With Big Names Falling by the Wayside, Roderick Reigns Supreme at Blizzard Series’ Universal Fabricators 125

By Chuck Corder

Casey Roderick never panicked.

The decorated Lawrenceville, Ga., late model driver certainly knows his way around Five Flags Speedway. Boasting a pair of Deep South Crane Blizzard Series track championships and adding the Allen Turner Pro Late Model crown he won last year, Roderick knows Pensacola’s high banks demand tire management.

When Roderick, who started on the pole, yielded the lead to Jesse Dutilly on Lap 3 of the Universal Fabricators 125 — the second Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series race of the season for Super Late Models — there was no cause for concern in the 25-year-old’s approach.

On a weird night that saw early and untimely demises for late model stalwarts Bubba Pollard and Augie Grill, who both exited with mechanical failures, Roderick remained cool, calm, and stayed clean.

He outlasted a handful of cautions, biding his time until reclaiming the lead for good on Lap 75 and never breaking a sweat down the stretch on this humid night.

“We were real strong. I just wanted to take care of the car at the beginning of race and manage it,” Roderick said. “Unfortunately, Bubba fell out. I really wanted to race him for the win. We’re all chasing him these days, it seems. We’re working hard to get to his level of speed.

“We have to keep the momentum rolling.”

It marked his fifth late model win of the year (two SLM and three PLM victories) and his second of the 11-race Southern Super Series slate. Roderick captured the North/South Challenge in April at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville.

Fellow Georgia driver Chandler Smith finished runner-up and Stephen Nasse rounded out the podium. “It was a pretty good machine tonight,” Smith said. “We struggled a little bit, but we haven’t ran the Super Late Model in what feels like forever.

The much-hyped rematch between Nasse and Donnie Wilson, who traded fisticuffs during the Blizzard Series opener on April 27, never materialized. Wilson, in his first race back following foot surgery in April, blew an engine in Thursday’s practice and the backup motor he used in Friday’s qualifying and race wasn’t up to his standard.

“It feels good to get a good run for our team tonight,” Nasse said. “We came out and showed what we can do. We were a little off at the end. Once we get that under control, we’ll be ready to compete for wins.”

Dutilly took the lead from Roderick on Lap 3 and did masterful work in blocking Nasse’s attempts to pass him for the lead.

Dutilly maintained his valiant pace up until his equipment began failing him in the final 50 laps. That’s when Roderick and car owner Ronnie Sanders decided it was time to go, passing Dutilly and driving away from the rest of the field.

“We were just trying to take care of the car until we got the caution where when we got tires,” Roderick said. “Went (the race) went back to green, it was hammer down.” Pro Trucks

D.J. VanderLey makes it count every time he comes to Five Flags Speedway.

The former two-time Allen Turner Pro Late Model champion currently works as a race engineer for Stewart-Haas Racing Xfinity driver Cole Custer.

But in his last two appearances at the famed half-mile asphalt oval, VanderLey is a perfect two-for-two. In December he won the Pro Trucks running at the Snowball Derby.

VanderLey backed that victory up with a 25-lap Pro Trucks feature on Friday.

“It was about six months we were here last, in a different truck,” VanderLey recalled. “But (crew chief) Curt (Britt) and (car owner) Brian (Weimer) brought new truck and, obviously, it was still fast.”

Chris Commalander took second and Jesse Salazar finished third.

Commalander’s runner-up finish to come without controversy. Racing Pensacola’s Logan Boyett on Lap 15 for second behind VanderLey, Commalander didn’t cut Boyett any room and spun the Pensacola driver, who came to a standstill in the middle of the grooves of Turn No. 2.

Trailing the action, and with nowhere to go, Brannon Fowler slammed into Boyett’s truck, completing destroying both vehicles.

Both drivers escaped virtually unharmed, but Boyett stormed to the front straightaway where Commalander was parked. As Boyett climbed over the wall, he slung a water bottle at Commalander’s No. 95, and missed badly.

Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks

It’s a rare sight when Robert Balkum isn’t standing in Victory Lane at Five Flags Speedway.

But each time, the Pensacola driver has to settle for a second or third, it has come at the hands of a child. West Florida High School student Caleb Burkett has gotten the better of Balkum twice this year.

On Friday, it was Theodore, Ala., youngster Daryl McDonald. The teenage driver drove spectacularly Friday at the famed half-mile asphalt oval in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap feature to get his first career win in Pensacola.

“It was good. It was tough,” said McDonald, who is in just his second year of racing.

Balkum did collect another podium finish with a runner-up showing and Sarah Dority came home third.

“One of these times, I’m going to get a win,” Dority said. “I’m getting closer and closer each time. That was a great job by young Daryl.”


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