Now entering its second season in 2022, the Superstar Racing Experience has served as a major national showcase for grassroots racing, putting some of the greatest drivers on some of the greatest short tracks in America. And with that considered, perhaps it’s only right the 2022 SRX season begins at the site of one of the country’s greatest short track races: Five Flags Speedway.
Built in 1953, this half-mile oval in Pensacola, Fla., has been raced on by everyone from the most famous of NASCAR champions to the humblest of local drivers. Banked at a solid 15 degrees, Five Flags is a fast and challenging track that combines the need for precision with the ability to make time, find the right groove, and sustain speeds on corner entry and exit alike.
For those of who aren’t familiar with Five Flags Speedway, here is a comprehensive track guide to the speedway that will serve host to the season opener for the Camping World SRX Series.
Five Flags Speedway’s biggest race is the annual Snowball Derby, the largest and most prestigious late model stock car race in the U.S. Having run every December since 1968, the Snowball Derby has become the most sought-after prize in late model racing, as evidenced by the caliber of drivers who have won the event.
Three NASCAR Cup champions — Darrell Waltrip, Kyle Busch, and Chase Elliott — have all won the Snowball Derby. So too have former NASCAR standouts such as Donnie Allison, Ted Musgrave and Rich Bickle. In recent years, the race has helped launch young drivers onto the NASCAR radar, such as when a young Erik Jones beat Busch to win the 2012 Snowball Derby.
Five Flags Speedway also hosted one NASCAR Cup Series race in 1953, a 140-lap event won by Herb Thomas. More recently, the track has been a stop on the ARCA Menards Series East schedule in each of the last three seasons.
While Five Flags Speedway has been a stop along the road for a number of great drivers through the years, the legacies of others are integrally tied to the speedway. Dave Mader III, for instance, won both the Snowball Derby and the track championship in Super Late Models. Pensacola’s own Johanna Long (Robbins) won the SLM track championship in 2009 before a Snowball Derby win in 2010 helped launch a NASCAR career that lasted several seasons. Eddie Mercer had a long and celebrated history at the track as well, winning both the track championship as well as the Snowball Derby.
Chase Elliott and Daniel Hemric both went on to win championships in NASCAR after winning championships at Five Flags, and some of the more recent track champions include some of the most notable names in late model racing. Andrew “Bubba” Pollard, Casey Roderick, Augie Grill, and Jake Garcia are among the track champions over the past 10 years.
With multiple track championships already on his resume, Pollard will serve as the local All-Star driver for the SRX race at Five Flags. Pollard qualified for his SRX opportunity through the track’s PepperJack Kennel Twins earlier this year, posting the best average finish during the race weekend to secure a seat.
A native of Senoia, Ga., Pollard’s name and racing legacy goes far beyond Five Flags, as the 35-year-old has become one of the most prolific drivers in short track racing through the southeast and beyond. Pollard has over 100 career victories in late models, including some of the sport’s biggest races such as the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway, the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds, the Slinger Nationals and more.
Did You Know?
The current track record at Five Flags Speedway in super late models belongs to Ty Majeski, who put down a lap of 16.120 during Snowball Derby weekend in 2015. The overall track record belongs to Brian Gerster, who lapped the facility in 13.046 driving a sprint car.