While Donnie Wilson has already claimed the 2016 Southern Super Series championship, the championship battle for the 2016 Five Flags Speedway Blizzard Series is still as close as it can possibly get coming into the final race on September 24. Casey Roderick has won two out of three races on the four-race Blizzard Series, but a single 13th place finish in the second race has put him in a tie with a consistent Zane Smith for the points lead.
At Five Flags this season, Smith has finishes of third, sixth, and a runner-up to Roderick last time out on July 22nd. Since making his Five Flags debut in September 2015, Smith has been a threat to win every time, including last year’s Snowball Derby, where finished runner-up as well. This season the only thing left is to get by Roderick.
“He’s been quick. We need to figure out how to be there at the end more. I’ve done everything I can. I’ve tried in these races to save as much as we can, but it’s never fallen my way,” explained Smith. “I’ve ran hard, I’ve tried running restarts hard. I’ve even stayed right behind Casey but again things just don’t fall our way. Everything has to play out a hundred percent to your favor and with our luck this year it hasn’t played out that way.”
Complicating matters for Smith next week will be running double-duty in the ARCA Racing Series at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, September 23. Though it is a bold schedule, Smith believes that with a solid car, he will only need to keep himself in tip-top condition for Saturday.
“It’s going to be a busy week for me with the ARCA deal at the same time. I fly down to Kentucky Monday and then I practice Tuesday then I fly Wednesday to Pensacola and test the Super Late Model. Thursday back to Kentucky, Friday we race in ARCA then Saturday morning I fly to Pensacola. It’s going to be weird going from the ARCA car to the Super, but it should be fun.”
On the other side of the championship picture, Roderick has nothing but Five Flags on the mind and being able to take home the Blizzard championship.
“I feel like we got a pretty good car down there at Pensacola. We’ve kind of stumbled across a few things at the Derby and we’ve carried that into this year’s races. We’ve been focused on that place as far as the Super Late Model goes,” said Roderick confidently. “I feel like we got a good package, but we’d like it to be a little better, make sure we’ve got a little comfort room there for the end of the race. I feel like some guys are a little better on the short run, but once we get some laps on our tires our setup does really well on the long run. You got to be there at the end of the race.”
While he knows the points picture and that Smith is a very real threat, Roderick is committed to keeping the focus on himself, his team, and his car all the way through.
“I’m just going to treat it like a normal race. You get all the different emotions mixed up into what you’re focused on and it tends to take away from your effort at the racetrack. We’re just going to go in and stay with ourselves and not worry about anybody else and just try to get the car where it needs to be to win the race. If we can’t win the race then hopefully we can get a good finish out of it, but ultimately we’re going to go for the win.”
One thing that Roderick is keeping his sights set on is the fast approaching 49th Annual Snowball Derby on December 4. He hopes that this upcoming event and the whole Blizzard Series will give him the notebook he needs to take home his first Tom Dawson trophy.
“That’s why we race there all year, to get ready for the Derby. I really feel like this year is going to be a good Derby weekend for us if everything goes the way it has been going all year really. I felt like we’re going to have a real good Derby run this past year and we got collected on pit road and it put us out of the race. That’s why you race the races, you never know how things are going to play out. Really looking forward to this up and coming one, and we got some exciting things happening.”
Smith has also come down with Derby fever early this season, especially with the love affair he has fallen into with Five Flags.
“Definitely confident, especially after last year. Checking up for the smoke cost us the win last year. We have another shot at it, our consistency down there is just unreal. I’m in love with Pensacola, just the practice laps are fun to me. That track, I don’t know why, fits me perfectly. I think our worst finish down there is fifth or sixth from that final restart early this year. Again, everything’s got to go your way.”
-Southern Super Series Press Release.
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com