Why would a NASCAR star like Bickle want to show up at a track in need of paving in the middle of the big league racing season? It could just be the money! If anyone wins either the upcoming July 16th race, or the one scheduled for September 10th, they automatically are guaranteed a spot in the 1999 Snowball Derby. And if they were to go on to win December’s most spectacular race, they would take home a $100,000 paycheck. Bickle came to Pensacola last year and walked, or raced away with the Snowball crown.
Promoter Don Grassman has guaranteed the purse through an imaginative piece of skillful promotion, namely an insurance policy that guarantees payment, according to James Paulitska, Five Flags reporter for Florida Stock Car Racing.
Grassman is the official photographer for NASCAR, and is the son of the owner of Five Flags. He took on the job of saving the Snowball last year, after Five Flags had sat dormant all year. He constructed a permanent scoring tower and did other work on the facility to upgrade it for the 31st annual Snowball Derby in December 1998. The track had been using a temporary tower since the original structure was destroyed by Hurricane Erin.
Five Flags Speedway is located in Pensacola, Florida, in the northwest corner of the state, not far from Mobile, Alabama. Pensacola is also home of the Navy Blue Angels, and it's sugar white beaches are considered among the best in the world. But race fans know it as the place to be in December with the annual weeklong festival of racing called the Snowball Derby. Among the winners in it’s long history are Darryl Waltrip, Donnie Allison, Gary Balough, Butch lindley, Jody Ridley, and Rich Bickle, to name a few. The list of second place finishers is even more impressive.
The July 16th Late Model event will draw drivers more than 50 drivers to vie for the 40 starting spots. The first 36 will be decided by qualifying runs, while remaining four spots will be determined with a “B” feature shootout.
In order to assure a top field, any car not being able to run within 11/2
second lap times of the race leader will be black flagged. Pensacola’s local drivers have been promarily showing up at Mobile Speedway and South Alabama Speedway, in Opp, AL, but they will come home for July 16th. Mike Arnold won the first 100 lap Late Model race in April but he won before the $100,000 challenge was dealt out by Grassman.
On addition th e Modifieds, Super Stocks, and Late Model 100 lap races, there may be a spectator race. That will require 20 racers to register for the event.
Besides awarding a provisional for the Snowball Derby the Lte Model event will pay the winner $3000. Entry fee is$75, and tickets for fans are on sale now at the Five Flags Speedway office. The office is open 9am-2pm Monday through Friday and can be reached at 850-944-8400.
-more to follow on this story-