When it comes to motorsports championships, seven is a number of reverence. The king of NASCAR, Richard Petty, is known for winning seven championships. Same with the legendary Dale Earnhardt, who also won seven cup titles. The world renowned Formula One wheelman Michael Schumacher was crowned seven times, and MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi has collected seven championship trophies as well in the 500cc class. After the conclusion of iRacing’s first season of 2013, there’s a new seven-time champion in town. Alan Binder, the king of the iRacing.com Sprint Car Series, scored his seventh straight sprint car championship on the service. While the competition near the top is fiercer than ever before, Binder will be hunting down his eight straight title this season, and will be pitted against the front runners of PJ Stergios, Fred Lampela, Steve Linder, Vinnie Sansone, and more. With rising stars and promising rookies in the series, iRacing’s premiere short-track series still has an aura of unpredictability, even with Binder’s continual domination.
2013 Season 2 started off on traditional grounds – Phoenix International Raceway. A favorite of many and a challenge to most, PIR’s 1-mile trek features tricky turns and long flat-out straights. Starting the new season out right, Fred Lampela continued to impress with his qualifying times, racking up the fastest time of the week with a 25.345s lap. Alan Binder scored the second fastest qualifying time of the week with his 25.357s time.
The week started on Monday with a field of 15 drivers eager to take the green flag and start Season 2 off with a roar. Binder started on the pole position, and after the green flag fell, he expertly defended his top spot and gained ground on Lampela. With only one caution in the 40 lap feature, Binder was able to pull away and win the first race of the season, three seconds ahead of Lampela at the finish line. Making his full-time return to the series, Scott Green completed the podium with his third place finish, making taking the reins of the sprint car after an absence look like simply getting back on a bicycle. Michael Willard2 started his season on the right foot with a fourth place result, and Steve Linder, a strong contender for the top five in the championship race, completed the top five.
On Tuesday, the big field came to town. Featuring a split that gridded 14 drivers in each race, there was plenty of excitement to see in both events. In the top split, Binder once again took the green flag and pulled away from the field, creating another dominating performance. A long green flag session was held until the first caution on Lap 26 when Trent Brown, the current second place driver, fell victim to PIR’s infamous Turn 2, spinning at 120 MPH down the backstretch while expertly avoiding all track obstacles and other drivers. After the restart, Brown and David Cumbo Jr. wrangled in Turn 3, resulting in Cumbo contacting the wall and spinning through the grass. He was able to save it and limp to pit road, and the yellow flag wasn’t displayed. In a very fast-paced event, Binder came home the victor once more, with Green and Steve Linder completing the podium respectively. Beginning his first full-season run in the iSCS, Cap Henry placed a very respectable fourth position, with Garry Loney rounding out the top five.
In Tuesday’s bottom split, it was Cody White3 who dominated the field after leading all 40 laps to take the win. TJ Johnson was the runner-up, and Andrew Barman, who also is running his first full season in the series, completed the podium in third. Eric Nordhoff placed fourth, while the Grave Digger himself, Chet Wheeler Jr., scored his first top five of the season.
Wednesday hosted the third event of the week, and it featured nine regular iSCS faces with one rookie – Matthew Howard. With only one caution period, this race was also significantly fast-paced, especially with the flames of Binder and Lampela leading the way once more. Binder took his third straight win of the week after leading all 40 laps, with Lampela the groomsman once more in second place. Trent Brown recovered from his rough race on Tuesday to place on the podium, while Henry and Craig Mintz completed the top five respectively.
Thursday, the biggest day of the week for iRacing’s sprint car drivers, showcased the largest car count of the week with 24 drivers divided between two splits. Featuring the highest SOF race of the week, the top split featured an intense battle in the front of the field as it was the Binder and Lampela show once again, with Lampela desperately trying to find a way around the seven-time champion. With only one caution flag flown, long green flag runs gave the field plenty of time to set up their moves for passing. As the laps wound down, it was becoming clearer that Binder wasn’t going to slip up and allow Lampela the chance to get by. When they crossed the finish line, it was Binder pulling off the four-peat for the week, just .233s ahead of Lampela. Past iSCS champion Vinnie Sansone made his first and only appearance of the week to pull off a podium finish, while Michael Lampela also showcased his return to the series by scoring a very respectable fourth place run. Doug Berryman completed the top five.
A great night of racing for both drivers and spectators alike, the bottom split was not without its own showdown for the lead. When the green flag flew, it was David Cumbo Jr. on point as he led the field from the pole position into the first turn. During the first lap, iSCS veteran Eddie Walczyk, who was yet another driver who announced his return to full-time status in the series, experienced a few hiccups with his new ride on the opening laps, and on Lap 2, found trouble in Turn 2. He spun into the infield after hitting the wall, but no caution flag flew. On Lap 12, drivers finally got their cooldown laps as Craig Mintz hit the front stretch wall after a wide exit off of Turn 4, bringing out the first caution. Not long after the restart, the yellow was displayed once again as rookie Matthew Howard was added to the list of victims of Turn 2 as he spun cleanly off of the turn. After the restart with about 15 laps remaining, series veteran Scott Kelly made his charge to take the lead after he battled hard from fourth position early on to get the chance to knock on Cumbo’s door. He came close to placing a bid for the lead, but Cumbo denied him each time. With about eight laps remaining, Kelly’s car began to tighten on exit, and he had to let up on his fight for the lead to concentrate on keeping second place from the hard-charging sprint of Matt Berndt. The two raced side by side for multiple laps, changing lanes and not letting either go by a long shot. As the two fought for position, Cumbo raced away with the win after leading all 40 laps. Kelly beat Berndt to the line to earn second place, only a tenth of a second ahead of Berndt. Randal Robinson, who waited to capitalize on a possible mistake from Kelly and Berndt, started his season with a fourth place finish. Mark Hephner charged his sprint up from ninth place to complete the top five.
A total of 77 gridded entries made the first week of the iSCS possible. With both new and returning faces, the series is already set to have many more close finishes and memorable moments. The field packs up to head to Langley Speedway for Week 2, the first short track stop on the 12-week tour. Will Binder continue his dominance at Langley, or will Fred Lampela find a way to get around the defending champion to take victory at one of the most famous short tracks in the USA? Find out next week on inRacingNews!