Many people who know Ronnie Sanders don’t know about a hot-headed incident that resulted in the legendary driver and car owner being put in handcuffs in front of a capacity crowd during the 1975 Snowball Derby. Well, it happened. Here is the story about how it went down.
Donnie Allison and Bobby Allison were the class of the field at Five Flags Speedway that year. The two brothers led all 200 laps combined and the rest of the field was left racing for third as the Alabama Gang had them covered that day in Pensacola, FL.
“Running seventh in the Derby was like winning to us,” Sanders said. “It was inside 10 to go and Bobby Allison came up to lap me and he didn’t try to pass me; he just turned me. He stayed in the gas when he got into me.”
“He tore up my race car pretty good,” Sanders added. “So I was going to make sure he didn’t finish. I got to the pits and my right front wheel was damaged so I couldn’t get him that way.”
What happened next became a part of Derby history forever.
“I had an axle in the back of the truck and I picked it up and I was going out on the track to bust his windshield out. Security got to me before I could pull it off.”
Sanders was handcuffed and taken off the property as Donnie Allison took the lead and the win. Bobby Allison suffered damage from the tangle of the two cars, but not from Sanders’ axle.
After the race, Bobby Allison was asked about the incident by the local paper
“Aw, that’s nothing,” Allison said. “Things are going to happen. As far as I am considered it’s done and over with.”
“It made for a big story,” Sanders said with a laugh.
We then asked him if that was the maddest he ever was in a race car.
“I’d say so. I was pretty hot.”
Sanders sees Bobby every year at Daytona during the Living Legends event. This past year, Bobby went up to Sanders and said, “We gave them something to cheer about, didn’t we?”
Following the incident, both would go on to do bigger and better things. Sanders won the 1977 Snowball Derby over Darrell Waltrip. Bobby Allison would win the Daytona 500 in 1978 and then he was in another fight (you may have heard about before) at Daytona in 1979 to close out the decade.
“Stuff like this sticks with you for the rest of your career,” Sanders claimed. “People don’t remember the wins, they remember when you show yourself. The very next day, Jimmy Smith from Firestone gave me the nickname ‘The Bomb’ and it stuck with me.”
Oddly enough, many people don’t know that Sanders and Allison got things worked out the following year as the NASCAR star was helping promote at another track.
“Bobby was the promoter of Birmingham Int’l Raceway,” Sanders explained. “Bobby paid me tow money on top of everything else for every race I ran in 1976 at Birmingham. He wanted me to be a part of the show.”
Sanders was a part of the show at Birmingham on many occasions, but during the 1975 Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway, he was the show.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent