“I Take Full Blame”: Noah Gragson Messes Major Comeback Shattering Whole Field & William Byron’s Snowball Dream

Published 12/03/2023, 6:29 PM EST

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Tim Bryant believed the biggest twist of the weekend was behind them after the weather cleared up on Sunday for the 56th Annual Snowball Derby. But not a single soul present at the Five Flags Speedway during the last leg expected a multi-car pileup involving some of the evening’s favorite contenders!

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During a late-race restart with only 18 laps to go, Stephen Nasse led Ty Majeski and the rest of the pack into turn 1. Running behind Majeski was Late Model legend Bubba Pollard, hellbent on achieving a career-best finish at the half-mile oval. Unfortunately for the man running behind Pollard, all hell broke loose!

Noah Gragson reflects on a rookie error that punished the frontrunners heavily


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Gragson found himself in a comfortable fourth place during the restart. With almost 20 cars pushing for positions at the front, it did not take more than half a lap to induce a false move. Noah Gragson missed a shift. A deer in the headlights of the screaming super late-model cars, he was slammed head-on into the outer wall as the drivers tried their best to avoid him.

In a few seconds, Gragson, missing the fourth gear, caused reigning Snowball Derby champion Derek Thorn to clip his rear. In a domino effect, Cole Butcher, William Byron, and Jake Finch, alongside Snowball Erik Jones, found themselves picking up their car’s debris whilst Ty Majeski went on to fight it out with Stephen Nasse and Bubba Pollard, eventually outmaneuvering them.


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With the other competitive drivers sharing Gragson’s fate, the shaken-up 25-year-old confessed, “All the teams that got involved with it, I take full blame, obviously. I didn’t get in gear, I didn’t go. Like we had good restarts all day and made forward progress. Proud of our team, but it’s on me. I messed up and didn’t get in gear.”

Lady Luck chose her favorites in Gio Ruiggiero, Matt Craig, and Travis Braden, all of whom made the top 5 after the big pile-up. Unfortunately for William Bryon, there was nothing he could do as he hurtled toward Gragson. Reflecting on the big crash, Byron shared, “I didn’t see much I just, I think the #30 missed a shift. I thought, man, I’m getting a good restart here, but as soon as they kind of bottled up, he got turned in front of me so I ramped over the top of him, so it was pretty wild!”

It appears there was nothing Byron could have done to change that unfortunate outcome. During the post-race interview, he mentioned, “But we didn’t have a great day, we didn’t have a great car, trying to work on it but was probably going to run 6th or 7th there and we should’ve been okay with that.”


Not a single Cup Series driver who expected a dominant outing got what they wanted. However, the biggest super late-model race of the season features late-model drivers who are just as hungry as the young guns from NASCAR.

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Despite Gragson’s apology, Jake Finch is upset he missed out on a golden opportunity

For upcoming racing drivers like Jake Finch, rarely does an opportunity like the Snowball Derby come around—a proving ground for the 18-year-old to test his mettle against some of the sport’s top brass. But the 56th edition of the esteemed event didn’t pick and choose based on experience.

Assuring everyone all was well with him, Finch shared, “Luckily we built some safe racecars so I feel alright. Everything is fine. I guess it really just looks like Noah just messed up and we all had to pay for that mistake.”

Jake Finch pulled no punches on Gragson’s error, sharing the reasoning behind his disheartening demeanor, “It s*cks because that’s probably the best race I have run in a while.” Putting aside the incident for a second, Finch commended Phoenix Racing and crew chief Johnny Allen for their efforts: “We were doing a really good job and it’s just a testament to everybody.”

But the biggest factor out of it all? Finch missed out on vital track time with his idols, “Especially when you’re up there with the Cup guys, you don’t expect many errors, but I wish I would’ve got to race a little bit better with some of those guys.”


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The rising talent in the ARCA Menards Series East felt he could’ve cheated fate, but it didn’t quite work out in his favor. He concluded, “I think if we watch the replay, for a second when William kind of got sideways, I thought I missed it and then I just got stuffed in the rear but it’s kind of part of it you know when that caution came out, I knew there would be a wreck somewhere.


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In a race filled with more drama than some Cup Series events, Noah Gragson’s minute mistake caused most of the NASCAR community heartbreak! Will the driver going through reforms for his off-track shenanigans carry forward his learnings to the track?



Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed


One take at a time

My journey into the world of motorsports began when I watched the Top Gear Ayrton Senna tribute as a child. I later materialized my passion for motorsport through karting on the side. By the time I completed my undergrad in Journalism, I had extensive karting experience, with a few podium finishes to my name.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal




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