Casey Roderick is a former winner of the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway, but has always felt snakebitten by the Grasshopper Pro Late Model 125 that accompanies Rattler weekend.
On Saturday night, it was the competition feeling the Baby Rattler’s wrath, as Roderick survived late-race chaos to collect his first career win in the event.
The Lawrenceville, Georgia driver avoided multiple incidents in the final ten laps, which took out a handful of contenders and left tempers flaring along pit road. After inheriting the lead, Roderick checked out in the final ten laps to secure the victory.
“Coming into this weekend, we’ve been snakebit a lot with the Pro race here,” Roderick told Speed51. “It’s finally good to get us a win. We’ve been fast, just haven’t pulled it off. Mechanical failures and stuff like that over the last couple of years.”
Roderick led the first two laps of the race after starting on the pole, but soon faded into the field with an ill-handling race car. A pit stop for adjustments, combined with the misfortune of others, was a winning combination.
“Tonight, we missed the setup bad,” Roderick acknowledged. “We ended up coming in the pits and making an adjustment. We had nothing else to lose, we were falling back so fast. We went back out, and the dang thing was better. I started making progress and passing cars, got into position. The last few cautions, we were sitting third.”
Bubba Pollard qualified third for the Baby Rattler,but started at the rear of the field after changing a left-rear shock following time trials. Pollard charged from the rear of the field to take the lead on lap 89.
However, Pollard was under constant pressure in the closing laps from Connor Okrzesik. Okrzesik and Pollard made contact in a late-race incident on a restart, leading to both drivers spinning, but were allowed to maintain their positions for the restart with ten laps to go.
On the ensuing restart, Pollard was collected in yet another incident along with Okrzesik, ending both their nights.
“People driving over their head,” said Pollard. “I come from 24thand didn’t touch a car. Just people driving over their heads. That’s all you can say about it, really.”
Roderick was unsure how he’d stack up against Pollard and Okrzesik if not for their misfortune, but was pleased all the same to take the win.
“I don’t know how it would have played out if we were stuck behind [Okrzesik] and [Pollard],” said Roderick. “But the way my car was taking off on those restarts, it was pretty strong I felt like. Once he got going, he was tough to get, but I’m glad we pulled it off.”
Pollard left the evening particularly frustrated with Okrzesik, saying the youngster was jumping restarts throughout the latter stages of the race.
“He was jumping the start,” Pollard said. “Everybody has their own opinion. I maintained pace car speed, the leader controls the restart. Inside the box, I can fire when I want to. I didn’t slow the pace down. I maintained. He was pulling out in front of me there. They were letting him go with it. Not once, not twice, four or five times.
“They never said I was doing anything wrong,” Pollard added. “They kept telling him to give his spot back. You can only give your spot back so many times before it turns into a fiasco, and that’s what it turned into.”
Okrzesik acknowledged he jumped the first restart that earned him a warning from race control, but felt Pollard slowed the pace on later restarts.
“The first time, I jumped the restart,” Okrzesik admitted. “That is completely my fault. The last two times on those restarts, he checked up just a little bit and I just didn’t let up. I didn’t let off the gas, but I didn’t hit the gas to try to gain an advantage. He just slowed up a little bit.
“At the end of the day, it is what it is,” Okrzesik added. “Both of us paid the price for it. No matter whose fault it was, neither of us won.”
Roderick felt the restart games were an unnecessary part of Saturday’s race.
“Just dragging us down too slow,” Roderick said. “Just keep your speed up and stop playing these games. You don’t have to do that out here to get good restarts. Just slowly pick up your pace and then go at the point where you want to go.”
Race fans who missed the action in Saturday night’s Pro Late Model 125 can visit Trackside Now to view the live updates from the event.
The 43rdAnnual Rattler Weekend concludes on Saturday with the running of the Rattler 250, the season opener for the Southern Super Series. Race fans can watch live on Speed51’s pay-per-view broadcast. Click here for more information and to purchase your video ticket now.
Official Results – Grasshopper Pro Late Model 125
South Alabama Speedway – Kinston, Alabama
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-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com