Casey Roderick took the long way around Jeff Choquette on the final lap to claim the win in Saturday night’s Pro Late Model special at South Alabama Speedway.
Coming to the white flag, Roderick mounted a challenge on the outside of Choquette and the two ran door-to-door for the entire final lap. Entering turn four, Choquette attempted to force Roderick high out of the racing groove, but was unable to break Roderick’s momentum.
Off the final corner, Roderick got just enough grip to launch his bumper ahead of Choquette to grab the win by .027 seconds. The win was so close that neither driver knew who won until the official word came from scorers.
Choquette said he has never been in a closer finish is his racing career.
“It was the closest finish I have ever been in,” Choquette claimed “I was looking over at him, and thought that if he was ahead of me I would see his car a little bit more. I am glad we have a thing called transponders to help with finishes like that.”
Roderick and Choquette waged an intense battle over the last six laps that included multiple crossovers moves, door banging and slide jobs.
Korey Ruble followed the pair across the line, and had what was probably the best seat in the house for the furious final laps.
“I saw good, hard short-track racing,” said Ruble. “It was pretty interesting to watch them go back and forth and put on a show. I was just trying to stay as close as I could, in case they both had trouble.”
The race at South Alabama marked Roderick’s eighth Late Model win of 2017, and the second in a row in which he started on the back row. Just last week at Montgomery, Roderick started 21st and ended his night in victory lane after making the last-minute decision to leave Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville after a rainout. On Saturday, Roderick broke a drive shaft in time trials. His crew borrowed one from Choquette’s team, made the repairs and started on the tail of the short field.
While the results have been good, Roderick isn’t sold on this new “Start on the rear, finish in the front” strategy.
“It seems like every time we have an issue and I have to start last, things work out,” said Roderick. “I don’t know if it gets my adrenaline going or what, but I am bound and determined to make things happen. We have done it two races in a row, but I wouldn’t want to have to do it every week.”
The race was originally advertised as a 100-lap event, but was shortened to a 50-lap sprint due to low car counts. Only seven cars took the green flag, and Roderick feels that number of cars is unacceptable in the future and issued a challenge to other drivers and teams.
“This crowd tonight is one of the best crowds we have been in front of all year,” Roderick said. “John (Dykes, track owner) does a great job and it is a shame we don’t have as many cars here as we do other places. This place always puts on a great race and the fans always come out to support it. It is a shame we can’t get more people to race for him. That needs to change.”
Race fans will be able to watch highlights of the photo finish early this week on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by Ryan McCollough, Speed51.com Deep South Correspondent – Twitter: @RyanLMcCollough
-Photo credit: Speed51 Network
Pro Late Model 50 Official Results
South Alabama Speedway – June 3, 2017