Berry Sprints to Victory in Atlanta
December 16th, 2015 by Jason Lofing
Josh Berry (HPM) captured the win in the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, using a great restart with two laps remaining to pass Nick Furler (Nexxus) just before a caution came out for a crash further back in the field. Berry’s slightly fresher tires proved decisive, as Furler could not find the grip to hold off the veteran.
Cody Byus (The TEAM) came home third after leading ten laps, followed by polesitter Dylan Duval in fourth. Adam Gilliland rounded out the top five in an impressive run from twenty-fifth on the grid.
Berry’s improbable win was set up by a late-race yellow which flew with eight laps remaining after 112 straight laps of green flag sim racing. Furler, who was on a three-stop strategy, was leading during the laps before the caution but teammates Mitchell Hunt and Berry were running him down on fresher tires as a result of their four-stop strategy.
Hunt and Berry had swapped positions a few times during the run but it was Hunt who had the better long-run car as the laps wound down. With the end of the racing getting closer, Furler was a sitting duck on old tires as Hunt chopped tenths out of the margin each lap. However, he was temporarily saved by a caution just as Hunt was making his move.
Then came the decision of the race: to pit or not to pit under caution? Tires were falling off more than three seconds on long runs, meaning fresh rubber would be a huge advantage even on a green-white-checker. The question was, how many sim racers would roll the dice and stay on the track, hoping for a quick yellow to end the race?
Furler and Berry both decided track position was more important than tires and they, along with five others, stayed out. Hunt was the first of the leaders to pit and dragged most of the lead lap into the pits with him, but he would restart eighth and needed the race to go green to the end to have any chance at winning.
When the green flag waved for the final time Furler spun his tires slightly more than Berry and the race was on toward Turn One with Furler on the inside and Berry even with the leader on the outside. Meanwhile, Hunt had to check-up for cars spinning their tires on the restart and in doing so lost valuable ground to the leaders.
As the leaders entered Turn One, Berry chose to run the top lane instead of pinching Furler down on the bottom. The plan worked as Berry carried a much higher corner speed than Furler and cleared him off Turn Two, pulling out to a four car length lead down the back straightaway. With Berry in command, David Rattler’s crash off Turn Two triggered the fifth and final yellow of the evening and sealed the victory.
Allen Boes, who had been on fire coming into Altanta, was notably absent from the front of the field as the race drew to conclusion. Boes started second and led 20 laps but never could get the handling of his car to his liking on longer runs. Near the end his car got loose and Boes could not keep it off the wall. The contact caused suspension damage and forced Boes to the pits and to a disappointing thirty-first place finish.
Despite the hiccup, Boes still holds the championship lead over Berry as the series hits the Christmas break. Only three races remain between Boes and a championship, but all three pose unique challenges to the competitors. Next up is Kentucky Speedway, an utterly unique 1.5-mile track on the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series schedule. Richmond International Raceway, the only track under one mile on the calendar, follows Kentucky and the season wraps-up at the biggest wildcard of them all: Daytona International Speedway.
Can Boes rebound from his troubles at Atlanta, or can Berry continue to narrow the gap? Find out when the NiPS returns from Christmas break at Kentucky Speedway on January 5!