran driver started towards the front, but did not reach the five until close to halfway through the 50 green flag lap event.

Central Florida resident John Sappraicone Jr. claimed the pole position, but it was another Alabama native Jeff Letson who grabbed the lead from the outside.  The green flag racing would not last long when a multiple car wreck towards the rear of the field caused the red flag to be displayed for cleanup to occur in turn two.

When the race restarted, Letson and Sappraicone battled side by side with Sappraicone maintaining the high line.  As the laps started going by Letson pulled ahead and Snowball Derby driver this weekend Bubba Pollard slipped into second.  Pollard began to pressure Letson and took the lead on lap 16; however, a caution reset the field to the previous lap’s order.

A lap into the restart, triple duty driver Augie Grill’s tire went down and his notable #112 went into the turn one wall with several drivers plowing into the turn trying to check-up initiating another red flag.

Sappraicone had another head of steam and took the lead prior to halfway as Letson’s car appeared to fade, but as the race went on Pollard powered to the inside of the start-finish line to grab the lead.  Another driver climbing through the field was 16 year old Texas native Bayley Curry, who moved into second in the closing laps.  It looked like it would be all Pollard and Curry, but a caution slowed the field with only three laps remaining.

On the controversial start, Curry showed the advantage coming to the start-finish line, while Melvin drove past Pollard as well and dove under Curry for the lead and the win into turn one.  This was Melvin’s second win this season during a high-level short track racing weekend, as he claimed the rain-shortened victory at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville during All American 400 weekend.

Pollard recovered to claim second, but when asked about the final restart he simply replied “the leader is supposed to start the race.”  Curry maintained third, and although he was somewhat dejected about not coming away with the victory it was an impressive run for the young Texan.

It was certainly an emotional night for Melvin, who was racing with a collapsed lung.  To add to that after sitting on the pole and leading laps in years past, he was able to bring home the Snowball Derby trophy that has eluded him until now.

Track action in the 1989 Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway Photo Credit: ESPN Speedworld Clip

The Snowball Derby begins in just a little under a week. With that in mind, the countdown is on to the most prestigious race in short track late model racing. We’re going to spend the next few weeks here at Racing Observer Online reliving some of the most famous moments, all leading to Snowball Derby week which begins on Nov. 28 and lasts through Dec. 2 and the 45th Running of the Super Bowl of Short Track Late Model Racing.

This isn’t so much a Snowball Derby moment as much as a cool internet discovery.

There are a lot of classic racing gems on the internet if you’re willing to dig deep enough to find them. The following video is one such example and includes clips of Ray Evernham and Martin Truex Sr. competing in the Thanksgiving Turkey Derby Super Modified race as well as clips of some promising open wheel prospect by the name of Jeff Gordon.

Video embedding has been disabled by request but you can watch the clip by clicking here.

But we’re going to focus on the portion of the clip starting around the 2:20 mark. There you’ll see a retro-looking Five Flags Speedway, without a pit road, playing host to the 1989 Snowball Derby. Rick Crawford won that race after making a late pit stop for tires and passing Rich Bickle Jr. and Bobby Dotter – his only career victory in the event.

Joe Nemechek finished seventh in that event, good enough to clinch the All-Pro Series championship by just five points over Crawford.

Crawford eventually translated his late model success into a NASCAR career where he gained popularity in the Camping World Truck Series, winning five times and starting 336 races – a Series record, all after turning 38 years old.

He was 31 at the time of his Snowball Derby breakthrough and was just a few seasons removed from winning track championships at both Pensacola and his hometown Mobile International Speedway – a track he promoted from 2011 to 2012.

The complete 1989 Snowball Derby Results can be found after the jump.

The 45th Annual Snowball Derby is set for Sunday Dec. 2, 2012 with the green flag dropping at approximately 2 p.m. CST. View full article »

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