From staff reports
Nothing excites Casey Roderick more than climbing into his Bandolero car during the Thursday Thunder racing series at Atlanta Motor Speedway and crossing the finish line first. Recently, however, he found something that not only added to his racing experience, but also was good for the heart of the family.
Joe Roderick, who passed away from cancer in May, was a racer at heart. He was a constant support for his nephew Casey in the garage at Thursday Thunder, working on the car and helping give the 11-year-old Bandolero Bandits driver advice. Uncle Joe, as he was known, had longed to compete in the Great Race, the country's longest running vintage automobile rally.
For the last two weeks, Roderick n along with father David, his grandfather J.C., and his uncle Scotty n participated in The Great Race in honor of the uncle, brother, and son who was scheduled to compete for the first time this year. They drove a 1959 Chrysler Window through the scenic countryside with a heavy heart as they remembered the good times racing with Uncle Joe.
"Uncle Joe always wanted to compete in the race," said Roderick. "Now, we get to honor his memory by running the Great Race for him."
The Great Race is a cross-country trek across America requires that each automobile be over 45 years old. The drive, which began in Jacksonville, Fla., and ended Saturday in Monterey, Calif., maps a route down country roads while on a time limit from one point to another. Drivers can earn points through each leg of the journey, and the one with the most combined points at the end wins the race.
The vintage cars, who have a driver and a navigator only, are the only vehicles allowed to go on the back-roads trails, leaving all family, friends and fans to follow an alternate straight path.
"Paw-Paw and Uncle Scott were the driver and navigator," said Roderick. "My dad and I went ahead of them on the easy paths. Our car was in case they broke down and needed someone to pick them up."
Others are allowed to be in the car with them while driving, but at a cost of a 30-second penalty added to their time. The family, which wanted to take the journey together, didn't mind the penalty.
"I rode along in the backseat of the car on two separate days," said Roderick, who is too young to drive despite racing for seven years. "We weren't racing for points, so it didn't really matter to get penalized."
Roderick, who is in his second season of competing in the Bandits division, missed the final stages of the race to fly back early to Atlanta, so that he didn't have to miss a week of racing in Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder. Last year's Atlanta Dental Team Bandits champion, Roderick has three wins this season and again leads the points standings.
And even though Uncle Joe isn't with Casey in the garage this year, his presence continues to be felt.