Taking the Next Step: Pure Stock Driver Dority Readies for Greatness, Fowler Enjoying Leap to Trucks
By Chuck Corder
Sarah Dority is enjoying her view near the mountaintop.
With the Five Flags Speedway season opener rapidly approaching this Sunday afternoon, just like last March, the 26-year-old Pensacola driver has her eyes squarely affixed on big dreams for 2018.
“If it wasn’t for effort and time, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now,” Dority said. “Time. Effort. Blood, Sweat. Tears. And, most importantly, the support of this amazing racing community.”
She’s not the only one who has poured out their soul this week, making final adjustments before Sunday arrives.
Hotshoes in four classes, including the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks division that Dority competes in, will kick off the racing season at the famed half-mile asphalt oval season with Cat Country’s Fan Appreciation Day at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks (50-lap feature), Pro Trucks (50) and The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen (25) join the Pure Stocks (20). Gates open at noon Sunday. Admission is only $5 for all fans while children ages 5 and under get in free.
Dority enters her fourth year of racing, following her best season to date. The Michigan native, who moved to Pensacola 20 years ago, finished fourth in the Pure Stocks points standings last year and kept turning heads with a third-place finish in the Pure Stocks Snowball Derby last December.
“At the Derby, I wasn’t expecting a third place,” said Dority, who caught the itch while watching Winston Cup races with her father, Bob Dority, as a child. “My whole mindset was to finish the entire 50 laps with the car in one piece and bring it home. Because I had raced the Derby two times and had bad wrecks.”
She drove expertly and was greeted by a roaring grandstands once she climbed out of the car. The Five Flags faithful tend to hold their female drivers close to their hearts, and Dority felt that love when they celebrated her podium result in Victory Lane.
“I’ve made a lotta friends out at the track, but I’ve grown a lotta fans also,” she said. “If it wasn’t for fans that come out and support local track racing, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today. I’m thankful for them.”
Another driver who has felt the crowd’s adoration at Pensacola’s high banks is Brannon Fowler.
After winning his fifth career Sportsmen track championship in 2017 thanks to a dominating season, Fowler saw his bid for a third Sportsmen Derby championship flattened with two laps to go.
Running second to eventual champion Mark Barnhill, Fowler was trying to time his push for the lead when all his efforts came undone because he sustained a blowout to his right front tire.
“We certainly didn’t end the last race like we would’ve liked to,” the Molino native said. “Although, I thought we put on a pretty good show at the Derby with the circumstances dealt to us. The car was capable of winning. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder to do our absolute best this year.”
That’ll come on a different set of wheels this season. Brannon and his father Glenn are venturing into the uncharted waters of the Pro Trucks class, moving up a series to test their mettle in an always popular and hotly contested division at Five Flags.
Many things aligned for Fowler to make the jump. For one, he and his father finally found a legitimate buyer of their Sportsmen. Then, when a Pro Trucks ride became available in Mobile, the Fowlers noticed the same crate motor and chassis they raced in Sportsmen are within the Pro Trucks rules package.
“It was time to try something new,” Fowler said. “And I had always talked about trying Trucks if we ever left Sportsmen.
“We’re realists, though. We’re brand new. I hope to go out there, run respectful, be competitive and keep learning each week we come to the track. By the end of the season, hopefully we have a chance for a win, or at least a podium finish.”
Dority is tickled with the progress she’s making in the entertaining Pure Stocks class.
Dority got involved in the sport when she began working on cars with Pensacola State College classmate Madison Schneider and her father, Ron Schneider. Both Schneiders are familiar faces at Five Flags, running Late Models and Modifieds.
A few years ago out of the clear blue, Ron Schneider offered Dority a chance to drive a Pure Stocks car.
“I was hesitant at first,” she admits. “You know, on the Interstate, maybe you go a little over the speed limit. I never raced a car in my life.”
Dority, a self-admitted introvert, credits much of her success to the Pensacola racing community’s generosity.
In addition to a bevy of support from her sponsors, drivers such as Jim Pokrant, Tommy and Hunter Lambert, Wayne and Caleb Burkett among others have offered their expertise.
“Everybody at Five Flags has made me feel like family,” Dority said. “They’ll talk about how to get in the corner, outta the corner. If you met me in person, I’m really shy. But just talking about racing really opens up that bubble.”
Bob Dority has also been instrumental in his daughter’s program, as well as Waylon Wolfe, Sarah’s boyfriend. Sarah and Waylon met at Five Flags when she first began racing a few years back.
“Usually, it’s women going out (to the track) to meet guys,” Dority laughs. “With us, it’s the exact opposite.”
And, no doubt, Waylon will be leading the roars that will be echoing from the “Dority Army” come Sunday.
Their driver is ready to climb all the way to the mountain’s summit.
“It’s always about wanting to get that first win for me,” Dority said. “Every year I’ve gotten better, and I have a lot more confidence now.”