PENSACOLA, Fla. – Kyle Busch returned to his short track roots on Sunday afternoon at Five Flags Speedway and put a bow on his 2017 season by scoring one of the biggest victories of his career.
Busch pounced late to win the 50th annual Snowball Derby, passing Florida veteran Jeff Choquette with 17 to go in the 300-lap super late model crown jewel and pulling away to a 2.153 second victory at the twin checkers.
Sunday marked Busch’s second time hoisting the famed Tom Dawson Trophy, after previously winning the Snowball Derby in 2009.
Unlike that day, in which Busch led three times for a race-high 91 laps, the final stretch of the golden anniversary Derby was the only time that the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Toyota was out front all day.
That didn’t matter to Busch, though. What mattered was the kiss he got to plant on the golden snowball atop the trophy, the $25,000 check he earned and the significance of triumphing again in one of short track racing’s premier events.
“This is huge,” said Busch. “Everyone dreams about winning a Snowball Derby, and I’ve won it before … but not being able to get it done the last time I was (at Five Flags) motivated me to push even harder. Luckily we were able to capitalize today and finish the job.”
“It feels really, really good to win this one, not only from a historical standpoint, but also because we had a really strong car on the long runs. We were able to drive through the field and pass (Choquette and Bubba Pollard), and that’s definitely significant. They’re two of the best in the country – I raced against them both the last time I ran the Derby – and to come out on top is a big accomplishment for everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports.”
In stark contrast to how the closing stages of the Derby have played out in recent years, the final 66 laps of this year’s race ran uninterrupted, allowing Busch to capitalize on the stellar long run pace of his car.
“Thankfully it wasn’t a short sprint to the end of this one,” said Busch. “I’m not sure we would have been able to pull this off had we not had the long run to close it out.”
“I didn’t think there was going to be 66 green flag laps, especially with some of those guys who took tires,” Busch said. “I figured some of them would work their ways through the field, and that there would be some guys getting into other guys, but that didn’t happen. Everyone ran a good, smooth, clean race for the most part and it all worked out for us. It was fun putting our car on top.”
Choquette came home as the runner-up for the second time in his Derby career, tying his career-best set back in 2012 – appropriately, the last time before Sunday that Busch had competed in the event.
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