Last weekend, David Rogers climbed behind the wheel of a Super Late Model for the first time since his battle with lymphoma, testing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). On Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring,” the Florida racing legend broke the news that he will make his return to competition at Five Flags Speedway (FL) for the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby on December 4-8.
Rogers is currently tied with Red Farmer for most starts in the prestigious Super Late Model event held each December at the Pensacola, Florida half-mile. Rogers will be looking to break that tie as he returns to racing for the 2019 edition of the race.
“We’re going to the Derby,” Rogers said. “I talked to Steve Holland, the TM Ranch man that’s been behind me so long. The Derby is his pride and joy. He wants to be there and be part of it, and he wants me to be part of it. Does he want me to rush into it? No. But, he’s already made all the reservations and everything, he does that far in advance, takes care of my entries and stuff like that. Everything is in place for us to go to the Snowball Derby.”
Rogers acknowledges that it is a steep challenge for his return to racing, as the Snowball Derby is always a difficult race just to make the field. Last year, Rogers missed the field after being involved in an incident during the Last Chance Qualifier.
“The Snowball Derby is the toughest race to run, to me, as far as making the race and being able to do it. Last year, I guess I was really sick when I was at the Derby. I was having some problems before the Governor’s Cup with my stomach pains and stuff, but being a racer I put going to the doctors off until I could go to the Governor’s Cup and the Derby.
“We went to the Derby. My qualifying at the Derby seems to be, if they take 20 cars, I’m 22nd. If they take 30, I am 31st or 32nd. I’m always a tick short. Then we got in an accident in the Non-Qualifiers Race and didn’t make it. We’re going to go this year. We’re going to go back.”
Despite his struggles in 2018, Rogers is optimistic he can make this season’s field and hold his own for the 300-lap event.
“I don’t see any reason why I can’t [make the field]. I think I’m just as fast this year as I was last year. We’ll have more lead, because I’m still 70 pounds short. I think I can make the Derby. My plan is to make the Derby. The race is usually a lot cooler, it’s a lot easier on a driver to run 300 laps. You’ve got the cautions that you know you’re going to have, so you don’t have to run 125 laps, the last 40 being slipping and sliding because you’re out of tires.
“I don’t see any reason that I can’t go the distance. If I start the race with the mindset that’s what you want to do, as a racer, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Rogers has spoken with Red Farmer about the possibility of breaking the record for most starts in the Snowball Derby in the past, and Farmer was quick to note his mark in the record book comes with a special distinction.
“Red wanted me to remember that, even if I did run an extra race or three or whatever, he wanted me to know I’d never break his record, which is a good thing. He said his were consecutive and mine weren’t. He’s still going to have a record, and then if I do make the race and continue to do so I’ll have my own little record.”
Rogers says that, beyond the record or any other accolade he could achieve by competing in the Snowball Derby, it was important to him to seize this opportunity and live life to the fullest.
“I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. I’m not proving anything to myself or the fans. It’s an appreciation to the fans to show that we will go back racing. It’s also to let myself know and the TM Ranch bunch that we can still do it. It’s also to let me and everybody know that there are no promises of next year.
“Life can end, things can change overnight or in a short period of time. For me to say, ‘Let’s wait until next year when I’ll be better off,’ I might not be better off next year. From what I understand of the type of cancer I have, the lymphoma, it’s all gone right now, but if there’s one cell floating in me and in as short of a time as six weeks I can be as bad off as I was when I started this deal.
“I want to live life as long as I can live it, and I want to live it at the Derby.”
Race fans who missed Rogers’ interview can watch an on-demand replay of Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” by clicking here. The show airs on Monday mornings starting at 7 a.m. on Speed51 and Speed51’s Facebook Page presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 photo