In the final race in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Rockingham Speedway, the championship battle was on between rivals Parker Kligerman and Justin Lofton. Kligerman won the American 200 race but Lofton held on to finish third and secure the championship trophy.
But the real star of the show was Casey Roderick, the 17-year-old development driver for Bill Elliott Racing (BER). For most of the season, young Roderick has been driving a Late Model for Bill Elliott, along with his teammate Chase Elliott, Bill's son.
Under Bill Elliott's tutelage, Roderick has been rising through the ranks of Legends Racing and Late Models. He has been with Bill Elliott Racing since July 2008.
Roderick, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, secured the ARCA ride in a joint venture between BER and James Finch's Phoenix Racing. In addition, Ernie Elliott, Inc. agreed to supply the motor for Roderick's No. 51 Dodge for his ARCA debut.
"I'm really looking forward to this weekend," Roderick said. "It's probably the biggest of my career."
Roderick and his team tested at Rockingham two weeks prior to the event. The team decided at that time to be a bit more conservative with their set up.
But when they arrived at Rockingham, Roderick and his BER team decided to get a bit more aggressive.
When asked what his goal would be for his debut race in the ARCA series, Roderick said simply, "My main goal is to have a good run and keep the car underneath me and not tear it up so we can hopefully run some more ARCA races next year."
Roderick was not the only one excited for his ARCA debut. Team owner and mentor Bill Elliott said, "Casey has waited a long time for this opportunity and I know he will make the most of it."
And make the most of it he did. Roderick arrived at Rockingham for the race weekend ready to show everyone his talent and dedication.
Roderick practiced well. He qualified in the third position for the race, with a time of 24.661 and a speed of 145.979 mph.
After securing that great starting position, the young driver took the green flag and managed to keep the car up front for most of the race. He also managed to compete cleanly and fairly with the two regulars, Kligerman and Lofton, who were both vying for the ARCA championship.
There was some late race excitement when Justin Lofton, then in the third position right behind Roderick, got into the BER driver trying to take the second place away in order to get closer to compete with race leader Parker Kligerman.
Lofton and Roderick bounced off one another, but both drivers managed to keep their cars straight and continued the race.
When the checkered flag flew, Parker Kligerman, driving his No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports race car, secured the win. But the real story was the second place finisher Casey Roderick, piloting his No. 51 Bill Elliott Racing Dodge.
After celebrating his championship victory, Justin Lofton had high praise for the young rookie Roderick. "He's an awesome driver," said Lofton of Roderick. "We both should have wrecked there and it would have been just disastrous."
Bill Elliott had nothing but praise for his protegee as well. "I hope that a potential sponsor will be watching and provide Casey an opportunity to race the full ARCA season in 2010," Elliott said. "Casey is a talented young man that just needs a break to show what he can do."
Roderick's second place finish in his debut ARCA run may just be the break that this young man needs to take his racing career to the next level.
And there would be no one prouder than Awesome Bill from Dawsonville, who can now add a successful driver development program to his storied resume.