Super Late Models
Erik Jones Seeking Third Tom Dawson Trophy at Snowball Derby
Nov 14, 2023
Ryan Bleich, Sr. hopes to back up his Crown Stock championship at Five Flags Speedway with a big win Saturday night.
Ryan Bleich Sr. hopes his week has a better ending than the way it began.
On Tuesday morning, as he pulled into the Story & Bleich Roofing parking lot, Bleich’s vehicle was hit, and the other driver fled the scene. The fallout had Bleich stuck at the DMV for most of the day to resolve an unexpected issue.
He hopes his No. 17 remains unscathed this Saturday at Five Flags Speedway as Bleich and more than 50 Story & Bleich Roofing Crown Stocks eye their inaugural chance at immortality.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I don’t necessarily feel comfortable about it,” said Bleich, who captured the Crown Stocks track championship. “I know there are a lot of guys coming from all over the country who are already at the top of their game.”
Festivities for the 56th annual Snowball Derby officially kick off this weekend with the Miss Snowball Derby Pageant at 7 on Friday night at Seville Quarter and the Snowball Derby Preview beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at Five Flags where drivers across all divisions have chances to practice and win cash prizes.
Capping Saturday’s slate will be the Crown Stocks Derby 40. Admission is free with racing set for 6 p.m. The Crown Stocks division is an entry-level class that got its start in recent years in south Florida before debuting at Pensacola’s high banks in March. The class is cost effective and features Ford Crown Victorias, Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and Mercury Grand Marquis.
The Derby 40 field has nearly 60 entries, nearly doubling the amount of cars the division fielded on Friday nights during the regular season. Bleich captured the class title after recording three wins, a trio of runner-ups and two more top-fives.
“I’m hoping for a good run, but I know the competition is gonna be especially tough,” Bleich said. “Some of the guys racing Saturday have been competing for about four years, and we’ve done it just for this season up here at Five Flags.
“I’d be ecstatic with a top-five.”
Since locking up the regular season championship in September, Bleich has raced on dirt and been doing maintenance with his “core people” of Tommy Lambert, Hunter Lambert, Chuck Paige and Kraig Hall.
Bleich has been able to enjoy the spoils of winning a crown after battling with the likes of Tyler Young and Daniel Lofton—who finished second and third in points, respectively—all season.
“The biggest symptom of winning the championship is the feeling of relief I got,” Bleich said. “Points racing is very stressful. It’s definitely a feeling like no other. I was relieved when it was over.
“Five Flags is a special place to me. To say that I’m a track champion at Five Flags Speedway, in and of itself is a special thing. I’m grateful to put name on that list.”
And if he were to be lucky enough to outlast his rivals and hoist a Derby championship come Saturday night?
“That would be the cherry on top of a pretty good season,” Bleich said.
Snowball Derby week begins Nov. 28 with the Welcome Party at Hooters on Pensacola Beach. Races begin Thursday night, leading up to the most prestigious short-track race in the country Dec. 3.
-Story by: Chuck Corder/Five Flags Speedway
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America