Kyle Bryant just couldn’t help it. As soon as he found out he was officially in the 51st Annual Snowball Derby, the tears began to flow. He fought to keep them to a minimum, but the emotion of the moment was just too much.
As the tears continued to flow, Bryant said it was a dream come true.
“I’ve been crying for the last five minutes, man,” Bryant said. “You work all year for it. To be in it means everything. These guys are all volunteer. No one is paid. No big shop. We’re a Saturday night crew at a Cup race, and we’re in it”
Bryant has tried to make the Snowball Derby in each of the last five seasons, but each December has loaded up and made the short drive to his home in Pensacola prior to Sunday’s main event. However, 2018 will be different.
For the first time, he will experience the pomp and circumstance of a Derby Day. He will be introduced to his hometown crowd. He will stand shoulder to shoulder with the best Late Model drivers in the country for the class photo.
Finally, Bryant has made it.
“Most people, they talk about taking the pole or winning the race,” Bryant said. “Our whole deal every December is just get in the race. We just hadn’t been able to do that. We still weren’t tonight, but we worked hard enough this year swapping cars around to get to the races we could afford to get to just to get in the points and even be close.”
Bryant’s journey to his first Snowball Derby is the stuff story books and hard work are made of. After struggling for a few years, Bryant took to dirt racing and almost left asphalt tracks behind for good. But in 2018, Bryant was back on the pavement, plugging away.
At October’s Mobile 300, the finale for the Southern Super Series, he made a decision that ultimately gained him a spot in short track racing’s crown jewel. Entering Mobile, Bryant was ninth in Southern Super Series points. He developed a plan to improve his chances of making the event, and it panned out perfectly.
“I was trying to sell the car we ran at Mobile,” Bryant explained. “It had a outlaw wedge body on it, but we completely rebuilt it in two weeks. I stripped it down and put a Five Star body on it, and changed the motor. We were so terrible, but we had to get those points. We had to get to seventh, and it made all the difference today.”
After seeing the Derby from the grandstands for his entire life, Bryant will experience his first from the cockpit Sunday.
Some would say Bryant’s storybook ending would be in victory lane, but to him, the story is complete already.
“As a little kid, I wanted to run this race,” Bryant said with tears steaming down. “This just means everything. This is perfect.”
-Story by Ryan McCollough, Speed51.com Gulf Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com