KINSTON, AL - Casey Roderick was in the right position at the right time Saturday night in the 38th Annual Hardee's Rattler 250, the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco season opener at South Alabama Speedway in Kinston, AL. When so many others could not capitalize on a victory while being in or near the lead, Roderick sped away in the closing laps for his first career Southern Super Series victory.
Bubba Pollard was the early leader when he was involved in an incident with second-place Ross Kenseth, knocking both out of contention. Augie Grill inherited the lead, but was pushed up and off the track in a run-in with Daniel Hemric. Hemric then took over, but lost the lead when his engine expired.
That put the lead in the hands of Roderick, who despite the challenges of Hunter Robbins and Bowen in the final stages of the race, would not let it go.
"I can't even explain what this means to me," said Roderick, 21, of Lawrenceville, GA. "I probably didn't have the best car out here, even though I did win. There were a lot of good cars wrecked out or had trouble. It definitely makes you wonder when you take the lead after someone breaks, it's always in the back of your head that something could go wrong. It's happened to me before."
It was a return to winning ways for Roderick, who has spent most of the past few seasons dabbling in the NASCAR Nationwide Series or waiting on the sidelines for another opportunity to get behind the wheel. Roderick was tabbed by Graham Motorsports to drive the team's No. 7 machine in 2013, but it wasn't until a new car was put together late in the 2013 season that started clicking for the combination.
"I would love to be in the Nationwide Series or even the Truck Series right now, but the sponsorship's just not there for me right now. These guys gave me a shot in the Super Late Model level. I was living up in Michigan with my girlfriend, working for her dad moving houses for four months. Then these guys called and asked me if I wanted to come race. I said, 'Heck yeah.' I don't know what to say. This is awesome."
Roderick's closest challenge came late in the race from Robbins, who spun out as he was trying to pass Roderick for the lead on lap 233.
"We were doing everything we could," said Robbins. "We were better in the center of the corner, but he could beat us back off the corner. We just got in there too hot with too much rear brakes. I wound up getting into (Roderick) and going around."
That opened the door for Suwanee, GA's Anderson Bowen to take over the challenge for the win. Bowen started at the rear of the field after a top-five finish in the ARCA Racing Series event at Mobile International Speedway. His car was qualified last week by Korey Ruble, which forced Bowen to the rear due to the driver change.
"Starting in the rear, I was a little nervous about that. It didn't turn out that bad. I think that if we could've been a little better on restarts, we could've had something for Casey."
Thirteen-year-old Harrison Burton finished third in his first Southern Super Series start.
"It was definitely a lot of fun running with these guys for 250 laps," said Burton, who started 18th. "Without getting in a wreck. It was definitely a handful. I just can't thank the guys enough who help me out. It's a really big deal to come out here and finish this race in third."
Kyle Grissom finished the Rattler 250 in fourth, followed by Chris Davidson in fifth.
Rain postponed the Rattler 250 to March 22 after qualifying events were held on March 15. Casey Smith set fast time in qualifying and won the Rattler 250 pole. He went on to finish 10th, the last car on the lead lap.
The next Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco event comes on Saturday April 5 at the historic Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in Nashville, TN.
Southern Super Series
South Alabama Speedway - Kinston, AL
Rattler 250 - March 22, 2014
1. Casey Roderick
2. Anderson Bowen
3. Harrison Burton
4. Kyle Grissom
5. Chris Davidson
6. Stephen Nasse
7. Kyle Bryant
8. Justin South
9. Johanna Long
10. Casey Smith
11. Hunter Robbins
12. Dennix Reno, Jr.
13. B.J. Holley
14. Daniel Hemric
15. Augie Grill
16. Allen Karnes
17. TJ Reaid
18. Keith Cahela
19. Ross Kenseth
20. Bubba Pollard
21. John Hunter Nemechek
22. Chad Finley
23. Zak Hausler
24. Bobby Knox, Jr.
DNS: Donnie Wilson
DNS: Steven Davis
DNS: Scotty Ellis
DNS: Will Gallaher
DNS: Kyle Benjamin