The dream of one day having a top iRacing division, sanctioned by NASCAR, became a reality for iRacing co-founders John Henry and David Kaemmer. The NASCAR iRacing World Championship began Tuesday night at the famed Daytona International Speedway with, by far, the most important race in the history of iRacing to date.
It began with a razor thin qualifying session at 8:45 P.M. EST. Thomas Lewandowski, from New York, went third quick at a 47.665. Jim Caudill Jr. went second quick with a 47.672, but the qualifying session belonged to Josh Parker. Parker is coming off winning the iRacing Pro Series Oval (iPSO) championship, and showed right away why he is the favorite to win the NiDWC with his lap of 47.660 seconds around DIS, capturing the pole for the big race.
A few notables on the DNQ list were teammates of Tyler Hudson and Alex Horn. Hudson and Horn were strong competitors in the iPSO, both winning races and both being a threat every week. But they were forced to watch from the grandstands, as they didn’t make the cut for the NiDWC debut.
Joel Putty (withdrew)
Parker dominated the first half of the race, which went caution-free until the very end. Parker led the first 47 laps, but was getting terrible fuel mileage and was forced to pit early, then got busted for speeding on pit road. Pit road saw just as much excitement as the track itself. With top drivers like Parker and Jim Caudill Jr. being caught speeding, and others wrecking getting into the pits, getting a clean pit in . . . and out was a huge challenge.
Parker had this to say about his race, “Getting the pole was a great thing, But also a bad thing. (It) kind of killed my fuel mileage and I was forced to pit early. I sped and destroyed my race.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. rolled off from the 19th position, and methodically picked his way through the field. Earnhardt worked his way up to third before the only pit stops of the race, avoided trouble, and emerged with the lead at the half way point.
While Earnhardt Jr. took the strategy of trying to be ahead of the wreck, others took the opposite approach. Jesse Atchison, Robert Hall, and John Prather all laid back expecting a big wreck.
“I went to the back because Earnhardt, Fogel, and Erickson were all going up the middle three wide, and I wasn’t sure if the people around them could hold it,” said Atchison, who was destined to finish eighth. “It turns out that they did (hold it) and I did it for nothing. It very well may have cost me a chance to win due to being so far back when I pitted.”
After the pit stops it was the Dale Earnhardt Jr. show. He had Thomas Hazard on his bumper and the two would prove unbeatable. The only caution of the race flew on lap 98 of 100 when Jordan Erickson tried to make something happen, tried the middle and “The Big One” ensued.
“After five to go, it was just balls to the wall,” said Erickson. “I saw a gap in the middle and threw it in there and started to make up a few spots to hopefully break into the top-10. But it didn’t last too long. I got squeezed up into the high line and ended a lot of people’s race. Either way, I’d make that same move again.”
Richard Towler, who was caught up in the melay thought Erickson forced his way into the corner, where there was no room. Either way it took out a lot of good cars, and since iRacing doesn’t have a green-white-checkerd system in place, it ended the first ever NiDWC race, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. out front . . . and counting his lucky stars.
Earnhardt actually started sputtering on gas when the caution came out. He had barely enough fuel to limp it around for the final caution laps, but he did it. Isn’t it fitting that one of the main voices of sim racing takes home the first ever NiDWC victory?
“The race started really good and clean,” he said. “I knew I had a quick car and made a couple moves up the middle throughout the first run and got all the way up to third.
“Brad Davies was kind enough to let me get to the bottom when it was time to pit (and) I guess I had a hell of a good stop cause when the cycle was over I was leading. I was happy about this but then came to the realization that I wouldn’t make it to the end on fuel. As the laps ran down I was two laps short. Come through Turns Three-Four with two laps left I had to prepare for a pit stop for a little gas. I looked in the mirror and saw an accident and the yellow came out. At this point I had exactly .3 gallons left and sputtered across the line to take the yellow. After two more laps of sputtering I took the checkered and that was that. You can’t get any more luckier than that.
“I enjoyed the race, I enjoyed the competition even more. With this group, its going to be a lot of fun this season in the WDC. You are all some solid dudes who are a lot of fun to race with.”
The race was shockingly clean. Nobody knew quite what to expect for the NiDWC. Many thought all the ingredients were in place for a wreck-fest, but this race couldn’t have been cleaner. The only caution flew at the end of the race when drivers were trying to make something happen. Everybody minded their manners and saved their cars for the finish.
NiDWC Daytona Week 1 Top 10
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Two weeks from now the drivers will head out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It will be the first test of the mile and a half tracks, which the drivers will have to master, as the cookie cutter tracks dominate most of the schedule.