New Year, New Series: Outlaw Stocks to Highlight Special Sunday Season Opener at Five Flags
By Chuck Corder
A milestone awaits Five Flags Speedway come December.
The nine-month march toward the historic 50th Annual Snowball Derby christens the dawn of the 2017 season with a special Sunday afternoon of racing at Pensacola’s high banks.
Opening Day, costing fans of all ages just $5 (free for kids 5 and under), is a chance at rebirth for drivers and teams.
Fell a few points shy of a track championship last year? Go out and earn it this season. Still searching for that elusive first career win at the famed half-mile asphalt oval? Well, don’t let it elude you in 2017.
The first crack at redemption comes Sunday during Fan Appreciation Day.
“This will feel like a throwback to most of our fans,” said Five Flags General Manager Tim Bryant, who noted the track hosted several Sunday afternoon races during the 1970s. “The weather this time of year is conducive to daytime racing. It allows people from out of town to travel, making it a little easier for our drivers from Texas and Georgia.”
The Faith Chapel Outlaw Stock, a class in its rookie season at Five Flags, shares top billing at the season opener alongside the Beef “O” Brady’s Pro Trucks, The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen and the newly-branded Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks.
The arrival of the Outlaw Stock division has l
Local drivers — young and old, alike; some veterans, some that have long pondered dipping their toes into the sport’s seductive waters — are already excited about the arrival of the Outlaw Stock division.
“There a little less expensive version of the late model cars,” Bryant said. “But they don’t look you’re your typical late models. The cars have that new, fresh look. They have the more traditional Outlaw bodies. Some of these cars you’d see on dirt tracks.
“What we’re seeing is some new people come into racing along with former racers that are coming back.
Pace’s Todd Jones is a past track champion at Five Flags. After seeing car counts gradually decrease in some divisions the last two years, Jones welcomes the new Outlaw Stock class as he believes it will encourage more local teams to compete.
“It certainly is going to allow more teams to come race that maybe can’t afford to race in a higher class,” the veteran said. “A handful people have been asking a lotta questions and there’s been a lotta interest in it.”
The class will drive on 8-inch tires and will have several engine packages and a few different body packages to choose to build from.
Longtime Pensacola late model driver Donnie Brusso, who swapped paint with the local legends such as Eddie Mercer, has built more than five Outlaw Stocks for himself and others interested in the style.
Brusso said local late model teams were growing rapidly agitated at trying to compete against the teams with deeper pockets.
“I didn’t want to see the sport go by the wayside,” said Brusso whose 20-year-old daughter Kody Brusso will be one to watch in the Outlaw Stock class. “People don’t want to race against people that do it for a living. Local racing should be based around local people. We don’t have millionaires running around here in Pensacola that care a lot about racing.
“This coming Sunday could be the turning point. I hope folks can see the light and turn around.”
The mostly broad rules have been put in place for the following three seasons (2017-2019) to nurture the division’s growth and mentor those novice drivers just now entering the sport.
“We’re excited,” said Bryant, whose family is now entering their 14th season as the owner and proprietors of Five Flags. “With all the changes going on, specifically in our sport, we’re kind of joining in. The program will be different this year and races will be run in rapid succession.”
After the Pro Trucks (50 laps), Sportsmen (25) and Pure Stock (20) race, there will be a short intermission where fans will able to get autographs and interact with their favorite drivers.
The Outlaw Stock will close the show with its 50 lapper.
“We can’t wait to give fans a taste of what’s in store for our upcoming season,” Bryant said.
Just like every other driver, their teams and the fans that will flood the grandstands, Jones doesn’t know what to expect out of the gates Sunday.
“With the rule changes, it has evened the playing field,” he said. “The biggest thing is growing the car count. It helps us as drivers, it helps the track and it helps the fans to come out.”
Whatever the result, it promises to be a milestone.