July 26th, 2016 by Corey Davis
The Pocono Raceway might have the nickname of “The Tricky Triangle,” but the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could make its own claim as the trickiest oval circuit, especially if you ask the drivers of the ITSR Power Series.
Indianapolis has long been known as a track where passing is difficult for stock cars, and that was no different when the online racing series made its latest trek to the Brickyard. However, several other factors including a tight setup and substantial tire wear made this race even tougher for the 16 simracers who took on the famed 2.5-mile oval.
In qualifying, Corey Davis picked up where he left off the previous week at Watkins Glen, winning the pole with a lap of 51.378 seconds. Marcus Napier was just 0.003 seconds behind in second place, followed by Chad Dalton, Mike Kelley, and Tim Johnston.
When the green flag flew, Davis’s lead didn’t last for long. Napier won the drag race into Turn 1 to take over the top spot, while Kelley and Dalton followed him through on Lap 1 to push Davis back to fourth.
Napier held the lead for the first five laps before Kelley took over out front, stretching the gap to a full second by Lap 13. Davis was then in second place after getting around Napier and Dalton, and Kelley saw his lead begin to shrink as the field closed in on the first round of green-flag pit stops.
As the drivers battled the setup and the tire wear, several of them, including Dalton, Johnston, and Napier, suffered battle scars after brushing the walls in the opening laps. The tire wear also contributed to the greatest lap time falloff of the season – drivers were lapping more than three seconds slower at the end of a run as they were at the beginning.
That meant ducking into the pits early was a huge advantage, and Davis was the first to pit on Lap 19 during the first cycle of stops. Kelley pitted one lap later, but his race lead turned into a two-second deficit to Davis because of the extra lap on old tires.
As Kelley slowly chipped away at the race lead, Dalton got around Johnston for third place, although he was more than five seconds behind the leader at that point. Five further seconds behind them, David Boden fell out of the top five and out of the race after bouncing off the Turn-3 wall and becoming another victim of the unfriendly confines of the Brickyard.
As the race neared the midway point, lap times again fell off and drivers who saved their tires had the advantage. That included Davis, who stretched his lead to 2.5 seconds over Kelley, and Dalton, who took a half-second out of the lead.
Kelley opened the second round of green-flag stops on Lap 37, and thanks to his earlier stop and a pit-road mistake by Davis, who slid through his pit stall, Kelley found himself back in the race lead by just under two seconds.
Just seven laps later, though, Davis caught up to Kelley and made a move for the lead. After a half-lap of running side by side, Davis edged back ahead and began to open up an advantage once again. Meanwhile, Kelley slid into the clutches of Dalton, who continued to close in on the two leaders.
While the gaps throughout the field had opened up after 50 laps and counting of caution-free racing, the fight for second place was just beginning when the final round of pit stops got underway.
Although Johnston spent much of the race in fourth place, he opted for a two-tire change to gain track position, exiting the pits just ahead of Kelley and Dalton. That gamble didn’t work out, though, as he fell back to fourth just one lap later and was left watching Kelley and Dalton pull away.
While Davis’s lead held steady at about five seconds, the battle for second intensified as Dalton closed to Kelley’s rear bumper. However, Indy’s reputation as a tough place to pass held true and Dalton was unable to make a pass for position in the closing laps.
At the front of the field, Davis crossed the yard of bricks to score his second career Power Series win at Indianapolis and his second straight win in season 12. Behind Kelley and Dalton, defending Indy winner Johnston finished in fourth with Napier in fifth.
Scott Simley was sixth, and as a result of his second straight finish outside the top five, he lost the points lead that he’d held for four straight races. Johnston now tops the championship standings by one point over Simley, two points over Davis, and nine points over Napier.
Next Sunday, the Power Series drivers have two chances to earn (or lose) points in a day/night doubleheader at Phoenix. The two sprint races could put a priority on short-run speed, which would come as a welcome change for the drivers who fought tire wear and the walls at tricky Indy.