RATTLER IS READY TO ROLL INTO SOUTH ALABAMA by Mike Twist
Annual Event is Historic and Tough to Win
Way down in Alabama, not too terribly far from the Florida borders sits the City of Opp. There are around 6,600 people who call the city home and every year, the Rattlesnake Rodeo brings up to 20,000 more folks to town temporarily. Opp’s biggest claim to fame might be that the company which built the first ever Corvette body, back in 1953, is here.
What all of the drivers have in common though in the fact that they can all appreciate the history and significance of the event.
“It’s definitely the biggest race at that track,” said Charlie Bradberry. “It feels really good to do well in a race where there is so much history behind it.”
“The Rattler has lots of history. I’d like to see my name along that list of winners. That would definitely be neat. [Jason] Hogan was able to get it last year. To see my name on a list like that would definitely look good on my resume.”
The high banks of South Alabama Speedway is the annual host of The Rattler.
Of course running well in previous Rattlers can contribute to a driver’s positive opinion of the race.
“The Rattler is such an awesome race,” said Jason Hogan. “I always enjoy racing there. The track is awesome and the people there are so nice. The worse I’ve finished there is second and I’ve only run the race three times. We have the best car set aside for the event. It is the car we won with there last year. The car is setup and ready to go. We are expecting the same when we get there and the car to be good when we get there right off the trailer this year. I think we have a great chance to win the second Rattler in a row.”
There are some personal reasons why certain drivers want to succeed at the Rattle as well.
Last season, Jason Hogan ended up in victory lane at The Rattler.
But for the last 30 years, there has also been something else that has put Opp on the map – in the racing world at least. Starting in 1974, what was then known as Twin City Speedway and is now called South Alabama Speedway opened its gates for the Rattler. Today, the event is one of the most historic Super Late Model races in the Southeast.
This weekend, dozens of drivers will be on hand for the 2006 version of the Rattler. Many will hope to add their name to a list of winners that includes Pete Hamilton, Billy McGinnis, Dave Mader, III, Mickey Gibbs and Mike Alexander. Others, like previous victors Ronnie Sanders, Charlie Bradberry, Johnny Brazier and Jason Hogan just want to win the race again this year.
“This race means a lot to me,” said David Hole. “The Rattler has been around for so long and it ranks right up there with the Snowball Derby when it comes to big races. I think that this is my sixth time racing there and I’ve always had good cars and bad luck. To win it would mean almost as much as if I won the Snowball Derby. My Father-in-Law [Billy McGuiness] won it in 1979 and there’s a lot of family history there. I’d love to win it for him.”
The Rattler has had different distances throughout the years. In 1974, it consisted of twin 50 lap features. Race lengths of 100 and 200 laps are also in the books. This season, the Rattler is 250 laps in length, which should provided some great racing according to one of the former winners.
“I feel that the longer races make for a better race,” said Bradberry. “It’s more about strategy and survival. A 100-lap feature is more about the guy who gets out front and holds everyone off.”
And who ends up on top after those 250 laps is anyone’s guess. The entry list includes Hogan, Bradberry, Hole, Crane, Ricky Turner, Jeff Choquette, Augie Grill, Donald Long, Bubba Pollard, Ronnie Sanders and the winner of last weekend’s Early Bird at Birmingham International Raceway, Ken McFarland.
Picking a favorite won’t be easy.
David Hole knows his Rattler history. (51 Photo)
“Oh shoot, there are a lot of guys who will be tough to beat,” said Hole. “There’s Jason Hogan and Charlie Bradberry. Ronnie Sanders will be really strong. I think that over half the field will be the cars to beat. This is a big race and it draws the best cars from everywhere.”
On Saturday, there will be a 125-lap Pro Late Model event setting the stage for Sunday’s 250 lapper. Speed51.com will be on hand all weekend to bring you the latest news from the track.