The NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series visited Lanier Speedway for the fourth week of 2013 Season 4. Nestled across the highway from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, Lanier closed its doors in 2011 but – thanks to iRacing.com — lives on in the virtual racing world. This week’s feature race, coming in strong with the Strength of Field of 2582, saw action that most will remember from any Saturday night showdown. These sim-racers put it all on the line to produce a show not many have seen in the Late Model series.
It was a family front row with Scott Howell on the pole and Ricky Howell Jr. starting on the outside. Scott took the lead at the start with the opportunistic Paul Kudlick (P2) and Matthew Hicks2 (P3) moving Ricky Howell back to fourth. Most of the field dropped into single file, leaving Ricky alone on the high side and searching for a place in line as he continued falling back to P7 back by Lap Five.
Finally seeing a small hole, Howell Jr. tried to fit his car in line only to hit Kevin Berg in the right rear and get pushed back up the track by Landon Abbott. Howell Jr. fought the car through Turn Three before spinning off of Turn Four, and rejoined the action a lap down behind Kudlick in second.
Howell Jr’s odyssey was not the only action on the track, as everyone from the front to the tail of the field was digging hard trying to get positions. Although he was in the lead, Scott Howell had a mirror full of Kudlick, while farther back Kevin J Myers, Berg, and Cody Thompson were cutting through the field.
At the half way point in the race Howell yielded the lead to Kudlick, while Hicks2 rode in third patiently waiting to make a move. By now, Myers and Berg had now moved up to fourth and fifth, respectively. Behind them, Nick Mullinex fought hard to hold-off Thompson but was forced to yield sixth place. However, the front of the field had tightened-up considerably in the middle stages of the race, to the point that the lead pack was now six cars strong.
Lap 43 saw Myers dive under Hicks2 for third place, with Berg and Thompson following through as Hicks2 was trapped on the high side. The next time around Howell regained the lead from Kudlick, only to lose it again three laps later when Kudlick staged a bump ‘n run through the apex of One and Two. Howell lost the rear of the car and slid sideways up the track before gathering it all in and continuing in sixth place.
That exchange gave Myers a chance to make a move on Kudlick, taking to the high side in a show of power to make the pass. After a few laps Myers completed the pass but when Berg tried to follow suit, he lost third to Thompson.
With 20 laps to go Thompson got under Kudlick for P2, with Berg and Hicks2 pouncing as well to drop Kudlick to fifth.
Four laps later would see another lead change when Thompson dove under Myers. Not about to go down without a fight, Myers pulled a crossover move and completed the (re)pass as Thompson brushed the back stretch wall. The resulting loss of momentum enabled the familiar duo of Berg and Hicks2 to gain ground and shuffle Thompson back to fourth.
With the race nearing the end patience was not an option for the front five sim-racers. When Thompson got under Hicks2, the two made contact with Hicks2 pushing up the track and dropping to fourth. Any thoughts Kudlick had of supplanting Hicks2 were dashed when he was forced to make a splash ‘n go, handing fifth place to Scott Howell.
With only two laps to go, Berg forced his way under Myers. With no interest in yielding the spot, Myers pinched-down on Berg in the hopes he would bail-out of the pass. No sale. Neither racer gave an inch, resulting in contact between the two cars. Myers got sideways and — with “help” from Berg — got it straightened out, but not before more contact with Thompson dropped Myers back to fourth place.
The final laps would see Berg hold off Thompson for the win by .2s followed closely by Hicks2 in third ahead of Myers, Scott Howell and Mullinex. Seventh went to Brad Adamson with Jesse Shwarz the final car on the lead lap in P8. First car one lap down finishing ninth was Jason Kuykendall with Abbott 10th from Ricky Howell Jr. Jon Starkweather finished twelfth two laps down, and Kudlick came home in thirteenth three laps down.
Week Five of the NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series season moves on to South Boston Speedway. The action should be hot and heavy as every sim-racer out there knows survival is the key to winning at this track.