Pensacola, FL — Casey Roderick entered the sixth Southern Super Series race of the season with one objective in mind: beat Bubba Pollard. One hundred and twenty-five laps later, Roderick stood in Five Flags Speedway (FL) victory lane, but still hadn’t beat the short track superstar- at least, not to his standards.
Roderick, in what seemed like one fell swoop, passed Stephen Nasse, Chandler Smith and then leader Jesse Dutilly following a late-race restart. From there, Roderick cruised at the front of the field as the rest of the cars jumbled around in his rearview mirror until the checkered flag dropped.
Missing from that rearview mirror, though, was a black and yellow No. 26 machine. Pollard had been sidelined earlier in the race when something broke, sending him into the outside turn two wall.
To Roderick, Pollard’s designation of “DNF” effectively turned his first-place prize into a participation trophy.
“Unfortunately, Bubba fell out,” Roderick said. “I was wanting to race him for the win. He was by far, I think, the best car tonight and has been for a while. We’re all chasing him, but sometimes you’ve got to take a win the way you get it.”
Roderick’s not wrong. Pollard, along with qualifying fastest earlier in the evening, nearly swept a trio of Super Late Model races two weekends ago. And there’s no sign that the veteran is hanging up his suit anytime soon.
For now, Pollard’s string of success will continue to incentivize Roderick and the rest of the Ronnie Sanders crew.
“We’re working hard to try and get to that level of [Bubba Pollard's] speed,” Roderick said. “I’m just glad we pulled off a win tonight. We’re going to keep pushing and be here for Blizzard Series race number three
Pollard or no Pollard, Chandler Smith was satisfied with his second-place finish. Though the young gun just captured his first ARCA Racing Series win on a paved half-mile oval, switching gears back to the Southern Super Series at Five Flags felt a little foreign.
“I haven’t been in a Super Late Model in what feels like forever,” Smith said.
Smith’s time away from his Super Late Model seat didn’t show, however, as the 16-year-old battled up front for the better part of the 125-lap event.
Third-place finisher Stephen Nasse was one of the ones that battled up front with Smith. Nasse felt he might have had something for Roderick, had Smith not made a mistake on the restart.
“Roderick had pulled about a straightaway on us, but we were still running about the same lap time, so when that last caution came out I was pretty happy,” Nasse said. “Then on that restart, Chandler, he’s still learning a little bit with those starts and spun his tires. It got us off to a little bit of a slow start.”
Tyler Ankrum and Connor Okrzesik rounded out the top five for the evening. Jesse Dutilly, who led a large portion of the race after starting second, fell back to seventh behind David Rogers.