One caution period turned the Baby Rattler on its ear.
Both Jeff Choquette and Casey Roderick – who at the time ran first and second – suffered mechanical issues running under the yellow flag, and were forced to head to pit road.
“We have just been so close so many times,” South said. “It’s about time we finally get to take the trophy home.”
While working a caution on lap 76, Roderick was the first of the lead duo to have trouble, as his machine slowed to a stop at the exit of turn four with an issue.
What was initially thought to be an electrical issue turned out to be a rare fuel pickup problem.
“It lost the vacuum in the fuel cell somehow,” Roderick said. “While you are racing at full speed, the fuel slings to the right side of the car and creates a solid flow through the line. Under caution, the fuel comes back to the left and I guess air somehow got in the line. We just didn’t have enough in the tank to get it back to the carburetor.”
Choquette’s problems occurred just seconds later in almost the identical part of the track.
A puzzled Choquette still isn’t sure what gremlin ended his night early.
“We are thinking it’s electricial,” Choquette said. “Some of the stuff works, and some doesn’t. As soon as Casey dropped down with his problem, I sped up to go by him and the car had some type of miss in it. I cycled the box and it didn’t help. We just haven’t figured out the problem is.”
Neither Choquette or Roderick had ever been a part of a race where two leaders had issues under one caution, but South said he has experienced one first hand.
“I was at Montgomery a few years ago, and we blew the motor while leading,” said South. “Under that caution, the second and third place cars had trouble, the guy in fourth wound up winning. I’m glad it went my way this time.”
The weight off South’s shoulders was almost a visible relief. After struggling through 2016, he was finally able to smile again and celebrate a race win.
South has seen his fair share of late race problems that have cost him chances at winning before, including the Baby Rattler just one year ago,
“I feel like we had the best car at SpeedFest earlier this year,” South said. “We broke while leading out at Missouri, had something on the right front broke at Montgomery last year and this race last year I feel was taken away from us,” said South. “So, I certainly don’t feel bad for them (Choquette and Roderick) because those are two good cars that have won a lot of races. It was finally our night.”
Stephen Nasse followed South across the line in second, after briefly working to South’s inside on the restart following the eventful caution period.
Nasse, who won the Baby Rattler in 2016 as the beneficiary of Pollard and South’s contact, wasn’t able to complete the pass on the bottom and could do nothing but watch the leader drive away in the latter half of the race.
“We were fourth when the nine and the 18 had their issues, and we moved up to P2,” said Nasse. “I thought we had something for South, but apparently, we didn’t have anything left in the bag. Obviously, he saved his stuff a little bit better than I did.”
South said he wasn’t a fan of live snakes, but will be more than happy to take the stuffed serpent trophy back to Cropwell, Alabama. Prior to getting his trophy, South had to put his fear of snakes aside.
“That slimy snake was certainly creepy,” said South. “However, it that’s what it takes to win more races, I will let them put it on my face.”
Race fans can find on-demand updates from Saturday’s Rattler action by visiting 51’s Trackside Now presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies.
-By Ryan McCollough, Deep South Correspondent – Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman
Baby Rattler 125 Unofficial Results
|11||81S||Derek Scott Jr|
|13||12||Joe Graf Jr|
|17||30||Bobby Knox Jr|
|19||1||Roger Adkins Jr|
|24||5k||Daniel Keene Jr|