The NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series took on South Boston Speedway or Week 5 of the series. Nestled just off highway 360 in South Boston, Virginia, this .4 mile oval turns into a gladiator arena for the sim-racers in the Late Model series. Survival is the key to success at “SoBo” where many sim-racers fought tooth and nail to hold on to positions and the car. Chaos was the theme, with cars experiencing handling issues and drivers losing tempers, in the 2081 Strength of Field race, which saw 11 sim-racers do battle with the track . . . and each other.
Cody Thompson started from the pole with Barbara Shipley on his outside. As the green flag dropped, Thompson took a commanding lead over Shipley with the top six going single file trying not to let Thompson get to far ahead. One competitor quickly found-out how tough this place can be, as Gunar Fugler got into the front stretch wall then decided to greet the backstretch wall before finding out the fastest way around South Boston may not include the wall in the equation.
The action was picking-up as the laps ticked-off, most notably for ninth place starter Charles Carter who moved into second by lap 12 and set his sights on running down Thompson.
The following lap saw another driver fighting a handling issue – namely Shipley — get loose exiting Turn Two and hit the inside wall. Fortunately she got it slowed down enough so as not damage the car but dropping from fifth to eighth in the process.
The online racing intensified at the back of the pack with Chris Falconer dove under Michael Goodson for P8 on Lap 16. Contact resulted when Goodson came down on Falconer, who spun and narrowly avoided the barrels at the edge of pit road but wound-up facing the wrong direction on the backstretch. Trying get his car righted, Falconer turned in front of David Caines who slammed into the wayward Monte Carlo.
With only 20 laps in the book many competitors were driving like it was the last lap. Goodson shoved his car under Shipley in a move resembling a full-blown dive bomb. Goodson pushed-up into Shipley causing both cars to slide sideways before they both gathered it up with up Goodson advancing to sixth and Shipley dropping to seventh. The issue was far from settled, however. Over the next three laps Shipley reeled-in Goodson and began playing bumper tag before moving under Goodson on Lap 24. Shipley got loose trying to complete the pass and over corrected, putting both cars in the wall . . . and collecting the lead cars of Thompson and Carter in the bargain. Adding insult to injury, Fulger was rear ended by Andrew O’Hagan who couldn’t get slowed down enough.
In the aftermath of the Big One, Thompson was forced to pit and yielding the lead to Carter who was trying to muscle his damage machine around. Thompson lost just one lap to the new leader and dropped back to fourth. However, he soon got back on the lead lap on Lap 38 with a pass on a Carter who seemed to just be holding on. With second placed Ryan Hoepner gaining ground, it seemed to be just a matter of time before Carter yielded the lead.
With 22 laps remaining Thompson caught the third place machine of Allan Young and wasted no time taking to the high side to complete the pass. Meanwhile, Hoepner had caught Carter and tried to overtake him on the high side, to no avail. Not satisfied with running second, Hoepner took to the bottom on to pass Carter for the lead on Lap 57.
Hoepner’s run at the front was only destined to last a couple laps. The lapped car of Fugler tried to make it three wide by going down below the yellow, but came-up and tapped Hoepner in the left rear quarter panel. Hoepner got loose and smacked the backstretch wall but kept his foot on the gas. He caught Fugler into Turn Three, putting both cars into the wall, and almost collecting Thompson and O’Hagan.
With five laps to go Thompson caught Carter; two laps later he got under Carter in a bid to make the pass for the lead.
Given the damage to Carter’s car and the rate at which Thompson caught-up after going a lap down, one has to wonder if this would be a race or just a mercy pass for the lead. But Carter would have none of it by fending-off Thompson on the high side for the next three laps before Thompson finally inched ahead at the line by .012 seconds.
Young came home third seven seconds back of the leaders, followed by Dylan Shepherd, the final driver to finish on the lead lap. In fifth place, Caines was the only driver to finish a lap down would finish in fifth while Shipley held-off O’Hagan for sixth, four laps down. Fugler was five laps down in eighth ahead of Hoepner, followed by Goodson 33 laps and 46 laps down, respectively.
Week 6 poses a new set of challenges as the NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series heads to Lakeland, FL and USA International Speedway. Next week we shall find out who can conquer this ¾ mile and who will be left wondering “what if?”