As the NASCAR iRacing Series Fixed rushes to its conclusion, Week 34 brought the sim racers to Texas Motor Speedway – one of the most popular tracks in oval racing, greatly populated in every tier of the sport. Championship leader Matt Bussa was the quickest driver in one lap pace, setting the benchmark in qualifying at 29.685s. Some came close – Kris Kelley was just .009s behind, but Bussa had the upper hand going into the week’s races. Texas’ fast layout provided a challenge in each of its four corners and keeping the tires alive proved key to success.
In the first event of the week, Chad J Laughton proved his pace by winning the 5377 SoF online race after leading 47 laps. Laughton took advantage of Ryan Michael Luza dropping from contention after being out front for 84 of the 167 lap race. This left the door open for Laughton and Dylan Duval, with only .276s separating the duo at the finish. Tyler Hudson showed he was still on form, no matter if he only had his PRO licence ( as opposed to the PRO/WC he had all year). Hudson was .7s back from Laughton, keeping Joshua Filyaw at bay to maintain his P3 finishing position. Chris Overland rounded out the top five, and being just over a second behind Laughton, really put the spotlight on the great, close sim racing we saw at Texas.
Steffen Nobis denied Simon Crochart the chance to win Race 2 of the week – setting the fastest lap and winning by over 1.5 seconds! The SDC motorsports driver really put on a dominant performance, leading 153 laps (most of the race!) and lapping every driver bar the top eight. Justin Kirby was 2.5s off in third, with the smaller 3468 SoF still providing Kirby with 208 points to add to his campaign. In the second split – Paul Bedient won in similar fashion, with 1.7s being the delta between himself and runner-up Michael Horwath, who led 110 laps and stole the fastest lap, but was unable to convert his pace into a great result. Luke Emerton won Split 3 by almost three seconds, being in front when it counted – only leading 17 laps!
Race 3 had a slightly higher SoF (4775) and once again Laughton was on-point when it came to race pace, taking the win by over 4 seconds from none other than Hudson. Jordan Werth rounded out the top three – and with all three drivers starting outside the top 10, weaving through the field to the top spots seemed to be their strong points at TMS. Werth was only .2s behind Hudson, and with those two battling, Laughton could edge-out his lead and conserve if he needed to. Eric Hansard was a bit further back in fourth, with Race 3 being more spread out than the 5k SoF Race 1. Nobis was fifth, just eight seconds back of Laughton and a closer second behind Hansard after 167 laps.
The final race of the week was the place to be if you were looking for some serious points – the 5831 SoF handed-out a massive 375 points to the victor. Conti pulled it out of the bag again, with a big gap between himself and his competitors. Overland was the closest – but with five seconds between them, there was no way that Overland could have challenged Conti for the win. Similarly, Overland held his own against third place finisher Justin Bolton, who was a further three seconds back, but still got 350 points for his efforts. Hudson was fourth with Luza narrowly missing out on that spot – but instead having to settle for 5th. With the top seven finishers earning over 300 points apiece for their efforts, it could spice up the championship standings quite a bit.
Bussa still heads the standings with 7633 points – and although Dwayne Vincent did not feature in the top places this week, he still holds onto second with quite a large gap (over 600 points) back to the rest of the field. Kelley holds station in third with Filyaw slowly closing the gap down to just under 30 points due to his good finish in the high SoFs at Texas. William Green has been shoved down a few places to seventh, with Bolton and Hudson moving past them due to their high points this week.
Next week is the penultimate week in the NASCAR iRacing Series – with Week 35 being the first time the Gen-6 cars head out onto the recently rescanned Phoenix International Raceway. We visited PIR back in Week 2 at the start of the season, but since then we’ve said ‘Goodbye’ to the grass roots – and ‘Hello!’ to the repaved all tarmac Phoenix. This should prove a challenge to all the drivers as the driving line could well be a little different for next week. Check out iRacingNews next week for a round-up of all the action that goes down in Phoenix!