Five Flags Speedway
Mercer Family to Act as Snowball Grand Marshal
Mercer Family to Serve as Derby Grand Marshals to Honor Father’s Legacy
By Chuck Coder
Albert Joseph Mercer, better known as “Sport,” was a real man of genius.
Hovering above Five Flags Speedway with just a safety harness and his lineman-spiked boots, Sport Mercer often tied a portable fan to the breaker boxes in hopes of beating the Florida Panhandle’s oppressive heat as he inspected the track’s utility poles.
Just like the Friday night heroes, Mercer became a fixture around the famed half-mile asphalt oval in those early days and well into the 1990s.
“He didn’t have a bucket truck like today,” 2005 Snowball Derby winner Eddie Mercer said of his father. “I’d be riding my bicycle and he’d be up on every pole. Literally keeping the lights on.”
Despite passing in 2010, Sport Mercer remains closely connected to Five Flags today through his four children—Eddie, Stevie, Wanda and Tina—and the friends he made across decades. Five Flags will honor Sport’s legacy at the 56th annual Snowball Derby presented by Hooters and Safe Locator on Dec. 3.
Eddie, Stevie, Wanda and Tina will serve as the grand marshals for the 300-lap on that Derby Sunday.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Eddie Mercer said. “I talked with my sisters and brother about it, and we’re so humbled and thrilled that they’re recognizing dad. There aren’t that many people left who had a chance to interact with dad.”
Fridays had a routine for the Mercer Family after Tom Dawson bought the track and asked Sport to be his electrician. He’d get home from work at Florida Power & Light (Gulf Power, then, of course), change clothes and head to the track with the kids.
“It was nothing to see Sport climbing up a pole on race night,” said current Five Flags general manager and promoter Tim Bryant.
Few will ever forget seeing Sport in Victory Lane on that momentous December day in 2005 after Eddie finally won the Derby after so many tries. Sport received a police escort to make it in time to celebrate with his son and family.
“Some County deps took care of that,” Eddie said of Sport being picked up at his home off Nine Mile Road. “I had no idea, but it was the right thing to do. He came out there with his walker. That whole time, I had been celebrating. When he got there, I lost it. That was my Daytona 500.”
Sport never raced. He saved that for his sons. He assisted in technical inspection at a few tracks, including Mobile International Speedway and South Alabama Speedway outside of Opp.
“He loved people and people loved him,” Eddie Mercer said. “They called him ‘Sport’ for a reason.
“It’s an honor for our family. It makes me more proud of our heritage and what dad instilled in all of us. We’re a close-knit group. He and my mom stuck it out until he left this world. A lotta families don’t do that.”
Article Credit: Chuck Corder