I recently sat down to talk to Speed TV’s Bob Dillner as part of my D.J. VanderLey piece and walked away with a nice bookend to my Snowball Derby coverage and his short track racing project, Speed51.com.
Many of our readers have expressed a desire to see the Snowball Derby on television in recent years and they gained a major supporter this month when Darrell Waltrip tweeted that he wanted to see the race televised live on Speed in 2012. That’s a big statement from a guy that has a lot of clout at that network.
The network has had preliminary talks with Five Flags Speedway about airing the race but very little has come out of it. The race is important enough to warrant coverage with typically five-to-seven NASCAR drivers competing with the best independent short track racers in the country. The race is held every first weekend of December.
The 2012 event will mark the 45th Anniversary of the race won by Waltrip in 1976 and was most recently won by Chase Elliott, son of 1988 Cup Series Champion Bill Elliott.
Dillner and Speed51.com has been the official news and media provider of the event since 2002 and knows exactly what it would take to get the race on television in 2012 and beyond.
“It’s going to take sponsorship money,” Dillner said. “Just like the teams who compete each race weekend, someone is going to have to step up and support the production.”
Comparisons could be drawn to the pay-per-view broadcast of the Prelude to the Dream dirt late model race at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway or the Chili Bowl sprint car event. The latter was just picked up by CBS to air in an edited format on broadcast television.
So two business models already do exist for bringing the Snowball Derby to television.
“I’ve known [Five Flags Speedway] track manager Tim Bryant for several years and it’s definitely a thought we’ve entertained,” Dillner said. “We’ve discussed pay-per-view several times and I know he’s got an open mind moving forward.”
Five Flags Speedway draws about 20,000 fans to the track each Derby weekend. Would broadcasting the race take away from the event’s live attendance?
“I’d rather not say,” Dillner said.
The Snowball Derby would be an impressive pickup for Speed, who desperately needs off-season content. Such a deal could be worth the risk for the speedway as added exposure from TV could help draw more diverse fans and drivers to the Speedway.
Gears are definitely turning on the topic and it’s just a matter of time before the concept becomes a reality.
Dillner is definitely an expert on the topic having operated Speed51.com with his brother since 2001. Former Derby winner Gary St. Amant urged the Dilners to attend in 2001 and they were so captivated that they immediately began sending stories to the site that year.
The site covers all Derby practices and preliminary races each season and also attends the venue’s four-race Blizzard Series.
Would you like to see the Snowball Derby on television? Would you be interested in paying for a pay-per-view broadcast of the event? Tell us in the comments section below.