Phoenix International Raceway was the scene for Week Two of the NASCAR iRacing Series, and with its small front straight and trademark left dogleg occupying the backstretch, it proved to be quite a challenge for most of the drivers this week. With close to 1650 sim-racers participating in the seven Open and Fixed races at Phoenix this week, we were sure to be in for some great online racing.
In the Fixed set action it was Matt Bussa who drove to Victory Lane in the first race of the week at PIR, and he took it in a rather convincing fashion, starting from the pole position and leading 152 laps out of the total race distance (156). Justin Bolton came up through the field from 20th at the start to finish second, and was only two tenths behind Bussa at the checkered flag. Dwayne Vincent rounded out the top three with a great drive to claim his biggest points finish of the week.
Jordan Worth finished Race Two of the week in first place in the only race to have no black stripe drivers in the field; however this is not to discount his efforts and by leading 132 laps of the race, he clearly had the pace and skills to be at the front of the pack. Even with the win this was not Worth’s highest points finish due to the Strength of Field (SOF) not being as high as other races in the week (3502). Justin Kirby took the second place finish running a very consistent race and Hideyuki Honda of Asia ran a solid race to a third place finish, capturing 210 points.
Did someone say “black stripes?” Tyler D Hudson got the best of the field by starting in 25th place, fighting through the traffic and eventually wrapping-up the third race with a win with Bussa finishing further down the field after leading the majority of the race. Eugene Mozgunov took finished runner-up and was the highest scoring European racer of the week with 310 points, edging-out third place Daniel Michler by six-tenths of a second at the finish.
However, the finale was the place to be for drivers aiming for the points, as Race Four was the highest SOF race of the week (5402). Once again Bussa showed his dominance by taking his second win of the week, but not before many others held the lead such as NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series drivers Michael Conti and Josh Berry, along with NASCAR iRacing Pro Series driver Justin Bolton. Nonetheless, with Conti finishing further down the field, it was Paul Kusheba who finishing second just .3s adrift of Bussa (after leading 18 laps of the race). Third place finisher Justin Bolton was a further six-tenths back, yet still scored highly with 324 points.
In the Open races it was Berry taking the win in the first race of the week and scoring a very handy 385 points, the second highest of the PIR week. With eight lead changes and three cautions it wasn’t all plain sailing for Berry who led 74 laps, as many others in the field of 32 drivers led at some point including Alex Warren (78), Jarl Teien and Adam Gilliland (2 each). Despite this Berry held-off Hudson, who came home P2 good for 372 points while Brandon Hauck’s solid performance earned him the final spot on the podium and 360 points for this week.
Race Two produced the biggest point haul of the week in the Open series, with a SoF of 6161 in the top split. Jared Crawford seized the opportunity to claim the big payout, taking advantage of others’ misfortunes to get his first win of the season in front of many of the big names of the NASCAR iRacing Series. With 10 cautions it was an incident-filled race and the drama came thick and fast across the race distance with Chad Laughton missing out on a win after leading 48 laps. Michael Conti finished second almost two seconds back of Crawford, with Jordi Lopez Jr another half second behind after leading 11 laps.
“Winning at Phoenix is awesome.” — Jared Crawford
“My car was too loose overall,” explained Crawford, “but had really good speed behind someone. Had a few scary moments when Peter Bennett was closing on four new tires while I had old tires but a caution saved me.”
Crawford played the strategy game and it worked out like a treat for him. “I pitted while the rest took two or stayed out and just carved my way back to first . . . Winning at Phoenix is awesome. I honestly can’t believe I won the race.”
The final race of the week saw Laughton make up for his earlier woes by leading virtually all the way to the checkered flag. Jarl Teien started on pole and led the opening laps before the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series driver made his way to the front. Once in the lead, Laughton never looked back, earning himself 382 points towards his NiS campaign. Jeremy Lukaszka kept it clean and tidy to get P2 and, after his short stint in the lead, Teien finished a credible third for 358 points.
The NASCAR iRacing Series Fixed standings find Mozgunov leading the way with 619 points, as Phoenix’s top scorer Bussa unable to fully capitalise on his high points haul after missing the opening rounds at Daytona one week ago. Thus Dwayne Vincent and Matthew Wright round-out the top three with just 32 points covering first to third.
Leading the way in the Open Series Standings is Conti with 786 points, a comfortable 23 point margin over Hudson. Three points further back comes Laughton, meaning that second place could easily be his with a nice points finish in Week 3 in Sin City. Lopez and Teien round-out the top five, within touch of Conti heading into Round Three.
Speaking of which, Week Three sees the NASCAR iRacing Series heads from the Valley of the Sun to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the season’s first “cookie-cutter” track. As it is still early in the season, many drivers will be keen to put in some great races to move their names up to or near the top of the standings . . . and stay there!
Be sure to check iRacingNews to see who comes out on top in Vegas.