PENSACOLA, Fla. — In one dramatic, shocking sequence over the final 500 feet of Saturday night’s Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100, Jake Johnson went from third on the race track to scoring one of the biggest upsets in Five Flags Speedway history.
The 17-year-old just had to wait nearly three hours before he could truly savor it.
Johnson became the upset victor of a wild and wooly pro late model spectacular during Snowball Derby week after Bubba Pollard, who was leading entering turn three on the final lap, was bumped by Stephen Nasse and ultimately spun exiting the final corner.
Nasse raced underneath the checkered flag as the apparent winner, but roughly five minutes later — after he’d climbed out of the car and celebrated in victory lane — drove away dejected due to being stripped of a win for the second consecutive year.
In 2019, it was a titanium cap in the brake system on Nasse’s Snowball Derby entry that caused a trophy to slip through the Pinellas Park, Fla., native’s fingertips in tech.
This time, however, it was an aggressive driving penalty from race control that took the win — what would have been Nasse’s first in the Snowflake 100 — away from him.
Some fans cheered. Others booed. Most onlookers stood around staring in disbelief.
Nasse took his No. 51 from victory lane straight to the post-race technical inspection line, where he parked his car and waited for race officials so he could argue his case.
More than two hours later, after an extended Outlaw division feature, Nasse got his chance to do just that in a closed-door meeting. It didn’t matter.
The decision remained unchanged, and Johnson was handed the winner’s trophy.
“Heck, it’s a relief we get to keep everything, but at that point I didn’t care,” Johnson told SPEED SPORT after finally getting back to his pit area. “We had pictures in victory lane and the car passed tech, so in my eyes, we’d already won it, official or not. Now it’s just a bonus because we get the check in the mail later, right?
“Man, I can’t believe this. We were in the last chance race and now we’re here.”
Johnson drove from 31st on the grid, just hours after racing his way into the show, to fourth in the closing laps of Saturday’s race as Nasse, Pollard and polesitter Derek Thorn put on an exhilarating show at the front of the field.
The trio, all giants of short-track racing in their own rights, battled tooth-and-nail for the race lead down the stretch of the 100-lap pro late model classic, at one point on a restart going three wide for the top spot entering turn one.
Pollard took control on a restart with 17 laps to go, following a caution for an incident involving Mason Keller and JoJo Wilkinson. He lined up on Nasse’s outside and outdrove him into turns one and two to seize the point.
But Nasse didn’t go away quietly. He laid in wait, stalking Pollard’s every move as the laps ticked off the scoreboard. Inside of five to go, he clawed his way back to Pollard’s bumper.
At the white flag, the pair was nearly locked together. Entering turn three for the final time, Nasse took his shot, delivering a blow to the back of Pollard’s No. 26.
Pollard chased his car up the track, then slid back down on corner exit as Nasse snuck by underneath. Johnson went to the outside to escape as Pollard’s car slid down the track.
That moment, originally looking like it gave Johnson a runner-up finish, ended up being the moment that won the New Englander his first Snowflake 100.
“I just held the thing wide open and hoped for the best, really,” Johnson recalled. “It just so happened to work out for us. (After the checkered flag) I was over in the back of the tech area, all by myself, and I had one other (crew) guy with me … and all of a sudden he started screaming and I was like, ‘What’s happening?’ He’s like, ‘You won!’ I couldn’t believe it.
“Sure enough, someone hopped in the car with me and they told me to drive to victory lane. Since they had an official’s shirt on, I listened, and then everything started to come together after that,” he added. “It was a whirlwind, that’s for sure.”
Jake Finch was credited with runner-up honors, followed by Jarrett Butcher, Thorn and Matt Craig. Dylan Fetcho, Chris Davidson, Dakota Stroup, Connor Okrzesik and Justin Bonnett filled out the top 10.
Pollard was scored 19th and Nasse 22nd, the tail of the lead lap, after their last-lap clash.
The former chalked it up to short-track racing, while the latter declined to comment before silently departing the race track with members of his Jett Motorsports crew.
“I guess you really need to ask him (what happened), but at the end of the day, it’s going to be my fault,” Pollard told SPEED SPORT. “Even though I was leading, it’s going to be my fault. So it’s just hard racing and, I guess, last-lap … whatever you wanna call it. We were free. We needed to be out front, but I knew if I could get out front and I could keep him behind me that I was better than he was on restarts.
“He had plenty of opportunities to make a move and get to my bumper a lot sooner; he just waited until the last lap.”
After winning the last-chance race earlier in the day Saturday, could Johnson have predicted he’d end up in victory lane at the end of the night?
“Honestly, I knew we had a great race car, because all day that was all we worked on was our long-run speed and whatnot. That was all I really cared about,” Johnson said. “It gave me confidence going into the race that I could get through the field and we’d be good.
“But I couldn’t have predicted this. This is crazy.”
1. Jake Johnson, 2. Jake Finch, 3. Jarrett Butcher, 4. Derek Thorn, 5. Matt Craig, 6. Dylan Fetcho, 7. Chris Davidson, 8. Dakota Stroup, 9. Connor Okrzesik, 10. Justin Bonnett, 11. Dan Leeck, 12. Grant Thompson, 13. Steve Dorer, 14. John DeAngelis, 15. Wes Griffith Jr., 16. Ryan Luza, 17. Jim Weber, 18. Justin Marks, 19. JoJo Wilkinson, 20. Bubba Pollard, 21. Johanna Long Robbins, 22. Stephen Nasse, 23. Hudson Halder, 24. Stacey Crain, 25. Elliott Massey, 26. Dustin Smith, 27. Dylan Smith, 28. Steven Chunn, 29. Hunter Jack, 30. Mason Keller, 31. Josh Williams, 32. Colin Allman, 33. Jim Wall, 34. Josh Hicks, 35. Kyle Plott, 36. Mark Day.