Five Flags Speedway
Sportsmen Champ Maddox Langham Looks At One More Challenge Thursday.
Young Langham Has Eyes on Derby Prize After Winning the Sportsmen Track Title
By Chuck Corder
At 17, Maddox Langham already knows he has some big shoes to fill.
Welcome to the blessed reality of a high school junior who’s proud to call his brother and father Snowball Derby champions.
“They push me to be the best I can,” Maddox says of his racing family who live in Irvington, Ala. “I’d never be where I’m at today if they didn’t set the example for me. Everything they do to push me is outta love to get to the top.”
Maddox hopes to etch his name into Five Flags Speedway lore alongside dad, Howard, and big brother, Jonathan, at the 56th annual Snowball Derby presented by Hooters on Nov. 30. That night marks the first full night of racing at this year’s Derby.
Maddox and The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen will battle for 50 laps to determine their champion. Joining them that last Thursday of November will be the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks (35 laps) and the Zoom Equipment Pro Trucks (50). Qualifying begins at 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 30 with racing slated for 8.
It all leads up to the 300-lap Snowball Derby on Dec. 3 when the top Super Late Model drivers in short-track racing compete for the Tom Dawson Trophy and the sport’s most coveted crown jewel. For admission and a schedule of events, visit 5flagsspeedway.com or call the track office at 850.944.8400.
Maddox is one of the clear favorites going into the Sportsmen edition of the Derby this year. A pair of wins and a host of other podium and top-five finishes in 2023 catapulted the Theodore (Ala.) High School student-athlete to his first career track championship at Five Flags.
“It means a whole lot to win a championship in Pensacola,” Maddox said. “I’ve loved Five Flags since I was little, and my dad was racing over there. I’d be down in the pits, and I always loved growing up in that environment.
“Going from a spectator’s point of view to a driver’s point of view, there is so much more on your shoulders. But it never bothers me. I just keep my head down and stay in my own lane.”
Staying laser focused is how Maddox stays on top of his responsibilities. Between a full class schedule and working on the car, he has learned how to manage his time wisely.
Thankfully, his examples are the 2005 Sportsmen Derby winner in Howard and the defending Sportsmen Derby king in Jonathan.
“We don’t work on racecars every day,” Maddox said. “We’re a very relaxed family. When race week arrives, we bust our butts. We do what we need to do to become better.
And it shows in his results. Maddox, in his third season competing in Sportsmen, has made massive leaps since his first year.
“I’ll say it plain and simple: My rookie season, I stunk over there,” he said. “But I had great mentors to learn from in my brother and dad. That helped a lot.”
With Howard and Jonathan helping guide his path, Maddox started his racing career with go-karts at age 5. He quickly advanced to the Bandoleros class, winning his first INEX race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“That was really cool,” Maddox said. “I had never set foot on that track. It was the Legends oval, but it was still awesome. And just to be able to say I won at a NASCAR track is an accomplishment.”
He’s hoping for another major feat come Nov. 30.
Maddox has dreamt about winning a Derby most of his life. It can almost feel like a formality thanks to his family’s decorated history.
Once Maddox straps in on Nov. 30, though, that’s when the dreaming stops. He’ll focus on the task at hand, knowing nothing comes easy, especially a dance with destiny.
“All you can do is think of it as a regular race,” Maddox said. “You can’t go into it thinking you’re going to win. I feel like there’s no self-drive in that. Something in the back of your head has to push you. I hope I can win the Derby. I feel like I can win the Derby. It’d be great to pull it off and join the ranks of my dad and brother.”
Article Credit: Chuck Corder