New Smyrna Speedway rang in the new year Saturday night with the Zack Donatti Memorial 125. Casey Roderick became the third driver to win the young, $5,000-to-win Pro Late Model race, but the first to be greeted by an infuriated mob of crew members in victory lane.
Leader Carter Stokes battled vigorously with Roderick as the two drivers approached slow traffic down the backstretch on the final lap. The two drivers made contact before Roderick crossed the finish line as the winner.
Roderick explained his struggle as the time to pick up a final position slipped away.
“I didn’t have enough bite off the corner,” Roderick said. “It’s tough to pass here because the outside groove can hold you down. They keep the momentum, the bottom groove doesn’t.”
Stokes appeared to check up as he traveled into turn three. Roderick made contact with Stokes’ rear bumper out of turn four as a result. Stokes spun, barely avoiding contact from the field behind him while Roderick crossed under the checkered flag first.
Car owner Ronnie Sanders was at Roderick’s window as he parked his machine to celebrate his win, but crew members from the Stokes team quickly crowded the area, delaying Roderick’s climb out.
When Roderick was finally able to emerge from the car, tempers flared and he was pummeled to the ground by several men, one pinning his face down to the asphalt as others kicked him.
Officials were able to separate Roderick from the chaos, who then offered a humbling account of the on-track incident.
“The last lap was wrong for me to do,” Roderick said. “[Stokes] had several car lengths on me, but he checked up big time coming into turn three because of a lapped car. I dove it in hard and misjudged it. It was totally my fault, and I apologize for that.”
When asked about the behavior of his competitor’s team, Roderick’s response was straightforward.
“They have a right to be mad, I would be,” Roderick said. “He had the best car at the end of the race. I just know [the incident] is something that won’t happen again. I can guarantee you that.”
Carter Stokes was unavailable for comment after the race.
Roderick doesn’t know if the World Series is in the cards yet, but he has some plans in place that he hopes will allow him to compete during the nine nights of racing in February.
Spencer Davis settled for second place, a step back from his victory in 2015. Davis took over the lead from Roderick on lap 89 and went on to lead 66 circuits before Stokes was able to make the pass. Davis’ battle became with Anthony Sergi as he tried to maintain a podium, but was awarded a position higher as he watched a wreck unfold before him.
“It was a wild ride after that string of restarts,” Davis said. “First race of the year, so everyone is antsy, wrecks are going to happen. We just didn’t end up having the car to win, we had a car good enough for third.”
Davis offered his point of view on the twist of events.
“At the end of the day, Casey and [Stokes] were racing for the same spot of asphalt and a lapped car got in the way,” Davis said. “There’s several ways it could have played out, but Casey did what he had to do to win and the other kid tried to hold him off for the same reason.”
Davis felt as though the lapped car was the ultimate cause for the incident, one that could have been avoided if the leaders had a clear path to race.
“If the lapped car wasn’t in the way, you wouldn’t have seen a wreck,” Davis said. “To me though, all bets are off on the last lap. The 33 got wrecked, that’s what happens; it’s racing.”
The World Series is also up in the air for Davis, who is working on sponsorship for the prestigious event.
Anthony Sergi ended up in third after battling in the top 10 for the majority of the race. He, similar to Roderick, struggled through the turns.
“Casey got up to Carter and I was trying to get around Spencer,” Sergi said. “I just couldn’t get off the corners like I wanted to get around him. All in all, though, it was a good night.”
Sergi packed up after the race to head over to Auburndale Speedway (FL) for the Sunshine Challenge Series season opener.
As for racing in February at New Smyrna Speedway, school is the only obstacle standing in the way.
“I might be able to run,” Sergi said. “We’ll see how my college schedule is. I’ll talk to my professors and get a better idea on dates.”
Mason Diaz and Brad May rounded out the top five Saturday night.
For a full on-demand recap of the Zack Donatti Memorial and Red Eye 100, visit Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage.
Speed51.com will have more from the Red Eye 100 in the coming days.
-By Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Zack Donatti Memorial Unofficial Results
|8||112||Daniel Keene Jr.|
|22||33||Carter Stokes (DQ)|