50 for 50: 1980, The Lap Heard Around the World

Super Late Models came from all regions to Five Flags Speedway and could not master the lap that was laid down in 1980. It was a perfect storm. Temperatures in the mid 50’s. Body rules out the window. Tires soaked right up and finally, a wild man behind the wheel know as Hot Shoe. Gary Balough blistered around Five Flags Speedway during qualifying for the 1980 Snowball Derby and for some it must have looked like he was going to take off on the backstretch. “We did a lot of tire testing for Goodyear back in those days and we helped with their Cup programs all the time,” said Balough. “I had a Goodyear deal with Penske up in the Northeast. I worked real hard with the engineers to make the tires go. We really helped to get the Goodyear deal rolling up there.” Balough’s lap at the click of the stopwatch was [...]

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50 For 50: Scoring Issues the Theme of the Derby in the Seventies

The Snowball Derby was growing and the reach was far and wide by the 1976 season. One year after Donnie Allison tasted victory at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida the fans of the Alabama Gang wanted a repeat, but in 1976 what they got was mess of confusion from three drivers and a big post-race protest. Darrell Waltrip was fresh off a 1976 NASCAR campaign that saw him win at Bristol and run well on all the short tracks. Waltrip started second in the 45-car field and was flagged the winner at the end of the day. However, two other drivers, Harry Gant and Freddie Fryar each claimed that they had won the race. The check of the scoring went well into the night and victory lane photos did not make the papers. “I loved that race because it was the best of the best,” said Waltrip looking back on his [...]

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50 For 50: Gibbs Gives ‘Bama Fans Something to Cheer for at the Derby

Roll Tide. Race fans in Alabama love football. Growing up in the state that has produced National Champions countless times it becomes part of your Saturday as much as going to the race track. 1983 was a dark year for Alabama fans as Paul “Bear” Bryant (no relation to Tim Bryant) retired and passed away over a four week span. In the Alabama racing scene at the Snowball Derby there wasn’t much to cheer about either as they had not won the race since 1978. Enter Mickey Gibbs, a young and up and coming driver who was living in Georgia at the time of the late race season in 1983 when the new race, the World Crown 300 was the buzz. Gibbs ran the $50,000 to win race and wasn’t a factor. “My dad helped promote that race when we were in Georgia,” said Gibbs. “I don’t even recall if we ran it.” Perhaps [...]

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ON TIME, IN THE MONEY FOR THESE 7

Newbies and seasoned veterans worked to iron out the kinks in their setup Saturday at the annual Snowball Preview practice session. When the transponders were turned on to find out who was fastest, these Magnificent 7 were on target to take the best time in their division, and the cash awards Super LM Casey Roderick Pro LM Derrick Griffin Modified Jeff Choquette Outlaw Stock Bubba Winslow Pro Truck Logan Boyett Sportsmen Brannon Fowler Pure Stock Robert Balkum

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50 for 50: Johanna Long’s Fairy Tale Snowball Derby Win

In 1953 Frank Sinatra recorded the song ‘Young at Heart.” In it he proclaimed, “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you’re young at heart.” In 2010 that Sinatra hit became the mantra for an 18-year-old girl at the Snowball Derby. The fairy tale came true for Pensacola’s favorite ‘Lady of Racing,” Johanna Long (now Johanna Robbins). The young aspiring racing star and daughter of veteran racer Donald Long, had the entire short track world stand up and take notice when she defeated the best in Super Late Model racing, on its biggest stage, in the 43rd Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway. The chants of “Jo, Jo” reached an all-time high that December day in Pensacola, FL. Her reputation in the panhandle of Florida is that of folklore and it is her Snowball Derby victory that cemented that lore forever more. You see, Johanna became only the [...]

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Five Flags Opens Gates Saturday for Snowball Derby Preview

Around the country, race teams are loading their race cars into trailers and going over their checklist before heading to Five Flags Speedway for the Snowball Derby Preview this Saturday, November 18. The annual test and tune day serves as an affordable opportunity for race teams across all divisions of racing to test their race cars out on the fast half-mile before returning in two weeks for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby.   Beginning at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday, the track will be open for rotating practice sessions for the Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Open-Wheel Modifieds, Pro Trucks, Outlaw Stocks, Sportsman, and Pure Stocks. The track will remain open close to 10 hours before practice wraps up around 7 p.m. CT that night.   Race fans will have the opportunity to view practice from the Five Flags grandstands for free all day long. Those who cannot make it to the Gulf Coast [...]

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JOES Racing Products Presents Snowball Derby Pit Reporters

When the Speed51.com cameras begin rolling for a live television-style broadcast of the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway, race fans will be able to watch more live reports from the pit area than ever before. JOES Racing Products, a big supporter of short track racing and Speed51.com, will be sponsoring the JOES Racing Products pit reporters for the third straight year on the Speed51 TV broadcasts. During the week of the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, 51’s Joes Racing Products pit reporters will be Jana Wimmer, Casey LaJoie, Rob Blount, Jeremy Anders and Alan Dietz. These five pit reporters will be bringing race fans closer to the action with their reports and live interviews from the Five Flags Speedway pit area. “JOES Racing Products is excited to team up again with Speed51.com to cover the historic 50th Annual Snowball Derby,” said Joe Constance, Owner of JOES Racing Products. “We [...]

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Impressive Guest List Announced for Snowball Derby Kickoff Show

The 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway will be packing a punch with its annual Snowball Derby Kickoff Party at Beef O’Brady’s on Tuesday, November 28 in downtown Pensacola, FL. Continuing a tradition, Speed51.com will be broadcasting live from the Kickoff Party with an on-location edition of Short Track Center presented by PFC Brakes and JRi Shocks at 6 p.m. CT. Over the past few weeks, Speed51.com has been busy lining up guests and is pleased to announced a list of probable guests that will appear on the show. Among the guests scheduled to appear are two of Super Late Model racing’s biggest stars, Ty Majeski and Bubba Pollard. They will be joined by defending race winner Christian Eckes, fan favorite Stephen Nasse, hometown drivers Logan Boyett and Jeremy Pate, as well as NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Brandon McReynolds. Fans from the Northwest will be able to watch the [...]

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Time Winding Down to Sponsor Snowball Derby Laps for $50

At first it was months away. Then it was weeks away. Now, we’re beginning to finally count down the days until the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway. This historic event is expected to capture the attention of race fans all over the world and there’s no better way to put your stamp on the event than by sponsoring one (or more) of the 300 laps for just $50. All money raised by the lap sponsorship program will go directly into the pockets of the racers who will be putting on a show for the fans on Sunday, December 3. For each lap that is sold, the driver leading the race will pocket $50 on that lap. If all 300 laps are sold, that could boost overall winnings by $15,000 if a driver were to lead every lap. The 50th Annual Snowball Derby lap sponsorship program is a great [...]

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50 for 50: Alexander Fights For His Life at Snowball Derby

The 1988 Snowball Derby changed Tennessee driver Mike Alexander forever. No, he didn’t win the race. In fact, he didn’t even walk out of the track that day. He was taken out by paramedics as he was not fighting for a position, but he was fighting for his life. “I don’t know what happened,” Alexander recalled. “The video shows I may have cut down on a guy in traffic and caused it. I remember parts of the day, some off of the video I have seen, but nothing about the wreck.” The wreck stopped the race with 80 or so laps to go in 1988. Alexander had hit the turn four wall prior to when the entire track had outside walls surrounding it. So, the impact was much like a sudden stop. Alexander was not alert in the car and was transported to a local hospital. The race finished that same [...]

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Wilson Focused on Big Prize at 50th Annual Snowball Derby

Oklahoma Super Late Model ace Donnie Wilson has accomplished a lot in his latest quests across the Southeast. Among the highlights on his resume are the 2016 Southern Super Series championship and most recently a win in the All-American 400 at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, TN. But for much of the decade, a majority of his focus has been on the Florida Gulf Coast and Five Flags Speedway, especially in the month of December for the Snowball Derby. After a solid run in 2016 ended a string of frustrating performances, Wilson is going back stronger than ever, and is even taking time and effort into helping to develop one of short track racing’s rising stars. Wilson is especially encouraged after a recent private test on the fast, half-mile oval. “We tested there last Thursday, it all went well. The car is ready to go, my car, we also got a [...]

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Fredrickson Throws His Hat in the Ring for Snowball Derby

It’s been seven years since Elko, Minnesota’s Dan Fredrickson made his way south to Pensacola, Florida and competed in a Snowball Derby. With the momentous 50th version of the event taking place this December at Five Flags Speedway, the two-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion will throw his hat in the ring once again. Fredrickson’s preparation for the race is at an all-time high and he believes he has a shot to bring home the highly sought-after Tom Dawson trophy at the end of the weekend. “It’s a big deal,” Fredrickson told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m really excited and this race is just a really big deal. I tell people it’s like you have the regular NFL season and then you have the Super Bowl. This race is everyone’s Super Bowl. Everyone has their own regular season, but then it’s Snowball Derby season. It’s the best of the best competing for [...]

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50 For 50: A Kid From Small Town New York Wins Snowball Derby

Throughout this “50 For 50” series, we’ve highlighted many special stories, some well known, others not so much. One of the most unexpected moments came just one year ago in the 49th edition of the Snowball Derby. A 16-year-old from the small town of Greenville, New York took the win in the closest finish in the history of the Snowball Derby. Take a look at that last sentence again. There’s a lot to digest in that sentence. A 16-year-old kid. A New Yorker. The closest finish ever. Oh, the race was also run on a Tuesday night under the lights. The 49th Annual Snowball Derby was all sorts of crazy. Rain postponed the race from Sunday to Tuesday evening. To save the teams some money, the professional pit crews were sent home and a controlled-caution format was put into use. Multiple big wrecks took place throughout the 300-lap event. And when it [...]

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50 for 50: Track Changes Over Time at Five Flags Speedway

In 1953, a stock car racing facility located on Pine Forest Road in Pensacola, Florida opened for the first time. The facility, known as Five Flags Speedway, operated for several years before Tom Dawson purchased the track in 1968. It was Dawson who would change the shape of racing in Pensacola forever with his announcement about a big event to end the season in December. That race was the Snowball Derby. The purse for the first race was $4,500 and the winner’s take $1,000. On a cold December afternoon, the packed grandstand watched Wayne Niedecken win the first Snowball Derby. The event almost didn’t happen as the track’s scoring tower was burned down the night before the race. The local racing community pitched in to make things happen on race day. The distance was again 100 laps for the second running in 1969. Friday Hassler won the show and it was [...]

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50 for 50: Lindley Wins Snowball Derby Against Stacked Field

“50 for 50” is a new series on Speed51.com that will tell the 50 best stories to have ever come out of the Snowball Derby. The stories will focus on the legendary tales of the event as we prepare for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby on December 3. Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Prince dominated the radio waves as Super Late Model teams rolled south for the Snowball Derby in 1984. Five Flags Speedway was much like a packed jukebox with heavy hitters from all over the racing word making their way to Pensacola, FL. You had Dick Trickle, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Jody Ridley, Butch Miller, Bob Senneker, Gary Balough, Ronnie Sanders and Mike Alexander. In fact, looking at the 1984 starting lineup one could argue that it was the best Derby field ever assembled. As your eyes go up and down the starting lineup, only a true race fan would [...]

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Griffith Ready for Biggest Challenge Yet at Snowball Derby

Since moving up to the Super Late Models ranks five years ago at the age of 15, Derek Griffith has worked hard to make a name for himself throughout the Northeast region. With a handful of touring series wins now to his credit, Griffith is gearing up for his biggest challenge yet as he prepares for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL). “We’re a pretty small team to be trying it,” Griffith admitted. “It took a little bit to get everything in order, it’s exciting to say the least. We went down to Pensacola last year to get a feel for everything that goes on and how it works. It’s a pretty intense weekend, people want to compare it to the Oxford 250 a lot, but with time trialing, you’ve got to pick all that speed in just those two laps. I don’t think anyone on [...]

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50 for 50: Snowball Derby ‘Miller Time’ Comes One Year Late

Defining a perfect season can come down to a single race, a single lap and even a single turn. That was the story of Butch Miller’s 1986 season. Despite 19 wins that season, the one win that got away from him was the one that he thought about all winter long. The Snowball Derby was the race that kept Miller waiting at least one more year. The closing laps of the 1986 contest saw the Derby polesitter and 1980 winner Gary Balough take a chance when he visited pit road for new tires with 43 laps to go. That left Jody Ridley and Butch Miller out front for the late stages. At first, Ridley drove away as Balough caught up to Miller. Soon after, they both got to Ridley. A three-wide battle in turn three saw Balough drive away with 13 to go and Miller settle into second. Miller ended the [...]

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STC Snowball Derby Kickoff Show Presented by PFC & JRi

A special edition of Short Track Center on Speed51.com will air live from Pensacola, Florida on Tuesday, November 28 thanks to the support of PFC Brakes and JRi Shocks. The two short track racing supporters will come together to present the annual Snowball Derby Kickoff Show live from Beef O’Brady’s in Downtown Pensacola. “We love doing what we do at Speed51.com, but none of this would be possible without the support of our great partners like PFC Brakes and JRi Shocks,” said Speed51.com Executive Editor Bob Dillner. “The people at PFC Brakes and JRi Shocks are huge supporters of short track racing and we’re thrilled to have their support for our annual Snowball Derby Kickoff Show.” Race fans worldwide will be able to tune into the special edition of Short Track Center and watch for free beginning at 6 p.m. CT Tuesday leading into the 50th Annual Snowball Derby week. As always, [...]

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