March 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Vining
The iROC K7 Creations Cup Series took to the highly-aged but wicked fast racing surface of the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia for the Atlanta 195. Thirty of sim racing’s finest competed for 130 laps in a race that saw action throughout the field, including an epic battle in the waning laps between teammates, with Michael Chrobok besting Gary Whitson to claim the win.
“What an unbelievable race!” said the winner. “From the moment we unloaded the #7 HPP Simulation Chevrolet, I knew we had a strong piece. Qualifying up in the eighth spot confirmed that. We got up to fourth place early on, and it was game on from there. Gary and I were pretty evenly matched, so once he and I moved up to the first and second spots, we had quite the battle. He’d lead some, then I’d lead some, and we’d swap again.”
Gary Whitson led the most laps and ran the fastest lap in the event chasing down Chrobok en route to his second place finish.
“Race was really good,” said Whitson. “I stayed patient the first part and then had to drive really hard at the end. Michael ended up getting by me in traffic and I just couldn’t get him back.”
The field got off to a clean start, with True Power Motor Oil Pole Award winner Michael Atkins Jr. leading the opening 16 circuits. The race’s first yellow flag came 15 laps in when the #47 of Todd Kirkwood went for a spin off turn four.
Five laps later, Bryce Whitson made contact with the left rear of Jason Matzel, sending both spinning. Norm Pelletier and Alex Giese were also collected. The heavy contact ended Whitson’s night.
The race leading up to the final 15 laps was full of fast-paced drama all the way around the track. Drivers fought a tricky setup that put the race into the drivers’ hands, with tire wear being critical.
“I was pretty tight after about 10 good laps”, said fifth-place finisher Travis McQuistion. “I had to start just racing the track and not the cars. I would just let people go when they got to me and hope I could get them later. So, I just did what I could do to save tires.”
A long green flag run in the middle of the race spread out the field and brought on green flag pit stops.
“I was expecting the car to be free but the weather conditions tightened the car up dramatically,” said third-place finisher Chris Westerfield. “Overall, I thought the drivers handled the conditions fairly well. Atlanta has so much fall off with the abrasive surface it makes it a blast to race and try to keep up with the wide variety of pit strategy.”
The race’s final caution came on lap 90 when the #108 Michael Atkins Jr. lost it coming off turn four and slammed the outside wall after over correcting, collecting the #127 of Robbie Brown in the process.
It became clear that Whitson Motorsports was the team to beat, as the Chrobok/Whitson pairing up front led 89 of the race’s 130 laps. The two battled neck and neck in the final 15 laps. As Chrobok began to pull away, Whitson fought harder.
“The final fifteen or so laps were the toughest of my life,” said Chrobok. “I knew Gary was fast, and he was trying his hardest to get around me. I knew if I left the top side open, he’d get a run and I’d get too tight on the bottom and have to lift. So I did my best to protect the top with a mirror full of that 13. I was sweating bullets, but it all worked out.”
With the win, Chrobok jumped a remarkable 26 spots in the standings, all the way up to second behind point leader Gabriel Solis. The win also solidifies Chrobok’s bid for the “Showdown for the Shifter” Chase in the final ten races of the season.
“I was able to punch my ticket to the Showdown for the Shifter!” he said. “So proud of this team and happy to deliver for HPP Simulation. Our sponsor, Mark Hargett, was watching last night, and I’m glad he was able to ride on board with me while I put his company in Victory Lane.”
Points leader Solis had a respectable race too. The Daytona winner came home in sixth.
“Had a pretty good run,” he said. “Just drove it trying not to kill anyone or my tires. I was around clean racers all night. The Last Car Loaded Motorsports Toyota is off to a great start. I’m pleased with the way these races have gone. However, it’s a long season and obviously, the competition in the iROC league is stiff and seem to show up well-prepared.”
The iROC K7 Creations Cup Series moves on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week for the High Roller 150. Follow along with everything iROC by checking out the league’s website, RaceiROC.com, and give the league a like on Facebook at facebook.com/raceiroc.