A decade of Southern National Motorsports Park history was written in side-by-side battles forged out of respect by Jamey Caudill and Deac McCaskill.
As a result, that history will be celebrated on Sunday when both four-time champions have grandstands named in their honor prior to the Solid Rock Carriers Thanksgiving Classic. Section 08 (McCaskill) and Section 50 (Caudill) will be side-by-side on the Turn 1 side of the grandstands.
The decision was made by track operator Michael Diaz, who had long pondered ways to celebrate the history of the track he first acquired in 2012.
"I wanted to dedicate the grandstands, and once I made that decision, deciding who to honor at Southern National was a no-brainer," Diaz said. "Jamey Caudill and Deac McCaskill are four-time track champions and they are the first two names you get when you talk to anyone about ‘Kenly.’
"Both are class act drivers and have huge followings. I could not be happier and excited to get both of these drivers recognized as true champions and ambassadors of the sport of grassroots short track racing."
VIDEO: @MattWeaverRA caught up with a quartet of ace Late Model Stock Car drivers as they look ahead to the Thanksgiving Classic at @SNM_Park this weekend.— Racing America (@RacingAmerica) November 23, 2021
See it live on Racing America powered by https://t.co/CcUTq3McqN: https://t.co/Koe4otOySo pic.twitter.com/KyILasecMR
That Caudill and McCaskill will be honored together made all the sense in the world.
Caudill says he immediately respected McCaskill once they began racing together at the .4-mile short track in Kenly, North Carolina. Despite so often finding themselves in first or second, or side-by-side, Caudill never took exception to how he was raced by McCaskill.
"I'm so proud to be doing this alongside Deac," Caudill said. "We delivered a ton of side-by-side races over the years and we were only able to do that because of the respect we shared."
That sentiment was shared by McCaskill.
"I have so much respect for that guy, man," McCaskill said. "I thought he was the best there was. He still is. That’s how much respect I had for him and having the chance to race him and learn from him. It means everything to go into this deal with him."
Caudill, 51, hasn’t slowed down even if his time in circle track racing has mostly come to a close. While he is good for a one-off appearance in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville each year, he spends most of his time behind the wheel of a dragster.
Before getting the call from Diaz, Caudill planned on straight-line racing all weekend.
"We were going to have a three-day race, but when Mike called me and told me what he wanted to do, I was more than happy to make it a Friday-Saturday race weekend," Caudill said.
Caudill said he is proudest of his 2002 Southeastern Coastal Region championship, which was won by a half point over Timothy Peters. That was a combined championship across several regional NASCAR sanctioned tracks, including Southern National, where he reigned as track champion that season.
McCaskill, 44, says he could point to several moments racing near home and winning in front of family and friends at Kenly, but he wants to make bigger history on Sunday by winning his first Thanksgiving Classic.
"I’m really excited," McCaskill said. "We’ve got our program back on track this year after hitting the reset button last year. These R&S chassis are so good. The track is going to be green and fast and I think that plays into my experience."
All told, McCaskill wanted to be the kind of driver Caudill was, and it’s his hope that the grandstand honor inspires some of the younger drivers they currently race with these days.
"Probably the most rewarding thing to me is when people tell me they appreciate how I drive a race car," McCaskill said. "I probably could have won a couple of more races over the years and it wouldn’t have been the right way to do it.
"I have had younger drivers say they want to be like me. I hope having these grandstands give younger drivers something to shoot for. To have the kind of success we’ve had is very special to me, but how you get it matters too."