Lemon, honey and— for those chilly Derby mornings—hot tea.
That’s the weary-throated remedy lining the windowsill every December in the announcer’s booth at Five Flags Speedway, a makeshift pharmacy Robbie Harvey has perfected over the past 15 years of calling the Snowball Derby.
If his name doesn’t ring any bells, his voice certainly should.
This particular voice has been iconized by race fans who appreciate Harvey’s distinctive style of announcing, distinctiveness that pairs well with an event often dubbed as the pinnacle of asphalt short track racing in America.
For a guy born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, announcing the Derby has grown into the opportunity of a lifetime. But, oddly enough, it’s not something the 36-year-old ever envisioned himself doing, at least not in the sphere of stock car racing.
Harvey was covering sporting events for Blab TV, a local television station, when broadcasting the Snowball Derby first crossed his mind. Up until that point, Harvey had only announced basketball, baseball, football, even hockey games, but never cars chasing each other in circles.
When Blab TV obtained permission to broadcast the 2004 edition of the Derby, Harvey knew as much about racing as the average Joe but his play-by-play was good enough to grab the attention of long-time Five Flags Speedway promoter Tim Bryant.
A look back at my first #SnowballDerby 15 YEARS AGO. I called the race on Blab TV and the following year I became the voice of @5FlagsSpeedway at 22 years old. Wow how time has flown by! pic.twitter.com/SCKBIooSfJ
— Robbie Harvey (@robbieharvey) December 3, 2019
“A few weeks after the race aired on TV, Tim Bryant called me and said, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you as our track announcer.’” Harvey recalled. “I told Tim that I didn’t know anything about racing other than NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt.
“I didn’t know short track racing,” he continued. “I didn’t know what happened here at Five Flags. A lot of people grow up in this sport, but I just didn’t have a racing background. It took me some years to get familiar with how everything works, to get to know some of these guys and really fine tune my craft.”
Harvey announced to race fans season after season, simultaneously becoming a fan of racing, himself. While it’s hard to imagine a race track announcer with no ties to racing, it’s even harder to imagine a Snowball Derby without Harvey’s voice pumping through the speakers on Sunday afternoon.
From his famous vocal inflections during driver introductions to the drop of the green flag where “they stack them up two-by-two-by-two,” Harvey’s energetic delivery has become synonymous with the atmosphere of the event.
It’s an approach to announcing that has separated him from a sea of aspiring Dave Moody’s and Steve Post’s. He won’t namedrop Ken Squier as his lifelong influence, either.
Harvey draws inspiration from a different legend who calls action from a ring instead of a race.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be Michael Buffer,” Harvey said. “My dream was to be a ring announcer. Roy Jones Jr., who’s from Pensacola, one of the greatest boxers of all time, when I would go to his matches I would dream of announcing his name.
“So when I started doing driver introductions here, that was my chance to fulfill a childhood dream. Let’s announce it like it’s a world class boxing match. These drivers are the best in the country and they deserve a big introduction.”
This Sunday, the 52nd chapter of the Snowball Derby will be written. Harvey will be behind the mic once again as the best Super Late Model drivers in the country get ready to rumble.
For fans unable to make the trip, they can tune in to Speed51’s pay-per-view broadcast of the event. Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
For more information on the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, visit Speed51’s Snowball Central.
Story and photo by: Melissa Strahley, Speed51 Gulf Coast Editor