On Tuesday night, Beef O’Brady’s in Downtown Pensacola hosted the Speed51 Snowball Derby Kickoff Show. While there was plenty of food and fun on hand, there was also a surprise appearance by The King of the Snowball Derby, Rich Bickle.
Bickle is a five-time winner of the Snowball Derby, in just 11 starts in the race. He hasn’t run the race since 2002, but elected to come back for this season’s golden anniversary.
“Someone called me and asked when the last time I ran was, and I said 1999,” Bickle told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “And they said, no, it was 2002, and I finished second. Well, I go, second sucks, I must not have remembered it.
“Look at the people who raced here. From the Allisons, Pete Hamilton, [Gary] Balough, my hero [Dick] Trickle. My God, they call me the King? That’s beyond crazy.”
While he has earned the nickname “King of the Snowball Derby” for his stellar record in the race, Bickle says he remembers the defeats stronger than the victories.
“I had Rick Crawford pass me for the lead and I lost by about three feet [in 1989],” said Bickle. “In 1992, I had the field lapped and in 1996 I blew up.”
“I just looked up, and I hadn’t seen the trophy down there,” Bickle said. “Believe it or not, I’ve always given my trophies away, either to kids in the fence or sponsors or whatever. I don’t even have a Snowball trophy. If I win that one, damn, I’m going to have to keep that one.”
That sentiment was echoed throughout the evening by other drivers who attended the Kickoff.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” said Jeremy Doss, making the trip from Upper Lake, California for the event. “The Snowball is the biggest race in the country. I think if you want to get your name out there, you have to come here and run well.”
“This is what we work for all year,” Bubba Pollard said. “Not just me, but my team, my sponsors. It’s everyone involved, family and everything. We come down here to have fun, but it’s time to get serious on Thursday and make some things happen.”
At the time, Pollard was battling Speed51.com’s Bob Dillner in a game of cornhole outside Beef O’Brady’s. Dillner bounced back from a loss to Corey LaJoie to defeat Pollard, a loss Pollard handled with grace.
“As long as it’s in Cornhole, I’m good,” Pollard said. “As long as it’s not on Sunday.
“I’m gonna have to step up my Cornhole business. Maybe try two beers next time.”
Race fans can watch an on-demand video of the Snowball Derby Kickoff Show, presented by PFC Brakes and JRi Shocks, by clicking here.
Click here to order our five-day video pass of all the racing this week at 5 Flags Speedway.
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent - Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos