Over the course of the last two weeks, the staff at Five Flags Speedway went up against a heavyweight opponent with an undefeated record. That opponent goes by the name of Mother Nature. She’s tough to beat and in most cases, there’s very little you can do to trump her.
Tim Bryant and the staff at the Pensacola, Florida certainly took their punches during the 51st Annual Snowball Derby; however, they battled back after each punch that was landed.
The bout with Mother Nature began well before the first rain drop hit the surface at Five Flags Speedway on Friday, November 30. It began earlier in the week when every cell phone meteorologist in America began to ask questions about what the plan would be if it rained at the track.
For a promoter, those are the questions you don’t want to have to answer a few days prior to your biggest event of the season.
That was the first domino to fall. From there, the storm became much more severe than most anticipated. It didn’t just rain at Five Flags Speedway; it was a torrential downpour that flooded some parts of the facility.
At that time, it was no longer a question about whether there would be racing on Saturday. That question was washed away. Instead, it was now a question about whether the track would be ready to welcome in thousands of race fans Sunday afternoon for the biggest asphalt Late Model race in America.
Some people may have given up there and decided to push the entire event to a later date. But not Tim Bryant and the Five Flags Speedway staff.
With rain still falling overnight, the staff at Five Flags Speedway worked countless hours to remove water out of flooded areas. They worked to prepare the grounds so that hundreds of vehicles could be parked on Sunday. They worked to dry the track surface and make sure the half-mile pavement oval would be safe for 300 laps of Super Late Model racing on Sunday.
Along with all that, the word sleep was not in the vocabulary for the Five Flags Speedway staff.
As the scheduled green flag time approached on Sunday afternoon, the weepers on the frontstretch forced the speedway staff to put in even more work. At one point, Tim Bryant himself could be seen on his hands and knees working to vacuum and drain the water that was causing havoc on the fronstretch.
Although the green flag ended up being delayed about two hours, the green flag waved and the Snowball Derby was underway just after 4 p.m. CT. That alone was an accomplishment for the Five Flags staff. Twenty-four hours prior, areas of the track had more than six inches of standing water and the outlook to race on Sunday was questionable at best.
Fast forward to this past weekend and it was time for round two of Five Flags Speedway vs. Mother Nature.
A terrible forecast for Saturday’s rescheduled Snowflake 100 forced Five Flags officials to postpone the event to Sunday. Event officials made that decision on Wednesday to allow racers to make necessary changes in plenty of time; two thumbs-up for that decision.
At that same time, the forecast for Sunday looked very encouraging with only a very minimal chance of rain.
Unfortunately, that very minimal chance of rain turned into a rain shower near the end of the Modifieds of Mayhem feature race.
As daytime turned to nighttime it started to look as though Mother Nature may win again.
Bryant called all racers to a drivers-only meeting in the tire shed. He discussed the situation and told the racers the staff was going to try to get the race in that evening. Nobody objected. He did take a show of hands of who could come back the next day if, and only if, the weather was too much to overcome to get the race in.
From there, the track staff once again worked hard to dry the racing surface and prepare it for 100 laps of Pro Late Model racing.
Suddenly, the light mist disappeared. The track was gray once again and it was time to go racing.
Then, just before the green flag, a list missed popped up again. Nothing was showing on the radar, just like earlier in the day.
Veteran drivers at the front of the field gave a thumbs-up to start the race and continued to do so when officials asked them about the pesky mist throughout the 100-lap race.
The Snowflake 100 was finally completed in its entirety around 9:30 p.m. CT Sunday night.
There were numerous incidents throughout the race and some thought it was due to the mist. But, even veteran Bubba Pollard said there was not an issue with the track and that the incidents were a direct result of people driving over their heads.
While the circumstances weren’t ideal for any party involved, the staff at Five Flags Speedway did everything in their power to complete the scheduled events that made up the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.
When Mother Nature starts throwing haymakers, the only thing you can do is take the punches and battle back. Tim Bryant and the staff at Five Flags Speedway did just that. For that, they deserve a pat on the back for their efforts.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com