PENSACOLA, Fla. – David Rogers beat lymphatic cancer in time to challenge for a starting spot in the 52nd annual Snowball Derby, and now he’ll have a chance to battle in the race itself.
Five Flags Speedway general manager Tim Bryant announced late Saturday night, following the conclusion of on-track activities, that Rogers will be honored with the Derby Dedication Award for his perseverance and commitment to motorsports.
As part of the award, Rogers will receive a special provisional into the starting field for the 300-lap super late model classic. The Florida veteran and 1994 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion will roll off 37th, making his record-breaking 33rd start in the Super Bowl of short-track racing.
“David’s Snowball Derby dedication has been unmatched in the history of this race,” Bryant said. “We felt like being in this race served as real motivation for David in his battle with cancer this year and we wish him the best of luck in today’s race.”
The Snowball Derby field traditionally consists of 36 starters – the fastest 30 from qualifying, four from the Last Chance Showdown, a Blizzard Series provisional and a Southern Super Series provisional.
However, exceptions have been made on the rare occasion that the defending event champion fails to qualify on speed, which occurred during the 50th annual Snowball Derby in 2017 when Christian Eckes was awarded the 37th starting spot.
This time, however, it is Rogers’ passion to return to racing that stood out following a near year-long bout with lymphatic cancer that cost him 80 pounds of his total body weight.
Rogers has only regained 10 of those pounds to this point, but his effervescent smile and quick wit have been on display all weekend and he told SPEED SPORT he feels as ready as ever to mount a comeback.
“It’s an honor to be in this race and I’m just grateful to be back here doing what I love with this team,” Rogers said. “I feel good. I think, with the controlled cautions (if 75 green-flag laps are run), that will give me enough of a break to be able to go through the whole race with no problem. That’s our goal, is to run all 300 laps and see that checkered flag.”
Rogers’ Derby start Sunday will break a tie with ageless legend Red Farmer for the most Snowball Derby feature starts in race history. The pair had been tied at 32 apiece coming into race weekend.
Making that statistic even more special was the fact that Farmer turned a handful of laps in Billy Melvin’s pro late model during practice on Friday – something Rogers nodded to Sunday morning.
“He’s a legend, and it’s been an honor to share that mark with him,” Rogers noted. “To have a 33rd start today will be special and we want to make the most of it.”
The Snowball Derby presented by BJ’s Wholesale Club is scheduled for a 2 p.m. CT green flag.