The 51st Snowball Derby ended with another prodigy champion.
Noah Gragson, 20, in his final race with Kyle Busch Motorsports, where he's learned under his idol Kyle Busch - winner of the historic 50th Snowball Derby a year ago -, followed with his own trip to victory lane Sunday, after winning the renown event at Five Flags Speedway,
"We won the Snowball,,, it's unbelievable. I'm just very thankful, " said Gragson, a Las Vegas native, who has won multiple races on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He was voted by fans as the 2018 most popular driver on that circuit.
After taking the lead with six laps remaining, Gragson held off Ty Majeski and Jeff Choquette in the final laps to win the Super Late Model showcase that featured drivers from 15 different states and two other countries.
One of those drivers was French-Canadian Raphael Lessard, 17, of Quebec, Canada, the other KBM driver in this race, who led for for a sizable portion in the middle of the race.
Beginning with Chase Elliott's first Snowball Derby win in 2011, the succeeding Snowball Derby winners Erik Jones (2012, '13), John Hunter Nemechek (2014) and Christian Eckes (2016) were all teenagers groomed for NASCAR stardom.
Gragson has been signed by JR Motorsports to run in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s racing company.
Harrison Burton, 18, son of retired NASCAR star Jeff Burton, held the lead for most of of the last 100 laps but fell behind on last restart with five laps left.
--- Pensacola News Journal ---