Hometown Hero Long Captures Snowball Derby
PENSACOLA, Fla. — Johanna Long may just be getting her feet wet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but she’s on top of the super-late-model world after winning the 43rd annual Snowball Derby Sunday at Five Flags Speedway.
Long survived a wild finish to win the prestigious short-track event at her home track and in doing so, joined 1994 race winner Tammy Jo Kirk as the only female Snowball Derby champions.
“This is absolutely amazing. I can’t believe I won it,” said Long, who plans to compete for the Truck Series Rookie of the Year in 2011 after running seven races in 2010. “Running the truck races this year has helped me out a lot, but to come back home and win this race is just so amazing.”
The first 100 laps of the scheduled 300 on the half-mile asphalt oval ran mostly clean with just two cautions slowing the pace. But the final two-thirds of the race was a hectic struggle that included 14 cautions and fittingly ended with the speedway’s unique version of overtime.
Bubba Pollard and Donnie Wilson were battling for the lead on lap 288 when contact between the two sent Pollard spinning. The ensuing caution brought up a difficult decision for drivers and crews on whether to pit for fresh tires or stay out and maintain track position. Wilson, along with four other drivers stayed out. Long was second off pit road. She restarted seventh on lap 292.
Chase Elliott, who won the Snowflake 100 for pro late models Saturday night, ran second on the restart with Landon Cassill third. Cassill pulled alongside Elliott entering turn one and the two made contact. Elliott spun and crashed, ending his chances of pulling off the weekend sweep.
The race reached the 300-lap mark under the caution flag, but the race was extended because speedway rules require at least five green-flag laps to be completed at the end of the race. The laps do not have to be consecutive. The race went back green with 312 laps complete, but Mason Mingus and Casey Roderick, who were running fourth and fifth respectively, tangled and brought out another caution before a lap was complete.
The wreck moved Long up to fourth. While Cassill looked under Wilson for the lead, Long made her way around Casey Smith for third. Cassill completed the pass of Wilson one lap later as Long also went by Wilson for second.
Long got her nose under Cassill in turn two the following lap and contact between the two drivers sent Cassill spinning while Long took the lead.
Cassill made a 360-degree spin and continued in the fourth position, but a chain reaction behind Cassill ended with Pollard and David Stremme crashing.
With two laps remaining, Long led Wilson on the restart. Long easily pulled away from Wilson and cruised to the finish, which officially came on lap 328.
Wilson settled for the runner-up finish, while Scott Hantz took advantage of all the attrition and finished third. Cassill held on to finish fourth with Dennis Schoenfeld rounding out the top five.