David Rogers had a big impact on the careers and lives of other drivers. It was the same for teenage drivers, who got to compete with the Florida legend near the end of his career prior to his unfortunate passing Sunday morning.
Seventeen-year-old Chandler Smith competed with Rogers several times at Five Flags Speedway during Blizzard Series races and the Snowball Derby before making the jump to the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Truck Series. While appearing on ‘The Bullring’ to talk about his ARCA Menards Series win at Phoenix Raceway, he talked about how Rogers had a major influence on him during his first bout with cancer.
“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know much about David when I raced with him until he started battling cancer, then I started knowing about David a little more and learning a little more about his legacy and what he did in his career and it really sunk in,” Smith said. “It was a legend you were racing with.”
Smith was hit hard by the news of Rogers’ passing on Sunday, despite not knowing him all too well.
“I read on Facebook yesterday when you guys announced that he passed and it absolutely ripped my heart apart. I personally didn’t know David that well, but it’s one of those things that you know, he was a race car driver just like all of us. He had a family, he had fans, all the pain everybody goes through. You just hate it when stuff like that happens.”
Jake Garcia also talked about the legend on Monday morning, reeling from the biggest win of his young career in the Alabama 200. The recently-turned 15-year-old only got to race with Rogers a handful of times between the Snowball Derby and World Series of Asphalt, but one moment stuck out for the Georgia driver.
“I haven’t been in short track racing too long, but I’ve definitely heard a lot of great things about him and I had the chance to talk to him at Five Flags,” Garcia said. “I believe that was after qualifying for the Snowball Derby. A great guy and he did a lot for the sport, he’s definitely a legend. It was great to get an opportunity to meet him.”
The meeting and conversation took place just after their qualifying runs were completed for the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby. Garcia was left impressed after talking back and forth with Rogers at Five Flags Speedway, with a near 50-year age gap between the two.
“It was just after qualifying right there and one of the most stressful moments for a race car driver is Snowball Derby qualifying. We were both kind of relieved and talking about our runs there and just having a conversation,” he stated. “He talked to me just like any other racer, just a normal conversation between two guys that were at the race track.”
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: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com