The Bootleg Racing League traveled south to Midland, NC to compete on the “mini” tricky triangle, better known as Concord Speedway. Concord is truly one of the more interesting and difficult tracks on the Bootleg Racing League schedule with a three turn layout reminiscent of a miniature Pocono or Phoenix. If you speak to the series regulars, you will find a love/hate relationship with Concord. When it’s going well for a driver, it’s the greatest track on the schedule. When it’s not going well, a driver never wants to see this layout again.
Matt Shinoski (#35) held the championship lead heading into Week 3 of the season, but only by the narrowest of margins as John Holcomb (#69) trailed him by a single point at this early stage of the battle.
By order of the invert from the previous week’s race, Ernie Brown (#8) started the race from the pole. J.R. Shepherd (#98) started from the outside of the front row after leading some of the event the previous week but eventually falling back while Shinoski started from the fourth position.
Brown jumped out to a nice lead at the green flag with Shepherd able to get to the bottom of the track and fall into the second position. The caution came out early on lap five when Holcomb hit the wall hard coming out of Turn 3 and spun down the front straightaway.
Brown and Shepherd showed early muscle as both cars stepped away from the field when the race went back to green. The battle for third place on back was exciting with cars swapping positions and using both high and low lines to finish passes. The intense sim racing enabled the lead cars to stretch their advantage and make it a two horse race in the early going.
The second caution of the evening flew on lap 29 when Richard Blake (#66) lost control going into turn one. Brown and Shepherd’s lead evaporated as a hard-charging Donnie Moore (#26) and Brian Neff (#60) lined-up behind them under yellow.
On the ensuing restart, Moore joined the battle for the top spot. Brown continued leading with Shepherd repeatedly trying both low and high lines to get around him. Moore was patient and riding in a position to take advantage of anything that would shake the top two cars. That opportunity presented itself on lap 43 as Shepherd slid high heading into Turn 1, allowing Moore enough room to put the #26 ASPCA machine underneath the #98 heading through the Turn 2 dogleg. The bleeding would continue for Shepherd on lap 45 as he drove the car hard onto the Turn 1 apron and slid up the track, opening the door for Neff to move into the third position. With the hard racing for the second and third position behind him, Brown opened a slight lead as the race neared the halfway point.
Lap 48 saw Lucas Stinziano lose control exiting Turn 3. Stinziano spun back into the oncoming traffic triggering a serious crash that ended with several cars airborne and one finishing upside down. Brown would once again see his lead vanish during the ensuing caution.
Not that it mattered much as the second half of the race was all Ernie Brown. Brown took advantage of long green flag runs and good restarts to step away from the field in the #8 Crankenstein machine. The battle behind Brown was intense with Moore doing everything he could to hold-off Neff and Shepherd. The three sim racers treated fans to some of the best racing the Bootleg Racing League has seen this season with Neff looking for any opportunity to get around Moore and Shepherd lurking right behind.
It was too good to last. With three laps remaining, Shepherd made contact with Neff, turning him around on the front straightaway and bringing-out the caution for the final time. The yellow flag sealed Brown’s wire-to-wire victory with Moore finishing runner-up. Tim Knott (#41) took advantage of the final caution to slip into the third position.
“It’s been awhile! Glad to be back up here” said Brown in the post race interview. “I never looked in my rear-view mirror. I just kept looking forward.”
“I never looked in my rear-view mirror. I just kept looking forward.” – Ernie Brown
The championship battle continues with Shinoski hanging-on to the top spot. Moore moves up several positions after his second place finish at Concord to sit second in the points, four back from Shinoski. Holcomb drops to a tie for third place with Shepherd who has been running strong all season.
Next Saturday night finds The Outlaws heading north again for a shootout at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, ME. Be sure to tune-in to the Global SimRacing Channel’s broadcast on iRacingLive at 9:15PM EST.