NASHVILLE, Tenn. — William Byron’s Cup season is over but his schedule continues with a race he has long sought to win — the Snowball Derby.
Considered the biggest event on the Super Late Model schedule, the Snowball Derby takes place Sunday. The drivers in the 36-car field will compete for 300 laps on the 1/2-mile paved oval before one hoists the Tom Dawson Trophy.
Byron has competed in the Snowball Derby three previous times but fallen short of his ultimate goal. His closest call was last year’s race when he finished sixth.
“I just want to win,” Byron said ahead of Thursday’s NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. “I just want to win that race. That’s one that’s on my bucket list.”
Unlike the Cup car, Byron does not have a guaranteed spot in the field. He had to lock himself into the Snowball Derby, something that is not a small feat considering the number of talented drivers heading to the Florida track.
Erik Jones, Carson Hocevar, Ryan Preece and Noah Gragson are all on the entry list featuring 52 drivers. So are Truck Series drivers Ty Majeski, Xfinity driver Sammy Smith and ARCA Menards Series East champion William Sawalich. Reigning Snowball Derby champion Derek Thorn is back to defend his title.
Thorn won the pole for Sunday’s race. Byron initially qualified 14th during Friday’s single-car session. He moved up to 13th after Preston Peltier’s time was disallowed due to an unapproved decklid.
Why does Byron keep coming back to Five Flags Speedway despite a lack of success in previous attempts? The desire to win the Snowball Derby is powerful and could be considered reason enough. There is also the opportunity for Byron to keep his skills fresh during the offseason.
“I’ve loved racing Late Models in the last couple of years and it’s taught me some good things,” Byron said. “I feel like it doesn’t necessarily always help me on the Cup level, but it does always keep me in a race car and keep me racing.”
Several NASCAR drivers have conquered the biggest race in Super Late Models. Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones have each won the Snowball Derby twice. Gragson, Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski, Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, John Hunter Nemechek and Christian Eckes are some of the drivers who have one Snowball Derby win.
Byron will have a chance to join this esteemed list when he competes in the Snowball Derby for the fourth time. Though he will have to overcome a late start after missing Thursday’s practice to attend the NASCAR Awards.
The lack of track time will not disrupt Byron’s mission — finally winning the prestigious race.
“At this stage, going to race the Snowball is just all about winning, and I feel like we have a good shot,” Byron said. “I thought I would have a good shot last year and I feel similar going down there this year.”
The 56th Annual Snowball Derby takes place on Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. ET. Racing America will provide coverage.