Roderick chases down Choquette to win Pro Lates; Boyett top Pro Trucker again, and Balkum back as Pure Stock winner
Roderick Train Keeps Rollin’, Has Won Seven Straight PLM 100 Lappers at 5 Flags
By Chuck Corder
The superlatives for Casey Roderick are countless.
Every bouquet the short track world tosses at the Georgia late model hotshoe is blooming and well-deserving.
Roderick’s entire arsenal was on display Friday night at Five Flags Speedway for the third of four Allen Turner Pro Late Model 100 races.
The 25 year old showed the patience and discipline of the veteran wheelman he is after trailing to Jeff Choquette for most of the race.
Roderick finally got by Choquette on Lap 84, and didn’t look back in capturing his seventh consecutive PLM race at Pensacola’s high banks. The last time Roderick lost a PLM race at Five Flags, excluding the Snowflake 100, Choquette prevailed in September 2016.
“I didn’t think we had as good of a racecar tonight as we have had,” said Roderick, who was the fast qualifier (16.869 seconds) but started fifth following the invert. “We’ve been working on trying to get better every week. I’m proud of all my guys, who are always there for me week-in and week-out. We just want to keep the momentum going into the next one.”
The PLM finale will occur on the Night of Champions (Sept. 22) with Roderick carrying a 32-point lead against Chris Davidson.
Roderick never fell out of the top-five all night despite the lead exchanging hands multiple times among Davidson, Choquette and Connor Okrzesik. In typical fashion, the Lawrenceville, Ga., driver was biding his time until him and car owner Ronnie Sanders decided it was time to hit the accelerator and make their move.
Okrzesik came away with runner-up honors — the Grand Bay, Ala., teenager’s best result at the famed half-mile asphalt oval of the season — while Choquette rounded out the podium in his first PLM race at Five Flags in 2018.
“Absolutely, this is definitely a confidence booster to be right up there with him,” Okrzesik said of Roderick. “The next Five Flags race, I think we’ll have something for him.”
After assuming the lead from Choquette with 16 laps remaining, Roderick proved he was the class of the field. He pulled away from the rest of the 21-car field and didn’t falter despite Turn No. 4’s slick conditions that caused each driver problems.
“We freed the car up, trying to gain speed,” Roderick said. “Maybe, it was not the right way to go, but we’ll just go back to the shop, make adjustments and come back next time.”
Hard to believe there’s still room for improvement for Roderick and the No. 18 team.
There were four cautions, and Choquette led through most of them after taking “P1” on Lap 13 following a hard-fought, wheel-to-wheel battle with Okrzesik, who led at the time.
But Choquette’s No. 9 Jett Concrete machine began to get loose in the final 20 laps, opening the door for Roderick to swoop in and keep his winning streak alive.
WCIparts.com Pro Trucks
When Logan Boyett starts from the pole, the rest of the field might as well be racing for second.
The Pensacola driver’s magical season continued Friday at Five Flags when he captured his fourth WCIparts.com Pro Trucks feature. Boyett led all 25 laps and will carry a comfortable 26-point lead into next month’s Championship Races (Sept. 15).
Boyett never had to sweat Friday’s race, leading comfortably for most of the night.
“All my guys helping me, I just can’t say enough for what they do,” he said. “It couldn’t mean more to come back tonight and win after we finished (seventh) last time we raced.”
Darryl Rudd finished second and 2016 Pro Trucks Snowball Derby champion Jarrett Parker brought his No. 46 machine home in third place.
“I think if we had about 20 more mph, we might’ve got (Boyett),” Rudd joked. “Logan had that truck hooked up tonight. We gotta work on it because he’s quick.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
On an absolute bizarre Friday night for the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks, Robert Balkum set out to complete his goal of clinching his first career track title at Five Flags Speedway.
The Pensacola driver accomplished that feat thanks to his seventh victory in 12 chances this year. Balkum has not finished outside the top-five all season.
Most importantly, Balkum kept his white No. 52 clean and unscathed when cars around him were taking a more aggressive approach.
“I’m just happy to be in Victory Lane,” Balkum said. “There were a lot of tore up cars tonight, plus a lot going on down in the pits.”
Much of the extracurricular activities happening around the racetrack involved an incident from a heat race earlier in the night.
Despite finishing second in the 20-lap feature, Burkett created a stir among fans and, especially, Mobile-area driver Daryl McDonald for a bold move that caused a scary wreck and sent three of the five cars in the heat race to the pits to complete modifications before the main race.
Burkett was forcing the issue on early restart in the heat race, nearly making it three-wide when he plowed into the back of McDonald. In addition to tearing up his own car, Burkett’s collision and the subsequent crash with other cars flipped McDonald’s No. 19 onto its driver’s side. McDonald somehow escaped the vehicle relatively unscathed.
When Burkett was able to pull off a runner-up result in the feature, he didn’t necessarily receive the hometown support he expected from a podium finish. Fans along with other drivers and teams showered him with boos when Burkett was being interviewed in Victory Lane.
“Honestly, it wasn’t intentional,” Burkett claimed. “I wouldn’t do that on purpose. It was a good night. I hate how it happened, but it’s a part of racing.
Sara Dority came home with another podium finish and her sixth top-five result in 12 races this year.
“What a crazy night!” Doirty astutely determined. “I’m glad the drivers are OK. Cars can always be replaced.”