After Hurricane Sally passed through Pensacola, Florida and surrounding areas, last weekend’s Night of Champions at Five Flags Speedway (FL) was postponed. While the famed half-mile facility suffered a considerable amount of damage, promoter Tim Bryant says they are moving forward with their 2020 racing season as planned.
Bryant joined Speed51’s “The Bullring” on Monday to provide an update on the track following the storm. While the damage to the track is not obvious when passing by the facility along Pine Forest Road, there are some structural damages within the facility.
“From the highway, the track looks good, short of the chain-link fencing being distorted. Once we got inside, we found a little more damage. It’s certainly nothing we can’t overcome, but it’ll take some work. We’ll have to get after it.”
Much of the damage took place to structures surrounding the racing surface, such as billboards, platforms and roofing.
“The worst thing is our electrical infrastructure took a hit. Some of our Speed51 infrastructure took a hit. It’s all repairs we can make. There are people in our area that lost their homes and everything they had, so our problems seem small compared to that.”
Bryant firmly believes they will be ready to race on October 10 for the return of the ARCA Menards Series East, despite the event being just a couple of weeks away.
“We’re planning on running the ARCA Menards Series East event on October 10, which is just two weeks away. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.”
The rebuilding effort will be a considerable one, but it pales in comparison to what Five Flags Speedway overcame in 2004. That year, Hurricane Ivan impacted the Southeast and inflicted tremendous damage to the speedway.
“Someone made a comment that they were going to take a vacation every year on September 16. September 16, 2004 is when Hurricane Ivan came through and inflicted some really serious damage on the track. We had lots of buildings down, all the light poles were down, it was much worse. This year, 16 years later, it wasn’t nearly as harsh.”
As for last weekend’s Night of Champions, it has been rescheduled for October 24. On that night, the track will crown its Blizzard Series and Allen Turner Pro Late Model champions.
The October 24 date became available after the cancellation of the 2020 Peach State Classic at Gresham Motorsports Park earlier this month.
“It’s 2020, what else can you say? We were supposed to be at Gresham Motorsports Park that weekend. For circumstances beyond what any of us could have expected, we’re not having that race. That opened up that weekend.”
Bryant is especially grateful to the outpouring of support he has received at the speedway. Together with the racing community, he knows they will be able to get back up to speed in relatively short order.
“It’s been amazing the people that have reached out to us through this storm recovery period, that have offered help. It makes you feel good about being a part of the short track racing family. Some that don’t even race here have reached out and offered assistance. It speaks to the quality of people we work with in the industry.
“These things can be fixed. We’ve got a couple of hurdles to jump, but I think we can get over them.”
Fans who missed Bryant’s interview on The Bullring can click here to watch an on-demand replay of the episode.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo