This year, the Snowball Derby feels different, because our hearts are hurting as we reflect on the loss of David Rogers. This weekend, it will hit harder for some of us who were able to work with David, race with David and call him a friend. Rogers lost his battle with cancer in March, it feels like a lifetime ago with all the things that we have seen in 2020.
Rogers had been racing in the Snowball Derby since 1976, when he finished 23rd in a race won by Darrell Waltrip. After that, he kept coming back. From the 70s to the 80s, to the 90s and 2000s and 2010s. Rogers solidified himself as a staple when it came to the Snowball Derby.
During his better years, he logged eight top-10 runs and finished a career-best fourth in 1979. As late as 2013 he was a serious contender with a strong sixth-place finish.
Rogers got sick in late 2018, and it was not public knowledge until the 2019 season. Still, Rogers fought valiantly in his battle with cancer and made it all the way back in December for the Snowball Derby. He wasn’t going to miss the chance to race in Pensacola, Florida.
In the end, our final memory of David Rogers at Five Flags Speedway will conclude with him breaking the record for the most starts in the Snowball Derby. His 33rd start last December pushed him past Red Farmer for the most all-time in the historic Super Late Model race. Rogers was always quick to say that even if he broke the record, Red Farmer did his 32 starts consecutively, giving the legendary Alabama driver his own spot in the history books.
It wasn’t all a cup of tea for Rogers at Five Flags Speedway. He had a few bad wrecks there, and he never won at the track and missed the race a half-dozen times. The thing that was special about Rogers was he was there every single year. He was the mold of the old school racer who would go to the big shows with his race car regardless of how well they had run that season. It was the Snowball Derby and he wanted to be a part of the show every single year.
I am not sure when it will hit people that he’s not there this year. For some, it will be Thursday on practice day where there is no TM Ranch hauler on the front stretch. For others, it will be on pole night when Robbie Harvey doesn’t get to educate us about his chance at breaking the record. For a few, it will be the last chance race where he shined by racing his way in a half-dozen times in recent years. Maybe it will take some all the way until Sunday for the realization that Rogers has left this world for a better place.
All we can hope is when the track mentions it on race day and a new or a young race fan asks, “Who was David Rogers?” that someone who knew him, raced with him or called him a friend will be sitting nearby and can say. “Let me tell you about David Rogers.”
At that point we know his legacy will live on and he will always be a part of the Snowball Derby.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo