Before the final weeks of 2012 S4, iRacing.com announced that they would be expanding the race times and dates for all series. No longer would iRacing.com series be racing on just a few days a week, but every day, opportunities to participate in official races would be given. The likelihood for newcomers to participate in the iRacing.com Sprint Car Series had never been higher until this time. With this in mind, a shakeup in the roster of iSCS regulars was sure to be seen.
As with every season in the iSCS, the first stop in 2013 was at Phoenix International Raceway. Coming off of his hottest streak yet, 6-time defending champion Alan Binder was primed to return to dominating form once more, but with new blood taking the time to tame the tricky turns of PIR, the chance of seeing someone new in victory lane during the course of the week was almost a given. With qualifying taking place every hour during the week, many more drivers participated in these important trials, but it was Alan Binder taking the pole position in the races he entered with the fastest qualifying time of the week; a 21.490s lap. Fred Lampela, another familiar sight near the front of the pack, qualified second with his 21.524s time. A record-breaking week of participation, complete with 14 races that went official, made sure that Binder and Lampela wouldn’t be on the front row in every race. With 188 official gridded participants spread throughout the week’s races, Week 1 was sure to have plenty of excitement to spare.
The first races of the week began on Monday, where two races were officially given the green flag. In the highest SOF race of the night, Fred Lampela led the field off of T4 to kick-start the new year. There were a few incidents that gave spectators a thrill. On Lap 4, iSCS veterans Steven Hunter and Randal Robinson made contact and spun out, bringing out the first yellow. As racing went back underway, Fred Lampela found himself being challenged by past iSCS champion Vinnie Sansone. As Sansone made his move for the position on Lap 15, Lampela went high and lost grip, slapping the T2 wall and drifting across the track to hit the inside retaining wall. Green flag racing resumed quickly, with Sansone battling for the lead with returning racer Nick Neben. As they raced side-by-side for multiple laps, the racing climaxed on Lap 37 when Neben lost control on the T4 exit, making contact with Sansone. The caution came out as Neben flipped down the frontstretch, but because the field was frozen, and Neben was able to limp his damaged car around the track under caution, Neben was given the win officially. Steven Hunter overcame his earlier spin to finish in the runner-up position. Rookie David Cumbo Jr. begun his season on a high note with his first podium finish of the season. Todd Laribee and Jared Turnbull rounded out the top five respectively.
Tuesday brought the highest SOF race of the week (3529), and the largest collection of iSCS front-runners in one race. With 20 drivers gridded behind him, Alan Binder took his first green flag of the season and powered into the first turn, only to slow down for an immediate caution when Laribee lost control in T2. Soon after the restart, Michael Lampela also fell victim to the treacherous T2, and collected both of the Linder brothers (Steve and Michael) and Joe Quinn. With only one more caution shown in the race, Alan Binder sped away from the pack, with Petteri Kotovaara and PJ Stergios a little over a second behind, battling for position. On the white flag lap, Neben and Sansone found themselves together on-track again, and in the worst way, as they made contact and crashed violently. Keeping his nose clean of any incident, Binder won his first race of the year, placing himself at the top of the points standings once more. Kotovaara was able to beat Stergios to the line for second, with Stergios placing third. Quinn was able to rebound from his earlier incident with a fourth place result, and Chad Peterson completed the top five.
In Tuesday’s second split, it was pack racing at its finest, as a 6-car battle for the lead was seen for over half of the race, made up of newcomers and veterans alike. Starting on the pole, Cumbo Jr. was immediately under fire from the likes of Larry Landry, Dylan Schriner, Scott Kelly, Christopher Kurdziel, Glenn Cray, and Dustin Herner. While Cray was eliminated on Lap 6, with Herner hitting the wall and getting shuffled out on Lap 34, it was a vicious battle for the lead, as one small mistake could cost the trip to victory lane. On Lap 35, the battle was cut short as Mark Coffman spun to bring out the yellow. Victory lane saw the sprint of Landry that night, with Cumbo Jr. placing second. Shriner was seen on the podium after his third place result, with Kurdziel capturing fourth place. Kelly rounded out the top five.
If the action seen in Tuesday’s 2nd split event wasn’t enough, the boys went back at it again on Thursday. On point was James Stone, taking the green flag with a field of 19 drivers. Leading for 36 laps, Stone dominated much of the event, taking the heat from Kelly’s sprint close by. It looked to be a race between Stone and Kelly until Jonathan Sykes2 caught up to the front runners as they battled for position. On Lap 29, Sykes was able to power past Kelly on the high side in T3, a feat not usually witnessed in iRacing sprint car events, to eventually hunt down and secure the top position. As the laps wound down, Kelly was all over the back of Sykes, trying to find a hole to squeeze his car through. On the final lap, Stone lost control and collided with numerous cars in T1, leaving Sykes and Kelly to battle to a near-photo finish, with Sykes taking the checkers on his first ever sprint car win. Kelly was 0.067s behind.
“Still shaking,” said Sykes post-race. “Had to run up there from 10th spot… I had a ton of fun running down Scott and James and spent a few laps figuring out how to pass James. Great racing everyone.”
“Still shaking… Had to run up there from 10th spot… Great racing everyone.” – Jonathan Sykes
Kurdziel, Cray, and Bryce Ring rounded out the top five respectively, all less than a second-and-a-half behind the leaders.
There were many more highlights to see during the week as well. Matthew Hicks2 won Monday’s second event beating Kurdziel to the line by .098s. Fred Lampela visited victory lane for the first time this season on Wednesday after besting Chad Peterson’s machine in a high-rated SOF event, and also capitalized on Thursday’s main event, which featured veterans such as Sansone, the Linder brothers, and Michael Clement, who finished second. Kurdziel won the second feature on Wednesday, with TJ Johnson and Victor Ricketson Jr. completing the podium respectively. Hicks2 also scored a win on Wednesday after staying ahead of Glenn Cray and Scott Thorpe who were very close behind in the second and third spots. Binder returned to victory lane on Friday after Phoenix also saw Steve Linder celebrating his own win on the same night. Petteri Kotovaara finished up the week with a trip to winner’s circle as well, making his first week in the iSCS notably profitable.
With Binder topping the win charts with four victories, the six-time defending champion finds himself once again in the #1 spot in the championship standings. Moving into Week 2, the iSCS visits the first short track of the season – Langley Speedway. Will Binder continue to hold strong, even with multiple challengers behind him, and many more races taking place during the week? Find out next on iRN!
iRACING.COM SPRINT CAR SERIES – 2013 S1 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Alan Binder (223)
2. Petteri Kotovaara (-12)
3. PJ Stergios (-24)
4. Joe Quinn (-36)
5. Fred Lampela (-39)