Track Of The Day: Five Flags Speedway

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Kaden Honeycutt (10) battles Hunter Robbins during the Snowball Derby in December. (Jacob Seelman photo)

Track Of The Day: Five Flags Speedway
Address: 7451 Pine Forest Rd., Pensacola, FL 32526
Website: www.5flagsspeedway.com

History: Five Flags Speedway opened for business on May 31, 1953, but things didn’t go as planned early in the track’s history.

The first event was held despite inclement weather slowing the construction of the track. The paved track surface was not yet ready for racing, but despite that the promoters — Alf Knight and Ted Chester — spread dirt over the surface in an attempt to cure the new surface quickly.

Despite efforts to clear the track of the dirt, racing began with the track surface still dirty and the result was a 14-car pileup that ended the action just as quickly as it began.

Two weeks later, the only NASCAR Cup Series race in track history was run, with rain stopping the race after 140 laps and Herb Thomas claiming the checkered flag over Dick Rathmann and Lee Petty.

Through those early years several different promoters hosted events at the half-mile track, but in 1968 Tom Dawson acquired it from L.H. Williamson. Dawson operated the track for more than 30 years before his passing in 2005.

Dawson created one of the most popular short-track events in the country — the Snowball Derby. Held every December, the race started as a 100-lap event before transitioning to a 300-lap race.

Wayne Niedecken won the inaugural Snowball Derby in 1968, with drivers such as Pete Hamilton, Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Gary Balough, Rich Bickle Jr., Gary St. Amant, Jeff Purvis, Bobby Gill, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and, most recently, Travis Braden, earning victories in the event.

These days, former Five Flags Speedway racer Tim Bryant operates the track.

Drivers battle for position during the Snowball Derby several years ago. (Chris Owens Photo)