Rich Bickle is the most decorated driver in the history of the Snowball Derby. Bickle leads all drivers with five career wins in the “granddaddy of all short track races,” but he hasn’t been back to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida since he finished second in 2002. Now, for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, the “Snowball Derby King” is headed back to Pensacola in search of his sixth Tom Dawson Trophy.
During the 1990’s, no driver was more dominant at the historic Florida half-mile than Bickle. In addition to his five victories (1990, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999), Bickle had an average finish of 8.4. His lowest finish was 36th in 1992, but that was due to an engine failure.
“The place has been really good to me,” Bickle stated. “The first year I finished second I actually had him passed with three to go and the yellow came out and they put him back in front of me and I lost by a fender. The place has been really, really good to me.”
Bickle’s last start in the Snowball Derby came 15 years ago in 2002. He finished second that year, but it’s been so long that the Wisconsin native forgot he even raced that year. But that’s a big part of the reason why Bickle is going back this year.
“I’ve been wanting to go the last few years, but for the 50th anniversary I said ‘heck, we’ve got to go back at least one more time.’”
Bickle said the key to his success at Five Flags Speedway was very simple; he raced with patience. With 300 laps of racing on tap for Sunday, December 3, patience will be key once again.
“It’s kind of funny, because it’s the one place that I really never raced hard at but always won. Everybody goes out there hell-bent for leather when they drop the green flag and I sit around at the same speed and end up leading the race and save my stuff and win,” Bickle explained. “I’ve raced a lot harder at a lot of places, but that place has actually been simple to win because I always saved my stuff.
“I can’t remember what year it was but I qualified my normal eighth-to-eleventh. Everyone takes off and then they start coming back to me. I was running the same speed. The race went green for a long time and I caught up to Freddy Query who was leading the race and 17 laps later I lapped him. I never changed speed. I never ran hard.”
At 56 years old, Bickle, already a winner this year at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway, is looking to add to his Snowball Derby legend with a sixth Tom Dawson Trophy. You can be in attendance as Bickle looks to make more history. Head to www.5FlagsSpeedway.com to purchase your tickets for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby.
The 50th Annual Snowball Derby will kick off on Wednesday, November 29 with racing for the first time in event history on a Wednesday night. The Pure Stock division will be in action for a 50-lap feature prior to the annual Green Flag Pit Party and all-important qualifying draw for Late Model drivers.
Late Models will hit the track for the first time on Thursday, November 30 prior to 50-lap features for the Sportsman and Outlaw Stock divisions later that night.
Friday, December 1 is the most intense day in all of short track racing. It’s qualifying day for the Snowball Derby. Also on Friday night, the Modifieds will get their spotlight as they do battle for 75 laps to crown their Snowball Derby champion.
Saturday, December 2 is Allen Turner Snowflake 100 race day. Qualifying for the Snowflake 100 will begin at 2 p.m. CT. A 50-lap last chance race for the Snowflake 100 will immediately follow qualifying. The 50-lap last chance race for the Snowball Derby will also be held on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the last chance race for the Snowflake 100.
The green flag for the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 will wave at 7 p.m. Also on Saturday night, the Pro Trucks will race for 50 laps to decide who takes their Snowball Derby victory.
Sunday, December 3 is the biggest day of the year in short track racing. It’s race day for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby. Pre-race festivities will begin at Noon CT. The class photo for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby will be taken on the frontstretch at 12:30. Driver introductions will follow at 1:15 p.m. The green flag for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby will wave at 2 p.m.
More information on the 50th Annual Snowball Derby can be found by visiting www.snowballderby.com and www.5flagsspeedway.com.
-By: Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com