If there was any bad blood between two of the South’s hottest Late Model drivers, it eliminated itself Friday at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
Casey Roderick and Augie Grill enthralled Friday night’s crowd with clean door-to-door battles in the 100-lap Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series feature.
The pair held a captivated audience at the edge of their seats, playing musical chairs with slow traffic in tight quarters until one machine – that infamous No. 18 driven by Roderick – prevailed.
“Honestly, I’ve always raced him like that,” Roderick told Speed51.com in victory lane after a well-deserved celebration. “[Grill] and I have gotten into each other before, but it’s good hard racing.”
At the back of Roderick’s mind was the late-May incident at Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL) where his victory was greeted with overwhelming derision.
The 25 year-old was battling side-by-side with Grill in the closing laps when contact was made, sending the No. 112 into the outside wall which parked the disfigured machine for the night.
After multiple reviews of the replay, officials decided against penalizing Roderick. Roderick was able to later take home the win, but the resulting drama left a bad taste in his mouth.
“As far as what happened between us at Montgomery, it was nothing intentional on my part,” Roderick said. “I had the inside lane going in to turn one and we touched a little bit. Unfortunately, he had a cut left rear tire. If it wasn’t for that, he wouldn’t have spun out and it wouldn’t have been a big deal.”
Roderick conceded that he understood Grill’s frustration at the time, noting he’s been there in similar circumstances himself. Roderick made clear once and for all that no ill-feelings existed on his end.
“I’ve always respected him,” Roderick said. “I still do. [Grill and I] are about the only competitive cars up front right now. There are no hard feelings on my part, no bad blood, and hopefully, he feels the same.”
At the conclusion of the race, Roderick backed up his words by offering a hearty handshake to Grill as the two chatted peacefully.
Grill opened up to Speed51.com for the first time regarding the wreck, laying out what he felt were necessary boundaries for the timeless saying, “rubbin’ is racing”.
“I got the short end of the stick a while back there at Montgomery,” Grill said. “I like racing hard and I like rubbing and racing, but when one of us winds up wrecked, that ain’t how you do it. I told him I didn’t want his car touching mine for the rest of the year and that’s how we’ll do it.”
Aside from falling just short of a win, Grill was ultimately satisfied with the outcome of the race.
“It’s fun racing when you ride side-by-side with somebody and don’t get run into,” Grill said. “I think we went back and forth on the lead four or five times. It’s good to be able to do that.”
Connor Okrzesik contributed his podium finish to luck, both good and bad. Despite running in third towards the end, the young gun frankly admitted that no amount of either would have landed him in the winner’s circle.
“We started off with a bad lineup spot because the car was really tight in qualifying,” Okrzesik told Speed51. “We wound up third because of a couple lucky cautions on our side. Regardless, we had nothing for first and second.”
Okrzesik said aloud what everyone else was thinking:
“[Roderick and Grill] were just in a different zip code.”
An on-demand replay of Friday night’s race at Five Flags can be viewed now on Speed51.com.
-By Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Deep South Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
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