BECKLEY — Not many people can say Kyle Busch owes them one. Maybe even fewer can brag that the controversial NASCAR star paid up. FauberAssistant Sports Editor
It happened for Casey Roderick, a Georgia native trying to make it on the Nationwide circuit. He was running the series’ season opener at Daytona, and things were going well.
They got even better when he got some unexpected help.
“We were running mid-pack to top 15 at least, and got pushed by Kyle Busch, which was my favorite moment of the race,” Roderick said with a smile. “He spun me out at Lanier a couple of years ago in a late-model race. I think he owed me that push up to the front.”
Roderick finished the race 36th, but will always carry that moment with him. That was March 3, and he hasn’t driven on the tour since because of sponsorship problems.
That will change late next month.
Roderick is the brother of Ashlee Roderick, account executive for the West Virginia Miners. On April 27, the Miners will make their first venture into NASCAR, as Linda K. Epling has spearheaded efforts for the team to sponsor Casey at that weekend’s night race in Richmond, Va.
“I think this will be a fun way to get some exposure for the Miners,” said Epling, the namesake of the Miners’ home stadium. “Ashlee is just real excited. That is her brother. He is such a nice kid.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series 250 will begin at 7 p.m. and be broadcast by ESPN2.
“I would just like to say thank you to Doug and Linda K. Epling for their generosity and support,” Ashlee said. “It means the world to me that they are willing to sponsor my brother and help him further his career. I know my family and I are really appreciative of them for giving my brother the opportunity to get back in the car for the race at Richmond. It really makes me feel good that they are so supportive of Casey and are going to help him.”
Casey is appreciative as well and is looking forward to driving a car that bears the Miners logo.
“I think it would be cool to have a coal miners’ car,” he said. “Throughout my career, I haven’t seen any sponsorship with a coal miner (logo). I think it will be a good thing for the Miners and for West Virginia (NASCAR) fans and Virginia fans, people from this area, to get them excited. People are big on coal mining around here. I think being able to bring that fan base to the sport will be a good thing for everybody.
“Today’s sport has changed so much, and everything is depending on money. Any time you have people interested, you have to take advantage of it. It may not come back around.”
The emotional support means a lot to Roderick, but so does the financial backing. Roderick knows well how difficult it can be to maintain a presence in NASCAR.
“It’s really frustrating when you have kids who go and pay for the seats, and here you are with very little and trying to make it in the sport, yet you get overtaken by people who are just sitting there, forking the money out,” he said. “It’s very frustrating to do that, but we’ll get through it.”
Roderick, who drives the No. 8 Ford, has been involved with the likes of Bill Elliott and James Finch of Phoenix Racing, who helped him in ARCA races. He signed on with Randy Hill Racing last June and made his Nationwide debut Aug. 13 at Watkins Glen, where he finished 25th.
Once he becomes settled, Roderick, 19, sees nothing keeping him from moving on to the Sprint Cup Series.
“I’ve had that vision since I was 5 years old and I’ve stayed with it,” he said. “I’ve been involved with good things, but nothing’s ever materialized. It’s like I’ve been jumping around trying to find that one thing that’s going to further my career.”
He has one big supporter in his sister, who was at Daytona International Speedway and witnessed the “amazing moment” when Busch pushed Roderick to a temporary spot in the top 10.
“Casey may be my younger brother but I look up to him more than he will ever know,” Ashlee said. “By watching him race and do what he loves most, he encourages me to keep going each and every day. He gives me the strength I need to be successful in life. It has been tough on my brother to make it as far as he has and there have been some times where he could have very easily given up, and didn’t.
“Words just can’t describe how proud I am and the feeling I get when I watch him race against all the drivers we both cheered for growing up. Let’s just say I am a very proud sister!”
The next time we see Roderick on the track, the West Virginia Miners logo will be prominent, four hours away from home but in front of a national TV audience.
“It will be such good exposure for the Miners and the community,” Epling said.