Over the years the readers of Speed51.com have been treated to some amazing numbers, win lists, statistics and random facts in our stories and Trackside Now coverage. The reason is we take our time, do research and keep lots of records.
The two main people behind this project are Elgin Traylor and Tim Quievryn. Traylor is a long time contributor of 51 and Quievryn runs TheThirdTurn.com. They have spent hundreds of hours looking at old papers, programs and talking to the right people who know where to look.
Some races have been hard to come by and some things are still in the works, but the biggest mysteries out there is the first running of the Snowball Derby in 1968. Very little is know about the race and officially only the winner and second-place drivers are recorded.
“We’ve spent years pouring over all of racing's major trade papers and local newspapers and found only passing mentions of the 68 Derby both in its leadup and in its results,” said Tim Quievryn. “This is likely because the event's purse was relatively small compared to today's and only local talent was racing, Red Farmer being the only name that might be known on a wider level. This wasn't the first Daytona 500 or Talladega 500 - an event heralded by bold promotion. This was just supposed to be another late model race at the local track that just happened to be run in December.”
Traylor and Quievryn consider this the Holy Grail of short track racing. Publications from Pensacola, the national media and accounts of drivers and fans have all added to the quest for the Short Track grail.
“I would like to think that it’s out there somewhere,” said Traylor. “We have uncovered some cool stuff, but this is the race that eludes us. Maybe we need to go on a vision quest like in the movies to find this piece of paper.”
Parts of the 1969 finish were lost, but the top 10 and other names have been confirmed in recent years making 1968, the first year, still the quest.
Red Farmer led the 1968 Derby before having a crash on lap 46 when Wayne Niedecken took over on the point and cruised to the win. The race was only 100 laps and it paid $1,000 to the winner.
“It was cold,” said Junior Niedecken whose dad won the race. “Perhaps the record were lost because of the fire.”
Track accounts say that a press box fire and lost records over the years have hurt the ability to find out any more information. The local papers in Pensacola have been checked and only small write ups can be found.
Maybe the truth is the results are lost forever, but sometimes things are found when you least expect it.
“One of the darndest things that ever happened to us was on a trip to NASCAR,” said Traylor. “We were getting shown around by Ken Martin who was big stat guy like us. We were on a floor full of tapes and we just randomly picked up a case and it was a Race of Champion Modified tape from the 80’s and inside was a full stat sheet with results. You can’t ever be that lucky.”
It might be in a folder in a yearbook or racing program. The chances are rare as the event has grown in popularity that someone has been sitting on it for this long. Until the results are found the full results for the most prestigious Super Late Model race in the county will have to be listed as incomplete.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent