It's a good thing that Billy Rodgers did not have to make a pit stop during Saturday night's PASS North Super Late Model race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME).
Rodgers' team doesn't have a pit box. They borrowed spare tires for the race. Their electric impact wrench had a nut jammed in its socket, so that wasn't going to be much use. As far as full-time help goes…well….they might be working full-time hours on his car but there are no full-time paychecks to go around.
But a PASS North feature is a race and not pit practice, so none of those things mattered as Rodgers, a Beech Ridge regular, drove his #53 car on its 12-year-old shocks right to victory lane on Saturday night.
“This is the biggest race of my career right here,” said Rodgers. “I've tried winning these before and we've run in the top five and top ten, but I've never had a car that steady that has stayed under me for that long. This is the biggest win in my career and I can't believe it. This is going to take a while to sink in, that's for sure.”
Rodgers battled hard with Trevor Sanborn throughout the night and took the lead after a green, white, checkered restart.
“Without that, Trevor was the winner,” said Rodgers. “Any one of us in the top five at that point who was outside on the restart would have won the race. The outside was the place to be. That is where the grip was and where you had momentum. You just couldn't run on the inside. You needed to let the car come up and then get on the gas. So when that caution came out and I looked up to see 148, I said 'Wow. Here it is.' I was thinking that this was the restart of my life and that I could not mess it up.”
Having something bad happen on that restart would have been somewhat typical for Rodgers this year. He's had plenty of bad luck, with the low point of the year coming in Beech Ridge's annual 100 lap race for the Pro Series (Super Late Model) machines. In that event, Rodgers was the only driver who consonantly battled with eventual winner Mike Rowe for the lead. That was until contact with Rowe cut down a tire and led to Rodgers' exit from the race.
This time though, luck wasn't working against Rodgers. He didn't even hear any phantom noises or feel any imagined vibrations from his car over the last two laps of the event. There was a little bit of confusion at just when his race was over though.
“We've had good cars this year,” said Rodgers. “When I saw the white flag, I knew we were all set. Then I took the checkered flag and there were two checkers, but when I went down the backstretch, it was still green. So my spotter was yelling to keep going, but I knew that I saw two checkered flags.”
Rodgers tows to Beech Ridge every week from the nearby tourist town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. It's not uncommon to see street cars with his #53 decal on their rear windows and when Rodgers won in front of that home crowds, they went nuts - making an underdog victory even more popular.
“That means a lot,” said Rodgers. “To have that many people shaking my hand and supporting me and cheering for me means so much. I like it.”
Now, it's back to the Saturday night battles at Beech Ridge as Rodgers hopes to move up from his current fifth-place perch in the track standings. Now though, he has momentum on his side.
“Absolutely,” said Rodgers. “We're going to finish out the season and try to move up in the points. We're down pretty good right now, but if we can go like this and have a little bit of racing luck, we'll be in good shape.”
Speed51.com will have more from Beech Ridge later this week with our 51 Leftovers from the race.