PENSACOLA, Fla. — Daniel Dye’s maiden voyage to the Snowball Derby is about more than simply competing in the Super Bowl of Late Model Racing.

Dye’s effort at Five Flags Speedway is about furthering a message, and an important one at that.

The DeLand, Fla., teenager has represented Halifax Health and the hospital’s Race to Stop Suicide initiative during his two years driving the Ben Kennedy Racing late model.

Over the course of the next few days at the historic Five Flags half-mile oval, Dye will look to lock into the Snowball Derby starting field while simultaneously spreading the word and erasing some of the stigmas associated with discussing depression.

It’s a cause that has been close to Dye’s heart for several years and rings particularly important this week, thanks to the increased audience associated with one of the biggest late model races around.

“The (Snowball) Derby is definitely a good opportunity to get the message out there,” Dye told SPEED SPORT in advance of the 53rd edition of the event. “I forget what they said it was last year, but even the people that tuned in just to watch the haulers park … somebody told me a number and it was insane the amount of people that followed along, let alone those who watch through the whole weekend.

“It’s something that has always been meaningful to me, but I think it’s even more important now given what we’ve been through this year and some of the effects that the (COVID-19) pandemic has had.”

Dye, the son of Florida businessman Randy Dye, didn’t hesitate for a moment the day his father asked him histhoughts on representing Halifax Health’s suicide-prevention initiative.

In the younger Dye’s view, it was something he could do to make a difference on a much larger scale.

“It was something that impacted my life a little bit even before I started racing late models, because I had some close friends going through some stuff, and it was something that meant something to me before I even got out of middle school,” Daniel Dye recalled. “My dad picked me up from school one day, before I got my (driver’s) license and my truck … and he sat me down one day and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to partner with Halifax and we’ve had some conversations and I wanted to get your take on it.’

“I’m all for spreading the word. Out of all the people that get the opportunity to race, I feel like I’m probably one that hasn’t done much throughout his life to really deserve it,” Dye continued. “It’s something that I don’t take for granted and something to where I want to do the absolute greatest job that I can to capitalize on every opportunity that I have. To be asked about being, kind of, the face of this campaign is an honor and was something that changed how we think about racing.

“Now, we’re going to the race track to do more than race. We have to make sure that people know that there are outlets to go to where they can talk to people.”

For the Dyes, who live in Volusia County, the Race to Stop Suicide has become more than a sponsorship. It has become deeply personal.

Both Volusia County and nearby Flagler County were above the Florida state average for suicides, with an average of a suicide death every two and a half days between the two counties in 2018, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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