The Rattler 250 may have the most frightening prize in the history of short track racing — just ask defending winner Christopher Bell.
Like all the winners before him over the past decade, Bell received a trophy that contained a coiled replica of a rattlesnake after defeating Harrison Burton and Chase Elliott in the 2015 event. He also had to pose with the real deal in Victory Lane and the picture of his face during the proceedings made national headlines.
“I’m not a snake guy, but I guess I can handle that one if it means I’m here in Victory Lane,” Bell said afterwards.
The tradition dates back to the inception of the race nearly 40 years ago as a sister event to the City of Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo. Both events had snake handlers, beauty queens and of course … the snake itself.
This was expanded in 2005 when Jason Hogan won the first snake head trophy for his victory. That design has since been modified from a head in a glass case to an entire coiled up rattler. Combined with the winner having to pose with the real thing, second place might be the real winner Sunday.
“The best snake is a dead snake,” Ross Kenseth said. “Winning the Rattler is a huge accomplishment but it’s hard to balance that with the fact that you have to get in there with a rattlesnake.”
Defending Winter Showdown winner Bubba Pollard won the race back in 2012 and didn’t pose with the snake then. If he wins his second Rattler on Sunday, he’s not going to change his celebration approach this time around.
“You might see a little less hesitation coming out of Turn 4 if the snake was lined across the start-finish line,” Pollard said with a laugh. “But seriously though, I can’t stand snakes. If they want it in the picture with me, they’re going to have to stage me on one side of the car and it on the other.”
Short track veteran Kenzie Ruston will make her first start in the Super Late Model version of the event on Sunday and she isn’t sure how she would handle the post-race celebration either.
“I don’t like snakes,” Ruston said. “I’m just not a fan. So I’m not exactly excited about the idea of posing with one. I’ll deal with it because that means we won the race, but I’m not touching it. It’ll be the biggest win of my career, but I won’t touch the snake.”
Friday is the practice day for the Southern Super Series Super Late Models while qualifying and the Pro Late Model Baby Rattler is scheduled for Saturday night. The Rattler 250 itself is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. local) on Sunday afternoon.
The entire Rattler 250 race weekend will be broadcast online via Speed51.com’s 51TV pay-per-view service. Sunday only will cost $24.99 while both days run for $39.99.