Brad May is now a three-time track champion at New Smyrna Speedway, as well as the track’s defending Super Late Model champion. When he was younger, however, May was like many short track racing fans in Florida: he idolized David Rogers.
“Watching him when I was young, I thought he could take a fifth-place car in a long race, pace it, take care of it and have a winning car at the end of a race,” May told Speed51. “That’s something I always felt like he was amazing at. He was the best at that.”
May would have the great fortune of not just racing against Rogers, but working closely with him during his developmental years. May shared many of his memories and stories during an interview on Speed51’s “The Bullring” while commemorating the fallen racer who passed away Sunday.
“That number 11 is a symbol of excellence at New Smyrna,” May said. “He has done so much for me. He helped me in quarter-midgets, helped me with my first Late Model. He let me drive a Pro Late Model for a couple of years, which was like a dream come true. He’s always been there for any support through my whole career.”
Before his own racing career, a young May worked with Rogers on his crew, including on trips to the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
“I did a lot of trips to the Snowball Derby,” May said. “To me, that was the most fun when I was a kid. We’d glue lug nuts, fill gas tanks, help out where I could. We’d go out to dinner. He allowed a couple of friends and myself to hang out with the crew. They always made it a blast. It was great to be a part of that.”
May told the story of the first time Rogers called him offering a ride, as Rogers was seeking a driver for a Pro Late Model at the time.
“I had a car, I ran it for a race, and we ran okay,” May explained. “The motor had a couple of little issues. We pulled it out, dynoed it. David said Speedweeks is coming up and he thought we could put it in one of the Super Late Models he had and asked if I was interested.
“He wouldn’t have had to ask. He knew that was the dream. I was out to dinner with my wife. I had stepped outside to take the call. I very rarely talked to him on the cell phone, it was usually his work phone, but we got talking and he said that. It was just an honor for Steve Holland and a TM Ranch car. Just a dream.”
May learned plenty of lessons on the track from Rogers, but some of the most important lessons came away from the track. Rogers treated team members like family and valued time with them after the races were over, something he instilled in May.
“Go out with your crew guys and family. Enjoy the race track. After the races, go out to dinner. Enjoy every minute.”
Since embarking on his own successful career, May has often parked beside Rogers in the infield at New Smyrna Speedway. May knows it will be tough the next time he parks there, without Rogers alongside him.
“We park next to him in turn four. I’ve parked there since I was 16 years old. That’s his spot. When he’s not there, nobody parks there. That’s his spot. It’s going to be a tough one.”
Monday’s episode of “The Bullring” was dedicated to Rogers’ memory, with many guests sharing their stories and memories of “The Gentle Giant.” Fans who missed the show can watch an on-demand replay of the episode in its entirety by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Wanda Mercer