Saturday’s starting lineup for the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco SERF, Inc. 125 at Five Flags Speedway (FL) read like a who’s who of Super Late Model standouts. When it was all said and done, defending Blizzard Series champion Casey Roderick was the driver standing in victory lane for the second time in 2016.
It was the tale of two races as Florida’s Jeff Choquette jumped out to the lead on lap 14 and opened up a four second, quarter-lap advantage, on the field throughout the course of the opening 75 laps.
With Choquette setting sail, all eyes were on the battle from second to fifth as series points leader Donnie Wilson tried to fend off Harrison Burton, Augie Grill and Casey Smith who all raced bumper-to-bumper.
“He was checking out on us.” Roderick said post-race, “I started pushing the issue a little bit without wearing out my tires too bad.”
Roderick began picking through the top cars at lap 64 moving past Grill for fourth, putting him in a good spot for the first restart of the race just 10 laps later.
With Choquette and Burton racing for the top spot on the restart, Roderick capitalized on a Burton slip up to put himself right in the wheel tracks of Choquette. That move gave him the opportunity he needed to flex his muscle as the pair entered lapped traffic.
“It looked like, going into three, he was going to take the bottom. I had already made my mind up that I was going to stay to the top. He chose the wrong lane obviously and I got on the outside of him. We went in the corner three-four-wide. We used each other up a little bit because there was no room. “
With the crowd on their feet, Roderick came away with the lead but it was all for not as a caution quickly flew, negating the pass.
After one failed attempt to complete a lap on the initial restart, Roderick was able to push past Choquette and take the lead for good out of turn two, despite Grill pushing Choquette on the high-side.
Roderick dominated from that point, opening his own sizeable advantage over the last portion of the event as Choquette slipped back to fourth.
“This is just our second (Super Late Model) race down here with team. I’ll take a fourth-place finish.” Choquette said after the race.
Choquette harbored no ill feelings towards Roderick’s daring three and four-wide move in traffic.
“He did the same thing I would’ve done,” said Choquette. “As the leader you have to clear the path for everyone. Casey and I got into each other a little bit so I apologize for that. Just good hard racing.”
Roderick took the win for the second time in 2016 by an impressive margin.
“The car was awesome tonight.” Roderick told the crowd in victory lane, “This car has always been good when we get cautions. Once we go back green it just gets better and better.”
Behind Roderick, Zane Smith, who was involved in an incident on the earlier failed restart attempt, raced a battered and bruised No. 77 car, complete with a taped together nose piece, back to an impressive second-place finish.
“That was the definition of never giving up,” stated Smith at the end of the night after his team’s effort to repair his car in the closing stages.
Crossing the finish line after Zane Smith was 14-year-old Chandler Smith, who stayed patient throughout the 125 lap event and saved just enough until the end to round out the podium.
“Starting fifteenth we just rode around a little bit and got used to the racetrack and adjusted to the line,” the young Smith said. “It just came down to conserving tires.”
Next up for the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco is a trip to Mobile International Speedway in Irvington, Alabama on Saturday, August 20.
For on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Friday's race at Five Flags, click here.
Southern Super Series - SERF, Inc. 125
Five Flags Speedway – Pensacola, FL
Friday July 22, 2016
1 7 Casey Roderick
2 77 Zane Smith
3 26S Chandler Smith
4 9C Jeff Choquette
5 5 Noah Gragson
6 11 David Rogers
7 26 Bubba Pollard
8 4 Kyle Plott
9 14 Chris Davidson
10 14L Ryan Luza
11 12 Harrison Burton
12 26E Scotty Ellis
13 54 Matt Craig
14 2W Donnie Wilson
15 11B Logan Boyett
16 43 Dennis Schoenfeld
17 112 Augie Grill
18 1 Brad Tilton
19 47 Allen Karnes
20 99N Wayne Niedecken Jr
21 99S Casey Smith
22 98 Kenzie Ruston
23 92 Ron McDonald
24 97 Cole Anderson
-51 Sports/Southern Super Series Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com