NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After being pinned three laps down with a fast race car last year at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and not having a shot to win the All American 400, Casey Roderick was determined to find redemption.
He got that redemption Sunday night by way of a convincing victory in the 36th edition of one of super late model racing’s crown jewel events.
Roderick fought off a determined Chandler Smith following a late restart at the .596-mile paved oval, passing Smith’s Wilson Motorsports-prepared No. 26 with 25 laps left in the 300-lap feature and pulling away down the stretch for his third Nashville super late model win and first All American 400 triumph.
It snapped a two-year winless drought for Roderick – whose last score was at Five Flags Speedway during the track’s Blizzard Series in June of 2018 – and led to an emotional victory lane celebration.
“I can’t believe it. We’re All American 400 winners!” Roderick said with a joyous shout. “It has been a long, long time coming.
“I knew we had a good car (at the end), and if I could just stay patient I’d get him back, and I was able to do that. I entered the corner too hard and got loose (on the final restart) … and I was just trying to stay on the outside at that point. I got up in that fourth groove and I was a little nervous about having to get him back, but I knew if I gathered my thoughts up we’d be alright.”
The win was gratifying for Roderick not just because of the circumstances of 2019, when he left several drivers frustrated because he raced among the leaders as a lapped car that night, but because his victory this time around came in his own equipment.
“My will to win has always been there,” Roderick noted. “That hasn’t changed. But man, to come here and pull this off … we had a skeleton crew here; I had three or four guys with me. They were just volunteer help. They get off work and come with me. It’s a team effort between everyone and I can’t thank them all enough.
“I’m lost for words at this. It took a lot to get to this point.”
Roderick ran among the top five for most of the night, but the race was dominated by California’s Derek Thorn, who started fourth but launched to the top spot by the end of the second lap.
Polesitter Kodie Conner stumbled off the initial green flag and faded back quickly, while Carson Hocevar paced the opening round before Thorn took over. From there, it was Thorn’s race for the first two thirds.
Thorn paced laps two through 204 virtually uncontested, with Hocevar challenging Thorn briefly on several restarts and leading lap 38 by a nose, but unable to do anything with Thorn’s No. 43 on the long run.
In fact, Thorn opened up a margin of more than six seconds before the second competition caution of the race, following back-to-back green-flag runs of 75 laps through the middle stages of the event.
However, following a restart with 97 to go, the entire complexion of the race was turned on its head.
Hocevar got, perhaps, the best restart he’d had all race long and had his nose on Thorn’s outside exiting turn four on the 204th lap of 300. At the same time, Thorn was coming up to try and stop Hocevar’s run.
The pair made contact, Thorn went around as a result and he ended up being shoved all the way down to turn one, where his Campbell Motorsports car backed into the outside wall before coming to rest.
Hocevar suffered heavy front-end damage in the shunt. Both drivers’ days were done as a result, and it became a whole new race after that.
Smith escaped the chaos and was scored as the leader for the next restart on lap 211, but he quickly lost the top spot to Corey Heim, who took over with 90 to go and appeared to have a car capable of contending for the win in his own right.
Heim was dogged by Smith for much of the next 30 laps, but Roderick began turning the wick up coming to 60 to go and finally found his way to the lead on lap 240, passing Heim and taking off in a hurry.
Heim’s race ended four laps later when the engine aboard his No. 78 expired, leading to a caution and the final round of pit stops for the leaders. Roderick and Smith lined up on the front row with 52 laps left, and Roderick’s No. 25 pulled away as Smith battled his team owner, Donnie Wilson, for second.
Jeremy Pate’s turn-four spin with 33 to go drew the final yellow of the night and set up the clutch restart of the race with 28 circuits remaining. Smith drove around Roderick briefly, after Roderick admitted that “I made a mistake,” but Roderick made the race-winning pass three laps later and never looked back.
He drove off to win by 2.605 seconds, proving a mid-race shock adjustment was well worth the work.
“That pit stop where we tweaked on the shock, after that our whole car changed,” Roderick said. “I knew I had to do something … because it seemed like whatever we did to the car, I was just so free under the throttle. It’s incredible, really; that one change turned our whole race around.”
Smith finished second for the second year in a row at the All American, with Stephen Nasse crossing third and overhauling Pate for the Southern Super Series championship as a result.
Wilson and ARCA Midwest Tour veteran Austin Nason filled out the top five.
Sixth through 10th were Jake Garcia, Willie Allen, Conner, Connor Okrzesik and Matt Craig, who locked up the CARS Super Late Model Tour title over Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Sammy Smith.
1. 25r-Casey Roderick, 2. 26s-Chandler Smith, 3. 51n-Stephen Nasse, 4. 2-Donnie Wilson, 5. 14n-Austin Nason, 6. 35g-Jake Garcia, 7. 26a-Willie Allen, 8. 45-Kodie Conner, 9. 14o-Connor Okrzesik, 10. 54-Matt Craig, 11. 10-Brittney Zamora, 12. 18-Hunter Robbins, 13. 15-Gabe Sommers, 14. 24-Cody Dempster, 15. 71n-Kyle Neveau, 16. 21-Jeremy Pate, 17. 22-Brandon Oakley, 18. 78-Corey Heim, 19. 90-Trevor Cristiani, 20. 51s-Sammy Smith, 21. 14h-Carson Hocevar, 22. 43t-Derek Thorn, 23. 35v-Greg Van Last, 24. 26p-Bubba Pollard, 25. 43d-Daniel Dye, 26. 29-Mason Keller, 27. 35k-Carson Kvapil, 28-Trevor McCoy, 29. 33-Albert Francis, 30. 25s-Jeff Storm, 31. 53-Boris Jurkovic, 32. 71b-Johnny Brazier, 33. 81-Jett Noland, 34. 9-Hudson Halder.