After a fast week at New Smyrna, the iRacing.Com Sprint Car Series took a trip to Florida to visit the now-historic USA International Speedway. Missing from the schedule last season, USA International provides a test of horsepower and handling skill for all drivers who visit the track, regardless of the car they bring. Relative to the sprint cars, the track is a long one, coming in at 3/4 of a mile; a significant contrast to the half-mile of New Smyrna. Drivers would need to adapt quickly in order to snag the top spots of the week. Earlier this year, the “real” USA International closed its doors to the public, as its last race was held in 2008. On iRacing.com, the speedway lives on, and with the sprint cars it would see one of its fastest events of Season 3.
A total of 68 drivers gridded during Week 10 for a total of five races – all at their regularly scheduled times. Defending iSCS champion Alan Binder, who is quite the familiar face on the front row, set the field on fire again by blazing a top qualifying lap of 18.834s, with sprint car veteran PJ Stergios keeping a pace not far behind at 18.882s.
Tuesday brought the first events of the week, and the top split took the green flag with Binder leading the eleven-car field. Only one caution period was had in the 50 lap feature, which provided for a long green flag session. The longer the green was out, the farther Binder stretched his lead over PJ Stergios. When the checkers flew, it was Binder deservedly taking the top spot, two seconds ahead of runner-up Stergios. A three-way battle for third saw Steve Linder completing the podium, while Steven Hunter and Matthew Pilus finished fourth and fifth respectively close behind Linder.
While the top split was a clean run, the second split event was anything but. Eddie Walczyk led the 11-car field to the green flag, beginning a run that would be stalled by five cautions. Walczyk, however, had a car that thrived on short runs, and pulled away from the field on each restart. Following in second place was Scott Kelly, who tagged the backstretch wall on Lap 21 but managed to keep from spinning out. After the longest green flag run of the race, Kelly caught up to Walczyk and attempted a pass for the lead, but the last caution came out before Kelly could gain the upper hand and the race ended under the yellow. It was Eddie’s first ever win in the iRacing.Com Sprint Car Series.
“I honestly don’t know how I was able to catch up to Eddie after scraping the wall,” said Kelly. “It seemed like the damage actually made the car go faster, but it was clear it was Eddie’s race. Wish it could have ended under green, but I had a great time racing him – he deserved this win.”
“The damage actually made the car go faster, but it was clear it was Eddie’s race.” — Scott Kelly
Third placed Kyle Odaynik was the last sim-racer on the lead lap, while Brett Waldrep finished two laps down in fourth place. Chet Wheeler repaired enough damage on his machine to bring the “Grave Digger” home for a top five finish.
USA saw more excitement when the sprints returned on Thursday for Round Two of Week 10 festivities. With the top SOF rating of the week (3196), a 16-car field formed the top split. Binder took the green once again, and for the second time in a row, the top split only featured one caution period – this on Lap Six, involving Michael Willard and Brandon Buchberger. In contrast to Tuesday’s race, Binder faced serious challenges from iSCS veterans PJ Stergios and Vinnie Sansone. Lapped traffic bunched the lead pack together, but when the checkers fell it was Binder punching his ticket to Victory Lane once more. Stergios and Sansone finished second and third respectively, less than .2s behind Binder. Fred Lampela brought his sprint home in fourth place, and Steve Linder collected his second top five finish of the week.
The second split promised a repeat performance by Walczyk and Kelly, but with a total of five caution periods, a good bit of luck was necessary to achieve a strong finish. With 22 laps recorded, Kelly found himself turned the wrong way after contact with Dayton Gank’s machine. With Tuesday’s runner-up out of contention, Walczyk kept it fast and smooth to win his second event of the week, completing his sweep of the week’s second-split events. Gank finished in second place, with Oscar Buxonat completing the podium with third place. Paul Mepyans and Daniel Muse completed the top five respectively.
Sunday showcased the final event of Week 10 for the sprints. Leading the 15-car field to the green flag was Fred Lampela, who led for 11 laps until he tagged the wall and was forced to retreat to the rear of the pack. With Lampela relinquishing the lead, the Fast Finns — Aleksi Elomaa and Petteri Kotovaara – took the top spots. On Lap 22, while side-by-side for the lead, Kotovaara lost grip and spun out while trying to pass Elomaa. On the restart, Elomaa sped away and captured his second win of the season. Finishing second and third respectively were Joni Hagner and Kotovaara, completing a 1-2-3 finish for team Glacier Racing. Douglas Berryman brought his sprint home for a fourth place result, and Walczyk completed a memorable week with a top five finish.
After the action at USA, Binder retains his lead over Sansone by 59 points. With only two weeks left in the season, Sansone will need to visit victory lane a couple more times to close the gap Binder has left in his wake. Next week, the sprints visit Irwindale, a classic location for the iSCS. With the season on the final stretch, who will take the checkers in Week 11? Find out next week on iRN!
iSCS Championship Standings
1. Alan Binder (1669)
2. Vinnie Sansone (-59)
3. PJ Stergios (-190)
4. Fred Lampela (-337)
5. Brandon Buchberger (-457)