John Gorlinsky drove his way to the front of the field, and eventually into victory lane at Daytona International Speedway last night in Round Eleven of the NASCAR iRacing World Championship Series (NiWCS). Pit stops were key in the one stop online race. Pit road closed the door for some and opened it for others, including Gorlinsky who put his Virgina Tech Chevy into the lead on Lap 44 following the pit stop exchange and was never headed.
However, the Hokie’s first NiWCS win was did not come easily. While leading the race, Gorlinsky momentarily pulled a vanishing act when he lost his internet connection with the iRacing.com server on Lap 68. When his car reappeared, it was in the side of second-placed Derek Wood, causing “The Big One.”
Involved in the big wreck were some of the biggest names on iRacing: Wood, Ray Alfalla, Brad Davies, Jesse Atchison and Bryan Blackford to name a few. Although Gorlinsky’s connection caused the wreck, he was able to drive away unscathed from the incident, and hold on in the remaining laps to win the race.
“I didn’t put much time into practicing for tonight, and it showed once I got into the lead,” Gorlinsky said. “I had a great pit stop and managed to keep up with the leaders when I left the pits with Josh (Berry). I think Brad (Davies) and Derek (Wood) got caught up with a lapper and decided to show their synchronized driving skills. I was far enough behind the pack where I didn’t lift and took the lead. As the run wore on, my tires became worn and the high line was making progress with about 10 laps to go. Unfortunately, my internet did some crazy things and decided it was going to take out 70% of the field.”
The big crash set-up a shootout to the end of the 80 lap race. However, the shootout was short-lived. As all the competitors were racing hard to pick up every position possible in the final laps, a few cars made contact coming off Turn Four, which put the race under yellow for the second and final time. Involved in the final wreck were some more high profile drivers; Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Pope, Wood and Davies and others weren’t able to make it to the stripe unscathed.
Other than the two late caution flags, Daytona showed for the second time this season why it is one of the most fun tracks to watch a race. Fans watching the broadcast live on iRacing.com were treated to an excellent show of driving ability by the top guys in the business. Josh Parker dominated early, but fell back when his pit crew dropped the ball on his green flag stop. Earnhardt also was strong early, but much like Parker, had problems on pit road. Both drivers rebounded and were racing for the win when the final wreck happened. Although Parker was able to hang onto a sixth place finish, while Earnhardt was relegated to a twenty-sixth place finish.
Josh Berry and Richard Towler survived some late incidents to take the checkered flag in second and third, respectively, ahead of Jordan Erickson and Tyler D. Hudson who scored their first top fives of the season. Towler thus extended his lead in the NiWCS title battle to 52 points over Davies, whose roller coaster ride at Daytona ended in ninth spot.
“We (Davies & Wood) managed to gather everything up and rallied back to lead on the outside line until Gorlinsky’s connection blew up and totaled the field,” Davies said. “From then on, my race was pretty much over. I guess I could be thankful that I got back to ninth but I’m greedy and felt I should have finished better.”
With Daytona now in the rear view mirror, the NiWCS will head north to the Brickyard, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will be the first NiWCS race at the historic venue, a place where Towler, Davies and Berry have all scored wins in the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series. Whether they can repeat their success, or if someone else will grab the win, will all be determined two weeks from now, at Indy.