The American Speed Association made a triumphant return to Five Flags Speedway this weekend.
The ASA National Tour used to be the hottest ticket at Pensacola’s high banks throughout the 1990s and early-2000s. History repeated itself Saturday as fans flocked to the famed half-mile asphalt oval for the debut of the new ASA STARS National Tour. Thirty-six of the nation’s elite Super Late Model drivers were looking to win the Sunshine State 200.
When the dust finally cleared after nearly 20 cautions in the inaugural ASA STARS race, Casey Roderick had written another successful chapter in his decorated story along the Gulf Coast while decorating his wallet with $20,000. He led the final 28 laps of the Sunshine State 200 after passing Jeremy Doss, who finished runner-up. Former Snowball Derby winner Ty Majeski rounded out the podium.
“We weren’t the greatest tonight, but we got better as the night went on,” Roderick said of his Team Platinum car and Anthony Campi Racing team. “The car was really good in the last segment.”
The first man to win Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series (SLM) and Allen Turner Pro Late Model track titles at Five Flags in the same season (2018), the Georgia transplant now living in Mississippi continued his winning ways to start 2023. Roderick won the Redeye 50 and the World Series of Asphalt, both at New Smyrna (FL) Speedway, in January and February, respectively.
The 200-lapper Saturday was divided into three stages (75 laps-75-50) and awarded bonus points for stage winners, individual laps led and most laps led among other achievements.
Roderick finished fifth in the first two stages, saving his best for last. However, the win didn’t come without some controversy. Two laps before getting around Doss, Roderick was battling Bubba Pollard for the lead.
Pollard, the Senoia, Ga.—driver and the all-time Blizzard Series wins leader at Five Flags with 24—won the second stage by a radiator against Preston Peltier and was in control of the final 50 laps before a caution flag flew. Roderick fell in line behind Pollard on the restart and stayed glued to his bumper as they barreled into Turn No. 3. Roderick admittedly got a tad too close exiting Turn No. 4 and nudged Pollard enough to send him spiraling in front of the start-finish line.
“I owe him a big apology,” a shaken Roderick admitted in Victory Lane. “It was not intentional. I don’t like winning like that. I wanted to race him for the win the last few laps. It’s a bad deal. I had a good run off fourth and I just misjudged it.
“I hate winning ’em like this. I would’ve much rather race him and put on a good show for the fans than something like that.”
Despite its bittersweet conclusion, the Sunshine State 200 certainly lived up to the hype. A packed house watched more than a dozen lead changes from the 36-car field representing more than a dozen states.
The ASA STARS combines three popular SLM series—Southern Super Series, ASA Midwest and ASA/CRA Super Series. Its 10-race schedule will continue to feature big prize purses at the country’s most iconic short-tracks. A series champion will be crowned in November and a minimum $100,000 championship point fund has been confirmed. The top-10 in the final standings earn money, including $25,000 to the champ.
“Everybody wants to be part of marquee events,” Roderick said earlier this week. “I like taking the bigger Late Model races and creating a series around it. There’s more hype about it. The fans get more fired up for the bigger races.
“Everybody wants a (Snowball Derby) Tom Dawson Trophy, and similarly this creates something that’s worth going after.”
Roderick qualified fourth behind reigning Derby champion Derek Thorn’s fast time (16.538 seconds) but started eighth after the redraw. He quickly climbed into the top-five and stayed there all evening, running his best laps as the race wore on and watching contenders fall by the wayside because of attrition—the second stage alone saw 10 cautions.
Roderick was on a rail after finally getting around Doss and deftly maneuvered through lapped traffic to seal the victory.
“We’ve got a good program and got some momentum,” Roderick said. “But I hate it went down like this. It’s over and done with it for now.”
The ASA STARS National Tour takes a month off before the next race on Sunday, May 7 at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway. In the meantime, the ASA CRA Super Series and the ASA Midwest Tour will begin their 2023 seasons, while the year will continue for the ASA Southern Super Series.
For the full ASA STARS National Tour schedule, plus Super Late Model rules and other information, please visit the series website at starsnationaltour.com, or be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: STARS National Series | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).
ASA STARS National Tour
The ASA STARS National Tour will debut in 2023 for Super Late Model racing in America. Announced in October, many of the best drivers in America are expected to compete in the 10-race national tour with a minimum $100,000 point fund. The championship team will be guaranteed $25,000.
The national series is made up of three races from each of the regional pavement Super Late Model Series under the Track Enterprises banner; the ASA CRA Super Series, the ASA Midwest Tour and the ASA Southern Super Series.
A Winner’s Circle program will also be part of the ASA National Tour for licensed drivers/teams with perfect attendance. The program details will be announced at a later date, but it will be in the same vein as ASA utilized in its heyday.
Track Enterprises, a Racing Promotions Company based in Illinois, will operate the ASA STARS National Tour. It announced the acquisition of the CRA sanctioning body in January and followed that up with the purchase of the Midwest Tour in July. In October, Track Enterprises President, Bob Sargent announced a partnership with the Southern Super Series which set the table for the formation of the ASA STARS National Tour.