The third season of the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship (NiSWC) kicked-off Tuesday night at Daytona International Speedway, with 50 sim racers ready to compete in the 17 race season and win part of the $19,000 championship purse. NASCAR iRacing Pro Series (NiPS) champion Alex Warren headlined several newcomers ready to challenge the likes of Richard Towler, Brad Davies and defending NiSWC champion, Ray Alfalla,
The 2012 season started off with another first as well. The Daytona race offered a cash prize to the winner, $500 to be exact, with second place also taking home $250 worth of iRacing credits. Changes to the cars’ aero package meant that for the first time in the NiSWC, the two car tandem style of drafting seen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would be the fastest way around the track. Whoever could master the art of the tandem while staying out of trouble throughout the 100 lap event would have the best shot to win.
In typical Daytona fashion, the online race came down to a shootout at the end with Jeremy Allen just nipping Robert Hall for the victory as the field crashed behind them on Lap 98. The beneficiary of a timely push from teammate Richie Davidowitz on the final restart a lap earlier, and Allen outdueled Hall and his partner, Patrick Baldwin, across the stripe.
At the beginning of the race however, it looked as though the JRM cars were the ones to beat. In fact, they swept the top four qualifying positions with Thomas Lewandowski winning the pole by a .003 second margin over teammate Steve Sheehan with Derek Wood and Alfalla making up Row Two. When the green flew, the four quickly paired-up and tried to control the early part of the race. All that changed when Wood’s engine suddenly expired on Lap Eight, breaking-up the foursome and bringing many other drivers into the mix up front.
The demise of Wood’s engine so early in the race seemed to calm the whole pack down and many drivers looked content to ride it out until the final few laps. The battle for first was still fierce throughout though, with 18 drivers swapping the lead 45 times during the race. The first pit strategy occurred just 16 laps into the race when Davies and Josh Parker pitted in an attempt to run the race backwards, much like a road course race. They were joined on pit road by newcomers Matt Whitten and Michael Conti, and the foursome attempted to gain time on the pack of cars which had not yet pitted.
The plan worked, as they built a six second lead on the pack after everyone had stopped for the first time. Shortly after the cycle was complete, Davies lost his drafting partner when Parker began experiencing technical difficulties at the halfway point of the race, leaving Whitten and Conti alone up front. It appeared the two would be able to fight it out for the win unchallenged, but because of their early pit stop strategy, they needed to take more fuel on the final stop of the race, enabling the pack to catch up.
The first yellow finally flew on Lap 72 when Warren tried to come to pit road and Jean Costa clipped him in the rear, sparking a small accident that resulted in serious damage to the cars of Brad Wright and Florian Godard. This allowed many drivers who had experienced problems in the pits to get back on the lead lap by taking the wave around, and also bunched-up the rest of the field for the final run to the finish. Now, it was ‘go’ time.
On the restart, drivers quickly started to form into tandems, attempting to get to the lead and away from the pack. The yellow flew for a second time on Lap 83 when Godard could not keep his damaged car on the apron and slid up into traffic in Turn Three, sparking a multi-car incident that damaged many cars including the Impala of Alfalla.
That set up a restart on Lap 87, with Conti and Whitten still holding down first and second positions respectively. The two pushed clear of the pack, but had to switch with nine laps to go and got swallowed up by the pack behind them, handing the lead to Allen. The very next lap, the yellow flew again, this time for a crash on the back straightaway which sent Thomas Hazard for a wild ride on his roof and collected about a half dozen more cars.
The race thus came down to a three lap shootout, and who could push the best when it counted. As the field took the green, the two lead cars in the tandems, Allen and Hall, stayed neck and neck through Turns One and Two with helpful pushes from Davidowitz and Baldwin. By the time the pairs got to Turn Four, they were still dead even when the pushers (aka Davidowitz and Baldwin) got together. This sent Baldwin up the track, disconnecting him from Hall and causing a pileup in his wake. This allowed Allen to inch just ahead of Hall when the caution flew, effectively ending the race.
With his win, Allen also earned $500 cash for his effort, while Hall collected the $250 in iRacing credit on offer. Davidowitz finished third ahead of Conti fourth with Baldwin slipping to fifth. Sixth was Whitten ahead of JRM teammates Towler, John Gorlinksy and polesitter Lewandowski, while Brian Shoenburg rebounded from his early crash damage to complete the top ten.
Week Two brings the series to its annual stop in Phoenix International Raceway for some flat track racing action. Kevin King won the Phoenix race last year and will be looking to improve on his twenty-fifth place showing at Daytona, while Allen and the rest of the front runners in the points look for another solid run to build some early season momentum. Who will conquer The Valley of the Sun? Find out in two weeks on PSRTV!