Fans Noticing Better Class of Blizzard Series Competition as SLMs Return for Papa John’s 125admin
By Chuck Corder
Steve Meyer turns 47 years young in a few months.
A few months after that, Five Flags Speedway will celebrate the 47th annual Snowball Derby.
Want to take a guess on how many of short-track Holy Grail races Meyer has missed? Zero, zilch, nada.
Meyer is one of a handful of Five Flags’ faithful fanatics that can boast seeing every Snowball from its first two-time winner Wayne Niedecken Sr. (1968, 1970) to its most recent and reigning two-time champion, Erik Jones (2012-13) — even if his memory is a little fuzzy on those early races.
“That first one, I was in diapers,” Meyer remembered. “My dad took my brother and me out there. Mom went to some type of Tupperware convention, I think. We thought every race was going to be like the Snowball Derby.”
All of his history and knowledge makes Meyer somewhat of an authority, an expert witness if you will, when the subject turns to Super Late Model racing at Pensacola’s high banks.
“If I had a dollar for every lap I saw at Five Flags, I’d be like Donald Trump,” joked Meyer, who works for Orkin Pest Control.
When the Buddy’s Home Furnishings Blizzard Series returns in conjunction with the Southern Super Series for the Papa John’s 125 on Friday, Meyer anticipates plenty of fireworks from the country’s best late model drivers.
Who can blame him or any other fan for those high expectations after the first two Blizzard Series races of the year left packed houses hungry for more?
“This year has been so fun to watch,” Meyer said. “There has been so much competition toward the front, it gives you the feeling that 10 to 12 guys could win out there.”
Sure, Bubba Pollard has won the first two legs of the Blizzard Series, but neither has been a cakewalk.
And the never-ending, door-to-door battle Pollard and Augie Grill, another two-time Snowball winner, engaged in at the Rubber & Specialties 125 in May was the stuff of legends.
“As a matter of fact, the battle between (Pollard) and Augie Grill was a battle better than the Snowball Derby battles from a few years ago,” Meyer assessed, referencing the Chase Elliott-D.J. VanderLey duel from 2011 and the Jones-Kyle Busch clash in 2012.
Tonight’s race marks the 10th race of the Southern Super Series. Teenage phenom Anderson Bowen leads Pollard by 28 points for the overall lead.
Just prior to the on-track fireworks commencing Friday, the famed half-mile oval will treat the crowd to fireworks above the racetrack. Deep South Crane Rentals will present Five Flags’ annual pyrotechnic aerial display that will be accompanied by patriotic music.
The Faith Chapel Super Stocks, Beef “O” Brady’s Sportsman and Butler U-Pull-It Bombers will also share the stage Friday when the gates open at 4 p.m. for practice.
Qualifying begins at 6:30 p.m. with feature races set for approximately 8. Admissions is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; free for kids 5 and under.
Like he has done most of his life, Meyer will climb to the top of the grandstands in Turn 4 on Friday and eagerly await the drop of the green flag for the 125 lapper.
“From my very first memories, in the early-70s, I became obsessed with (Five Flags),” he said. “I thought about it all time and loved going out there.”
Born and raised in Pensacola, Meyer never could afford to leave his seat and drive against his heroes.
Truthfully, though, there was nothing standing in Meyer’s way. Which is precisely what scared him the most.
“Today you start thinking about hitting that wall, but back then it was flying out into the trees,” he quipped.
Meyer believes there’s a direct correlation between the level of racing this year and the facelift the track underwent before the start of the 2013 season.
“Ever since the Bryants ‘ground’ the racetrack, the level of excitement has been amazing,” he opined. “To me, it was already the best track in the country. Now that they’ve ‘ground’ it, drivers can run in the second groove and stay there without ruining their tires.
“There’s a lot more side-by-side racing, plus the track has kept its character.”
Steve Meyer oughta know.