The Rattler 250 is home to one of the richest – and possibly unnerving – traditions in short track racing. Each year, the famed Alabama rattlesnake awaits the winner of the Rattler 250 in victory lane, where the lucky driver will have the snake draped around his or her shoulders.
With the 44th Annual Rattler 250 now less than one month away, we investigated the question on everybody’s mind: Where does the snake come from?
“We have the group that comes from the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo, their handlers come in and we bring them to show, and we have a thing on the front straightaway where they show what the snakes are doing and talk about them,” said MaLeah Hill, Operations Manager at South Alabama Speedway. “People can have pictures made of them if they want to. We have them on display in the grandstand area for people to stop and look at and listen to when they’re rattling.”
While several snakes are brought to the track during the weekend, only one is used for the post-race celebration on race day. Admittedly not a fan of snakes, Hill and her father, track owner John Dykes leave which snake will be featured to the professionals.
“We leave that up to the handlers,” she said. “They pick with what they’re most comfortable with holding. There’s a lot of people in our area that go get the snakes in the little holes and they give them to the Opp Rodeo. They’re the ones that particularly choose what they want to use.”
The Rattler 250 began in 1974 in conjunction with the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo held in town. For the seventh year, it will serve as the Southern Super Series season opener. Hill and Dykes have been working all offseason to prepare for their season opener at the 4/10-mile oval, the only chance for fans to see Late Models at the track during the season.
“We’re getting really hyped up, my dad has put a lot of work into the pit area this year trying to get it all ready. We’re ready, it’ll be here in a couple weeks,” she said. “It marks the start of our year, which makes it even better.”
Past winners of the Rattler include current NASCAR national series drivers Christopher Bell, Ty Majeski, Harrison Burton, and Grant Enfinger, as well as some of the best short track racers the Southeast region have seen.
The current entry list features drivers from all around the country, with several championships in both Super and Pro Late Models between them. Click here to view an updated entry list for the Rattler 250.
With a strong car count expected for the event once again, track officials are excited to get the bulk of the 2020 short track racing season kicked off.
“I just updated [the entry list] this morning, we’ve got 20 Super Late Model entries right now and on the Pro Late Model side we’ve got 12. There’s more that I haven’t got with him yet on there,” Hill said. “I’m thinking around 25 to 28 Super Late Models, which is a good field at our track with it being 4/10ths of a mile. That’s a good car count for us.”
Stay tuned to Speed51.com for broadcast and other information as the 44th Annual Rattler 250 approaches.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com