Bubba Pollard set the standard on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway even after a mechanical failure knocked him out of the race.
The winningest Super Late Model driver of his generation was eliminated on Lap 19 of the Blizzard 125 when he slowed through Turn 1 and struck the Turn 2 outside retaining wall. What felt like another inevitable Pollard victory in Pensacola, Florida quickly became a wide-open affair.
With a series of masterful restarts, Casey Roderick out-dueled Chandler Smith and emerged as the winner when the clock struck midnight.
“We’re close to where we need to be,” Roderick said of his off-season goal to improve his Super Late Model program at Ronnie Sanders Racing. “But we’re not quite where we need to be to win on a consistent basis. I’ve had good runs and been up front, and that’s a positive, and when you do that, like tonight, the wins will come…
“I hate that thing happened to Bubba because I wanted to race him fair and square for the win, even if I think he’s better. You never want to see a competitor like him fall out due to a parts failure and now he has a tore up race car and these things cost too much money to come out here.”
For his part, Pollard doesn’t even know what happened.
The 31-year-old posted the fastest time in qualifying and redrew a starting position of third in the pill draw. He was running sixth when he hit the wall just before Lap 20.
“I don’t know,” Pollard said. “Something broke. We gotta diagnose the problem. We gotta figure it out so it doesn’t happen again.”
Roderick channeled Pollard in the decisive restart with nine laps to go, selecting the outside lane over Smith — a move made famous by the Georgian in recent years.
“On those restarts leading up to the last one, I was on the bottom and I was just losing the nose trying to keep it pinched down and risked hitting the guy to the outside.
“I felt like it was killing my momentum so we took the outside and felt like there was more grip, maybe because you’re not turning the wheel as much and you can jump on the gas quicker.”
Despite winning his first ARCA race last weekend at Madison, Smith was visibly bummed to not seal the deal on Friday night at Pensacola. He just chalked it up to Roderick having the better car.
“I figured he would make me take the bottom because I was really good when we started side-by-side and I had the top,” Smith said. “Hats off to them. They deserved the win and I just wish we could have got up there. We didn’t have the bite they did at the end of the race.”
Roderick posted just the fourth fastest time in qualifying but redrew the pole. However, he didn’t stay there long conceding the top positions to Jesse Dutilly, Stephen Nasse and Smith. Dutilly led from Lap 4 to Lap 77 but just couldn’t hold off Roderick once he decided it was time to go after a series of two-tire pit stops 10 laps prior.
The race was slowed by two strange incidents near the start.
The first occurred just before the start when they field was stopped on pit road for drivers picking up debris on their grills from the pre-race firework show. The light in Turns 3 and 4 went out during the Lap 3 caution, at which point several cars needed to be checked for firework debris again due to overheating engines.
There was also, at the same time, a medical emergency in the infield that required a 30 minute red flag until EMS services could return to the track.
With the victory, Roderick takes over both the Southern Super Series and track championship standings. He previously won the North-South SLM Showdown at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. The complete results from the Blizzard 125 can be found below.
- Casey Roderick
- Chandler Smith
- Stephen Nasse
- Tyler Ankrum
- Connor Okrzesik
- David Rogers
- Jesse Dutilly
- Garrett Jones
- Casey Smith
- Logan Boyett
- Dustin Smith
- Carter Stokes
- Corey Heim
- Scotty Ellis
- Kyle Bryant
- Joe Aramendia
- Augie Grill
- Preston Bores
- Steven Davis
- Bubba Pollard
- Kyle Plott
- Donnie Wilson