Thursday marks the official start to race weekend for the Southern Super Series and the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway.
By lunchtime, nearly a dozen cars had already arrived at the historic short track, spearheaded by Kyle Busch Motorsports, Jeff Burton Autosport and Carswell Motorsports. One driver whom is unlikely to appear until the last possible second on Friday is Augie Grill, the two-time Snowball Derby champion who is notorious for arriving late to many of the events he competes in.
Grill isn’t a procrastinator as much as a tireless worker who takes care of his customers at Great American Race Cars prior to working on his own equipment. Between that and a pregnant wife, Grill doesn’t expect to do much racing this year but hopes to kick off 2016 with a victory on Sunday in the Rattler.
“I’m pretty excited to be honest with you,” Grill said. “We went and tested a few weeks ago and felt like we had a really good car. We also feel like we have some things in our back pockets that we can do to it before we get back and hopefully we’ll have a good shot at it.”
Grill doesn’t expect to run the full 13-race schedule in 2016 but says a fast start in the first two races at Opp and Nashville could change that.
“Probably not,” Grill said about chasing the Southern Super Series championship. “We sold the Super that we’ve run the past few years once the Snowball ended and hadn’t gotten around to replacing it yet.
“We’ve got it partially done but we’ll see how this weekend goes. We’re running a customer car and if it goes well, we might do the next race. So until the Rattler is over, I can’t really answer that.”
Casey Roderick Unlike to Compete
Despite filing an entry, it appears unlikely that 2014 Rattler 250 winner Casey Roderick will not be driving a Super Late Model this weekend at South Alabama Speedway.
His Graham Motorsports No. 7 team has battled for the Southern Super Series championship over the past two seasons but will seemingly scale back to competing at Five Flags Speedway for the Blizzard Series championship.
In addition to racing at Pensacola, Roderick has also linked-up with veteran driver and car owner Ronnie Sanders to drive his legendary No. 18 Pro Late Model in select Deep South events.
“At this point, no full-season for us,” Roderick said last weekend at Montgomery Motor Speedway. “We’re planning to run all the Pensacola races and try to compete for the Blizzard championship and that’s all I know at this point.
“I think if we could find some help, we’d like to run some more. But for now, it’s about doing the most we can with what we’ve got. We’re going to skip the Rattler and the Nashville race for now. I think our first race will be Pensacola.”
LFR Development Group Stacks the Deck for South Alabama
The LFR Driver Development Group is ready for its next big race of the 2016 season with drivers Quin Houff, Christian Eckes and Kaz Grala behind the wheel for the Rattler 250.
“It’s really cool to bring these young drivers to these big races for their first time,” said team owner Rob Fuller. “Watching them progress throughout the weekend and shine during the race really is something neat to watch and be a part of.
“With having the last weekend off, the guys at the shop had some extra time to get on the pull down rig and really focus on the minor details, so hopefully we can put it all together and have another strong run as a group.”
Quin Houff, the 18-year-old short track driver from Weyers Cave, Va., is looking forward to his first Rattler 250. Houff most recently competed in the World of Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway with the LFR Driver Development Group, where he had a strong run until motor issues cost him the win during the final event.
“I’m excited to be making my first Rattler 250 start,” Houff said. “The team was really strong during Speedweeks and we had a great shot at the win before the motor issue, so I’m ready to get another shot at South Alabama Speedway. I’ve never been to the track before, so my plan is to keep an open mind and listen to what Jeff (Fultz) and Rob (Fuller) say about it. Once I get a couple laps under my belt I think I’ll have a pretty good idea on how to race it.”
Eckes has been busy preparing for the upcoming Super Late Model race by competing at both New Smyrna Speedway and Dillon Motor Speedway with the group. While he knows his first Rattler 250 could be a tough race, he is ready for the challenge.
“I’ve never ran at South Alabama Speedway or in the Rattler before, so this race might be a bit of a challenge,” Eckes said. “I’m doing all I can to prepare by watching past Rattler races and track-testing videos. That normally really helps me get an understanding of the track even before I get there and allows me to start figuring out how the race may play out in the long run.”
Grala previously made his debut start with the race team at Greenville Pickens Speedway back in February and looks forward to reuniting with the group at South Alabama Speedway.
“I think our first race together went really smoothly,” Grala said. “We unloaded good, got better throughout the weekend, and were running Top-5 before someone else’s mess got us. I’m looking forward to getting back with the team this weekend – everyone was great to work with.
“Jeff Fultz seems to have won everywhere, so I’ll definitely be relying on him to learn as much as I can about the track right from the start. A win would be great this weekend, but as long as we get better throughout the weekend and know we gave the race our best shot, I’d be happy with the result.”
Barry Cantrell contributed to this report