One year later, Casey Roderick wishes he could have the final laps of the 2019 All-American 400 back.
Not because he believes he could have made better choices over how to win the race, but rather, he wasn’t actually in contention and admits he should have driven accordingly.
Roderick led 66 laps in the first half of the race but had lost three laps due to a fuel pickup issue inside the final 100.
At the time of the final restart, Roderick was adamant he should have, at worst, only been one lap down due to lucky dogs and waive-arounds. As a result, he chose to mix it up with leaders Mason Mingus, Chandler Smith and Boris Jurkovic inside the final 10 laps.
Mingus was leading on older tires and was a sitting duck until Roderick started racing and passing Smith and Jurkovic, while they were trying to win the race themselves. This was problematic on two fronts: Roderick was three laps down and all three were driving Rowdy Manufacturing chassis in pursuit of Mingus in a Port City chassis under the Wauters Motorsports camp.
Mingus held on to win the race, even though he was passed on the final lap by Roderick, who succeeded in making a statement that he had the fastest car at the end of the race, but at the expense of his reputation that night.
Smith: “I guess you’re asking how frustrated I am. I’m really frustrated that a Rowdy car didn’t win because of another Rowdy car when one of them was capable of winning. Out of all people, I didn’t think Casey would do that. I would have expected it of someone else but never him. I’ve known Casey for a long time. He’s one of my good friends, or he used to be, because the fact that he just did that, I’m trying to wrap my head around what he was trying to accomplish.”
Jurkovic: “I don’t like it. There was no reason for it. It doesn’t matter who’s car it is,” Jurkovic said. “You shouldn’t race that way. I don’t feel like you should do that when guys are racing for the win.”
Roderick said that night that he was simply trying to make a statement that he should have won the race.
“I feel like after that last caution, I should have been on the lead lap,” Roderick said. “I don’t know what was going on in the scoring tower up there. We should have been on the lead lap.”
Roderick had just lost his ride with Ronnie Sanders Racing, a year and a half removed from losing another ride when Graham Trucking Racing sold its equipment. He was finishing the season with Donnie Wilson Motorsports, allowing him to close out on the Southern Super Series championship that summer.
A year later, Roderick returns to Nashville with his own car and wishing he made different choices last November. However, he’s still adamant that he was simply trying to make a point about his worth after losing two seats in two years.
“I made some (phone) calls after the race,” Roderick said on Saturday night after qualifying for the 2020 All-American. “I just explained my side of things to those who it affected. You look at how the race played out. I was fighting for my race and trying to get back on the lead lap.
“But when they threw the white flag, I should have pulled off and let the leaders race. But I didn’t and kept going. I can’t take that back now. It just came with the frustration of how that race went. I don’t have anything to prove. I should have looked at it that way at the time but I was in the moment. We all have moments where we let our frustrations get to us and that was mine.”
“I told him, ‘it’s whatever’ but let’s not have that happen again,” Smith said. “If the shoe was on the other foot, I would have never done that to Casey Roderick. I look up to him a lot. I have learned a lot from him, and from everyone in the field, I would not have expected that to come from him.”
With the 2019 incident behind him, Roderick has returned to Music City with the intent to exorcise the big race demons from his past.
“We definitely had the car to beat last year,” Roderick said. “It was just a mistake. It happens, but it always seems like it happens to me in these big races, and I’m always playing catch-up.
“Hopefully, we can keep those mistakes from happening tomorrow. We had a really good car last year and I’m quite as happy with this one this year and I think we’ll think about it overnight and I think we’ll get it even better.”
He will start seventh behind Kodie Conner, Carson Hocevar, Smith, Derek Thorn, Willie Allen and Bubba Pollard. It’s almost where he wants to be heading into 300 laps on Sunday.
“I feel really good about it,” Roderick said. “I actually made a big mistake in qualifying. I had more grip than I realized and got into the corner too easy. It allowed me to get to the throttle really quick, but it was too soon for how this track is, and I washed up in Turn 4 and had to get off the gas. So to still have qualified seventh and having to lift that big, has me feeling really good for tomorrow.”