“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.
Anybody who has worked with the Bryant family around Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida knows about their character; hard working, blue collar people who get the job done. In the short track racing world, the most well-known family member is Tim Bryant. Tim and his wife Pat own, operate and promote Five Flags Speedway and the prestigious Snowball Derby.
Before Tim Bryant was a promoter, he was a racer himself. As we prepare for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, we wanted to take a minute to tell you about Tim Bryant the driver.
Bryant got his start in racing by getting behind the wheel and racing at Five Flags Speedway. He competed in many races, but most notably he competed in the biggest race that he promotes these days; the Snowball Derby.
1977 was the first year in which we have record of Tim Bryant attempting to run the Snowball Derby. He was a DNQ (Did Not Qualify) for the 1977 event, but his best day came in 1982 when he logged his lone top-10 run at the Snowball Derby.
“I was driving for Lloyd Turner who had a Speedway Engineering chassis out of California,” Bryant explained. “1982 was a one-day show because it rained on Saturday and we had to do it all on Sunday and the race went well into the night.”
The race day threw everybody off, and having to race the same day as qualifying made it a challenge.
“I don’t remember a whole lot about the race, just the fact that we ran steady,” Bryant said. “I can remember racing wheel-to-wheel with some heavy hitters in the race. In the end, it was Gene Morgan who won the race.”
Some of those big names he raced against that day included Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Jack Ingram and Bill Elliott to name a few.
“To be truthful we were never in contention for the win,” Bryant admitted. “We were a 20th-place car and we had some fortune to finish eighth. The Derby was always fun as a local driver because the best drivers always came to town to race with us. It was neat to see the big names then and now.”
Bryant never ran that strong again at the Derby as he found his blue collar family team up against the bigger teams with full crews. His final numbers show seven Snowball Derby starts with his last coming in 1999. A few years before that, in 1997, he was the Late Model track champion at Five Flags.
“Our main goal was always to make the race,” Bryant stated. “We won the track championship one year and we still had to be on our game to make the show. It was always such relief when the race was over because you had put so much into your effort and prepped for so long.”
Nowadays the work and build up to the race is the same as Bryant still has the blue collar mentality. On Snowball Derby weekend, he can be found running around from point-to-point doing odd jobs and blue collar work. The only change is that now he’s a spectator once the race goes green, not a driver.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: SB Nation