Clenching the Blizzard Series Championship could be described as bittersweet for Casey Roderick, who was plagued with issues coming into a high-pressure weekend in northwest Florida.
Roderick had the chance to make history books by sweeping both the Blizzard Series and the Allen Turner Pro Late Model series championships in one night, just 28 points behind Bubba Pollard coming into the Blizzard Series race and 32 points ahead of Chris Davidson in PLMs.
Roderick said they didn’t have the race they wanted Saturday night at Five Flags.
“I struggled throughout the whole time, the whole race,” Roderick said. He said his goal was to get the team in position to win the championship, which they successfully did. “That’s three now, first with Ronnie,” he said. “Happy to get that for him.”
The Blizzard Series 150 is the last race in Pensacola before the Snowball Derby, and Roderick is cautiously optimistic, especially since his championship awarded him an automatic entry into the Super Bowl of Short Track Racing.
“After tonight, I’m not feeling good but we will go back home and work on it and maybe come down here and test, go back and get better,” said the champion.
The race began as the Kyle Busch Motorsports show, with Noah Gragson leading dozens of laps before Raphael Lessard assumed the helm.
The “big one” happened around lap 70 when a half dozen cars including Wilson, Nasse, Thorn and others were collected in turn one bringing out the red flag.
Nasse was able to get back on track, working his way up to finish sixth.
Disaster struck for Lessard, who blew an engine before lap 75.
Roderick clawed his way through the field to finish seventh.
Bubba Pollard took the first place trophy, besting Chandler Smith and Harrison Burton, who both fought to catch the 26 in the last laps.
Pollard said he is also looking ahead to the Snowball Derby, the one major trophy Pollard doesn’t have at a track he performs so well at.
“You can never tell, you just have to treat it like another race,” Pollard said. “You can be fast as you want to all during summer but come December, it doesn’t matter, you’ve gotta be good.” Pollard said from tires to weather, a myriad of factors are in play in the prestigious December race, and he’s not going to rest on his Five Flags laurels. “Everything involved, you have to be on it.”
Chandler Smith made a dramatic lunge for first place late in the race with less than 10 laps to go, closing the gap between his 26 and the 26 of Bubba Pollard by half a second. Ultimately, there just weren’t enough laps, or Pollard was too fast to catch up to.
“I was a little frustrated there toward the end,” Smith told Short Track Scene. He commended his team for the brand new race car he wheeled Saturday, saying it was a great piece. “We worked our butts off today and yesterday, and we have made a lot of gains this year.” Smith said he’s feeling good for the Snowball Derby and ready to race the best late model drivers again on the Pensacola asphalt.
Another aggressive effort came from Harrison Burton, who charged his way through the field to secure fourth place. Burton and Pollard had a tense battle, racing side-by-side mid-race before Pollard cleared Burton.
“I come everywhere I go to win,” Burton said. “I tried as hard as I could, we were just a little too loose around the long run.”
He said he’s ready to get back in the shop and put a little more work in. “We’ll come back and wax them,” he said.
Burton is excited about the Snowball Derby, a race he’s been attending for years.
“I’m ready to go and try and get a win, that would be a lifelong dream come true. I want to win one really bad.”
It’s shaping up to be an extremely competitive Snowball Derby…
Here are the results from the last Blizzard Series race this year.
- Bubba Pollard
- Chandler Smith
- Harrison Burton
- Jesse Dutilly
- Garrett Jones
- Stephen Nasse
- Casey Roderick
- Noah Gragson
- Boris Jurkobiv
- Connor Okrezisk
- Lucas Jones
- David Rogers
- Kyle Plott
- Brandon Herbert
- Carter Stokes
- Carson Hocevar
- Corey Heim
- Brandon Lynn
- Allen Karnes
- Jeff Choquette
- Kyle Bryant
- Bobby Knox Jr.
- Derek Thorn
- Augie Grill
- Raphael Lessard
- Donnie Wilson
- Jerry Artuso
- Chris Davidson
- Jordan McCallum
- John DeAngelis
- Casey Smith
- Logan Boyett