One thousand miles up the road from his hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia sits Casey Roderick’s second chance. The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be back competing at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night and— for the first time in six long years— so will Roderick.
All eyes will be on Roderick as he climbs into the No. 23 Chevrolet for GMS Racing, a seat that opened up following Spencer Gallagher’s suspension.
“I heard the news of Spencer getting suspended,” Roderick told Speed51.com. “So I called Chase Elliott and told him what I’d like to try and do. He gave me Mike Beam’s number and put in a good word for me.”
It’s a sink or swim opportunity for the Georgia native, who will have only an afternoon’s worth of practice to get comfortable before the race. Iowa’s young 7/8-mile oval is also unlike the character-filled asphalt found on half-miles Roderick has grown so accustomed to.
But several years’ worth of racing (and a lot of winning) in Super and Pro Late Models have nevertheless kept Roderick from growing stale in a sport whose drivers are often considered over the hill by their late twenties.
“It’s going to be challenging getting back into one cold turkey on Friday afternoon for practice and not being able to go test anywhere,” Roderick said. “The good thing is with my short track program that I’m on right now with Ronnie Sanders Racing, it’s not like I’ve been sitting doing nothing.”
Roderick believes that, thanks to the 60-plus Late Model races he’s run since 2017, 24 of which were dominating performances, he’ll be mentally sharp when it comes to flat-out driving. Ignoring the anxiety-inducing hype surrounding his return to one of NASCAR’s top-three tiers, well, that’s another beast.
“I was telling my guys this week that it’s getting down to the wire and I’m starting to feel a little something as far as being nervous,” Roderick said. “I just want to do a good job for these guys and give them a good run. There’s just a lot I have to put aside so I can have good focus this weekend. The biggest thing is going to be execution.”
Emotions aside, the odds are in Roderick’s favor this time around. Back in 2012, Roderick was wet behind the ears on a low-budget team. Now, Roderick’s accomplishments speak for themselves as he gets ready to wheel no-money-spared equipment.
“I’m a lot more mature, a lot smarter behind the wheel,” Roderick said. “I’ve noticed a big difference in myself in the last two years and I’m going to be in a top-tier team with a totally different budget.”
Since the news of his redemption ride hit social media, many members of the short track community have rallied around Roderick, whose re-opened door is a testament to his resoluteness.
“I think I had the faith to believe in myself, that I could do this,” Roderick said. “I believed in my talent and Lord willing, I’ve been able to do a lot these last few years. I’m very thankful for that opportunity and I owe it to the Grahams and to Ronnie for keeping me racing.”
Though this weekend has the potential to kick off a long-awaited career in NASCAR, Roderick is keeping his mind out of the clouds for the time being.
“I’m in this to further my future career and if this leads towards something else that would be great,” Roderick said. “But right now I think we’re just looking at the weekend and seeing how things go.”
-By Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com