A Snowball Derby Champion in Two Classes, Sutton has Found Niche in the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks
By Chuck Corder
It’s rarified air when you can call yourself a Snowball Derby champion twice over.
It’s another stratosphere when you’ve won Derby titles in multiple divisions at fabled Five Flags Speedway. Sure, there have been dual champions in late model classes — Augie Grill and NASCAR Cup ’shoe Chase Elliott come to mind as recent Snowflake 100 and Derby winners — but to accomplish the feat among the local series is serious elite status.
Count Gary Sutton among that select group. As a teenager, he won the 1998 Sportsman Derby title and then five years ago Sutton hoisted the Super Stocks Derby crown. (That victory came following a five-year layoff, oh by the way.)
A potential third date with destiny could come in December during the historic 50th Annual Snowball Derby, with Sutton competing in yet another division at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
Sutton has taken to the rookie class, the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks, like a duck to water. The 36-year-old Milton native has competed in just two of the three features this season, but only sits 16 points shy of the standings lead.
Sutton hopes this Friday night at Five Flags he can steer his Outlaw Stock car — sponsored by Mike Williamson Racecars, Certified Plumbing, and Matthew Coffey Enterprises among others — into Victory Lane and back up the dominant winning performance he enjoyed the last time the Outlaw Stocks raced back on May 12.
“That thing drove like a Cadillac that night,” Sutton said, reflecting on his victory. “I wasn’t breaking a sweat. But a lotta people had a lotta bad luck. There were quite a few good cars that wrecked that I probably wouldn’t have lapped.
“I don’t think for a minute we were that good to lap 23 other cars. But do I think anybody could’ve passed us late in the race? Absolutely not.”
Coupling his win with a third-place finish at the season’s second feature, Sutton will have a bull’s eye squarely on his “ugly monstrosity” No. 151 at Friday’s 35-lap feature.
It’s all part of the “Summer Sizzler” at Pensacola’s high banks. Friday evening will be stuffed with an eye-popping five feature races during the biggest race night of the summer.
The best Super Late Models in the country return for the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series’ SERF 100, in addition to the Pro Trucks (30), The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen (25) and the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks (20).
Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday. Admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; free for kids 5 and under.
What Sutton and close friend Mike Williamson, racecar builder guru, appreciate the most about the new Outlaw Stocks class is the relative freedom in which they get to work, deconstruct and tear apart.
“There are basically no rules, and you do what you want,” Sutton said. “To us, that’s what makes it so fun. We’ve built a car right up our alley. We just try to be different.”
Sutton and Williamson have been joined at the proverbial hip for two decades now, dating back to when Williamson started working on Sutton’s family-owned Modified.
The pair began the year thinking they were going to sell the No. 151. They soon realized that was never going to happen if Sutton didn’t take it for a spin.
“People are only going to buy what they’ve seen, so I don’t have any problems racing it,” Sutton said. “It’s a fun car to drive and great in that class because it’s always competitive. The car is always fast.
“If everything keeps going good, we’ll keep bringing it back. If we happen to win the points, I’m happy to win the points. But if somebody wants to buy it, I’ll get out on the front straightaway and hand them the helmet.”
Don’t mistake Sutton’s sales pitch as a man desperate to unburden himself from racing’s vice grip. On the contrary. Sutton is passionate about the sport and will get a shot behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model later this year.
But, he also has a growing family that got a little bigger 16 months ago with the birth of Miller Sutton, Gary and Valerie Sutton’s third child following 14-year-old Darren and 9-year-old Emery. So the sport is more hobby than lifestyle.
“I’m not trying to reach NASCAR,” Sutton said. “When your kids are born, everything changes in that first year. So much happens. They grow up and you don’t wanna miss anything.
“I’ve never wanted to take time away from my family for the sake of racing. If my daughter has a dance recital and there’s a race that day, we ain’t racing.”
Perhaps it’s this carefree attitude that has brought Sutton past success at the Derby.
Maybe this humbled, nonchalant approach is truly the only way to tame the beast that is Five Flags. And, multiple times in multiple classes, at that.
“I don’t think I’m gonna win every week,” Sutton said. “The night we won there, we were really good.
But (Corbitt Moseley) is gonna get faster. (Kody Brusso), she’s gonna go faster. We know they’re gonna do their homework and try to get faster.
“Those drivers, and others like them, who spend the time to work on their cars, those are the ones that get faster every week. People that work on racecars are the people that win. It’s our job now to try to stay ahead of the curve. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we know how to put it back.”