A chord was struck in victory lane with the winner of the North/South Super Late Model Challenge. Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco driver Casey Roderick celebrated a passionate win Saturday evening as he strummed the infamous guitar trophy at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN).
“This is an emotional win for me,” Roderick said to a crowd of cheers. “I’ve been wanting to win at Nashville for a long time; this victory was very important.”
While this is Roderick’s first victory of 2017 in a Super Late Model, his combined season winnings rise to a total of five in four different states. Roderick couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as he shared his new stats.
“That’s five for the season, man,” Roderick said. “That’s incredible. We’ve only run six or seven races.”
His strategy for the race, which matched up the best racers from the Southern Super Series and ARCA/CRA Super Series, was simple: conservation. Roderick started towards the front in the eighth position and kept himself in prime territory for a late-race caution that damaged several strong frontrunners ahead of him.
“I was just trying to be patient there to start with, keeping the tires on the car and having a race for the end like we did,” Roderick said. “The No. 51 [Cole Rouse] was very strong and I’m glad we were able to hold him off like we did.”
Roderick chose to forego the final practice offered before qualifying, observing his competitors from the fence-line along the track.
“From the time we unloaded I knew we had a really good car,” Roderick said. “We had old tires to practice with and with the car driving as well as it did, I knew we were going to have a good race. You always have to play it out. There’s all kinds of things that can go on during the race.”
Restarts between Roderick and Rouse were the focal point of the 100-lapper after the halfway point. Rouse was unable to keep up with the red No. 7 machine and Roderick was able to drive home the win with little threat trailing behind him.
Acknowledging his success, Roderick leaves Tennessee with a humble perspective.
“We’ve got to keep it going,” Roderick said. “We work hard and we have to keep working harder. There’s other tracks we’ve got some work to do at and hopefully throughout the season we can make it happen. Let’s go get some more.”
Second-place finisher Augie Grill kept himself poised as well for a favorable finish, hovering in the top five for the majority of the race.
“We had a good car, just not a good restart car,” Grill admitted. “It took my car four to five laps to really get going and we gave up a spot or two almost every time. It’s hard to make that up and get back to where you need to be.”
In the end, Grill’s battle was with Rouse who fell back from the leader. Grill made multiple attempts to pass the Kyle Busch Motorsports machine before succeeding, but Roderick has created too large of a gap for Grill to fill in the remaining laps.
“We kept our nose clean enough and were there at the end but just came up about ten feet short,” Grill said. “Casey ran a smart race, but I feel we had a little better car. He’s in victory lane though, and I’m here getting ready to pull through tech.”
Though victory lane was a first for Roderick, another driver in the field, Kyle Plott, had never seen Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville before the start of the weekend. Not knowing what to anticipate initially, Plott was pleased with the outcome of third place.
“It was our first time here and we were starting about 14th, so we didn’t really know what to expect,” Plott said. “The whole team came together and did a good job. We found the problem we were having in practice and fixed it before the race. To come home with a top-three finish for the first time here is a pretty big accomplishment.”
Cole Rouse underwent a series of unfortunate events despite being a consistent factor in the race. The 19-year old managed a 19th-place finish after leading a handful of laps. Rouse felt that a spin caused by oil on the track was the beginning of the end.
“It flat-spotted the tires and broke a trailing arm bracket at the end that we couldn’t do anything about,” Rouse said. “I tried to keep it in second but it was all over the place so I couldn’t really keep up with the No. 7.”
Rouse believes his bad luck is specific to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, recalling a similar incident where his domination was cut short.
“If that didn’t break, I feel like we still could’ve won,” Rouse said. “We would have been better if we didn’t go through the oil. It really sucks. I wish we could have won. We should have won the All American 400 here about two years ago but something broke there too. Hopefully our luck will change.”
The next stop for the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco will be Five Flags Speedway (FL), home of the Snowball Derby, on April 28. The series will then head to nearby Mobile International Speedway (AL) the next day for the season’s only Gulf Coast doubleheader weekend.
Race fans can watch an on-demand replay of Saturday’s race on Speed51.com.
-By Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Deep South Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
North/South SLM Challenge 100 Unofficial Results
Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) – April 8, 2017
|20||20||Jack Dossey III|
|25||30||Bobby Knox Jr.|
|31||7||Wes Griffith Jr.|
|34||114||Sterling Marlin (DNS)|