Chandler Smith
Five Flags Speedway has hosted six ARCA Menards Series races and is on the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East schedule. (Barry Cantrell/ARCA Racing)

Track Spotlight: Five Flags Speedway


Five Flags Speedway is synonymous with the Snowball Derby, but the half-mile oval is steeped in racing history beyond the annual super late model event.

Herb Thomas won a 140-lap NASCAR Cup Series race at Five Flags in 1953, the track’s first season. Dick Rathman, Lee Petty, Buck Baker, and Tim Flock rounded out the top five. Thomas took home $1,000 for the victory.

The high-banked turns make for a fast track, while the worn asphalt forces drivers to balance flat-out speed with tire conservation.

TRACK FACTS
TRACK: Five Flags Speedway
CITY: Pensacola, Fla.
LOCATION: 7451 Pine Forest Rd, Pensacola, FL 32526
LAYOUT: half-mile paved oval, turns banked 15 degrees
OPENED: 1953
CONTACT: Email: info@5flagsspeedway.com

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The track is name after the nickname of Pensacola, "The City of Five Flags," after the five governments that have overseen the city: Spain, France, Great Britain, Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.Five Flags hosts weekly racing from March through December.

Six ARCA Menards Series races have been run at Five Flags, with the first in 1992 won by Roy Payne. Michigan driver Harold Fair won in 1993, with local star Gary Bradberry taking the win in 1994, followed by Bob Schacht in 1995 and Frank Kimmel in 1996. Kimmel’s 1996 win was just the second of his career.

The series returned for the first time since 1996 last season, with Michael Self earning his first career ARCA short-track win.

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The ARCA Menards Series East – formerly known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – has raced at Five Flags twice previously, with Ben Kennedy winning in 2013 and Ben Rhodes winning in 2014.

The first Snowball Derby was held in 1968 and won by Wayne Niedecken. In the early years, drivers such as Pete Hamilton (1974), Donne Allison (1975) and Darrell Waltrip (1976) visited Victory Lane. Through the years, notables such as Dave Mader III (1987), Butch Lindley (1984), Ted Musgrave (1988)

Rich Bickle Jr. dominated the 1990s with a record five wins (1990-91, ’96, ’98-99).

Tammy Jo Kirk became the first female to win in 1994, a feat matched by Johanna Long in 2019.

In recent years, NASCAR national series drivers and rising stars have risen the profile of the event even further. Kyle Busch won in 2009 and ’17, Chase Elliott in 2011 and ’15, Erik Jones in 2012-13, and Noah Gragson in 2018.

Christian Eckes predated his 2019 ARCA Menards Series title with a Snowball Derby win in 2016, while Travis Braden took home the trophy last December.