With the second half of the 2012 Season One NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series (NiLMS) campaign underway, championship contenders are beginning to emerge as the push is on to put together the best eight weeks to tally up to a title. Jeff Conover, an iRacing Late Model veteran and Mark Lambert, who has lit the lamp many times early in the season, have put in their bids to become the champ with their recent weekly wins during Rounds Six and Seven at the Iowa and Concord Speedways, respectively.  Hundreds of sim racers came-out over the past two weeks to run at the two unique short tracks with the ultimate goal in mind – to take a checkered flag in iRacing’s most competitive short track series.

More than 800 iRacers answered the Late Models call at Iowa Speedway.

Conover’s winning total for the week at Iowa was 168 points after he went to victory lane in a 2783 Strength of Field (SoF) online race on March 10th. Conover led all 45 laps of the race from the pole position, but was closely perused by Alex Kan, who finished just four car lengths behind Conover at the finish. Brandon Simmons followed closely behind in third with Craig Pearson and John Bage completing the top five.

The top split race of the week belonged to Heath Smith. Smith made seven total starts of the week, winning in six of those and coming home with 163 points. His biggest single race point haul was the top split, which was rated at 2913 SoF. Smith started from the pole, led all 45 laps and cruised to the win over Sheldon Leesekamp, Simmons, David Oliver and Brody Hays. The win was worth 179 points, which factored into Smith’s week long point total.

Lambert continued his solid season with a spot on the weekly podium at Iowa. His triumph of the round came on March 11th when he led all 45 laps of the event from the pole and came home a half second up on Johnny Housley. Ronnie Binkley was third in the race, followed by Steven Landry and Daniel Williamson. The race was rated at 2582 SoF and earned Lambert 161 valuable championship points.

Percy Hennings was the busiest driver of the week, making 26 starts at Iowa. Sixes were wild in the win column as six drivers took home a six pack of wins during Week Six, including Smith, Garry Gonya2, Richey Etheridge, David Barr, Ray Blossom and Steven Landry. Smith edged-out Lambert in qualifying, grabbing the pole with a 24.025 second lap. Housley, Binkley and James Kirsch completed the bottom half of the top five in single car qualifying. Lambert got the edge on Smith though in Time Trials, taking the win over Smith, Housley, Thomas D Smith and Simmons.

The series moved to Concord Speedway for Round Seven and it was Lambert keeping his rapid pace at the top of the standings with another weekly win in the NiLMS. Lambert started from the pole and led the field for all 50 laps around the tricky triangle and edged Benhamin Harste by just a few car lengths at the end of the March 15th affair. Mike Budzien was third, followed by Bruce Perry and Tyler Laughlin. Lambert scored 179 points for the win, and in fact, the strength of the race was so tough that Harste’s 164 points put him second overall for the week.

Brodie Kostecki was third for the week after four starts resulted in four wins and 161 points. The biggest of his four wins came on March 17th when he drove to victory lane in a 2732 SoF race. Kostecki led wire-to-wire in defeating Brandon Hauck by four tenths of a second. Third in this race belonged to Shawn Stitt, who also scored four wins on the week in a dozen total starts. Scott Blackburn and Miles Crabbe completed the top five in this race.

Chris Noble entered the most races of the week, starting 18 events at Concord. Four was the top amount of wins turned in by one driver, and that number was obtained thrice — by Kostecki, Kenneth OKeefe and Stitt. Lambert was the top qualifier for the week with a lap of 15.543 seconds, besting runner-up Heath Smith who was followed by OKeefe, Kostecki and Jeff Ford. Lambert completed the sweep for the week with the top effort in Time Trials as he defeated Smith, Stitt, Kostecki and Satoru Ohno in that discipline.

Lambert leads the series after seven weeks of competition with 1160 points, 109 points better than second place overall and Division Two leader Heath Smith. Third overall belongs to Conover with 1030 points, with Jeremy Ahlum (920) and Division Three leader Brian Lambert (885) completing the top five overall. Leaders from Divisions Four to Ten include Vinny Troia, Chad Arnold, Sean Odea, Fausto Bessa Gomes, Darrell Phillips, Cale Thompson2 and Petie Madrid.

The series now heads to the high banks of Thompson International Speedway. Can Lambert keep up his pace en route to his first NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series championship or will Smith, Conover or others have something to say about that? You can follow along with all the short track action here at inRacingNews.

Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!

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