John Gorlinsky scored his first win of the NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series season at Daytona International Speedway Tuesday night, and along with it he might have saved his shot at returning to the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship for 2014. Gorlinsky was just ahead of Tom Moustakas when the fourth yellow flag of the event flew with just three laps remaining, ending the race under caution.
Moustakas settled for second with Lee Herron following in third. Chad Laughton was fourth and Brandon Hauff finished fifth after both drivers started outside the top 35, showing that qualifying position means very little at a superspeedway. The lead officially changed 39 times in 100 laps as racing for the top spot was close all night, especially with the new rules package that makes the two-car tandem much less effective and forced the sim-racers to run in packs.
Gorlinsky quickly ascended from his thirty-third starting position and hung around the front for most of the evening. He was also helped when Richard Dusett made contact with Laughton entering Turn One with just nine laps remaining. Before the crash happened it appeared to be Dusett’s race to lose as he could place his car anywhere on the track and pass other drivers seemingly at will. He and Laughton took control of the race after their final pit stop with 40 laps to go and looked content to ride in line until go time.
That all changed with a slight mistake. The contact caused Dusett to lose control and spin in front of the field, resulting in severe damage to his car as not everyone could avoid him. Laughton escaped with minimal damage but lost his drafting partner for the sprint to the finish, which gave Gorlinsky the opening he needed to seize control.
Dusett again helped-out Gorlinsky on the ensuing restart when he stayed on track despite his damaged car, a move that will surely stir up some controversy. Since Dusett’s car was off the pace, a jam-up occurred behind him which ultimately led to the wreck that ended the race just before Moustakas could mount a run for the lead.
While the race was rather clean other than the two cautions at the end, the Big One did happen on Lap 29 and with it came serious championship implications. Josh Berry, series points leader coming into the event, had nowhere to go when Steve Sheehan spun entering Turn Three. Berry crashed hard and flipped over and needed more than 20 laps behind the wall to get his car repaired. He returned to the track and finished thirty-seventh. Brandon Chubirko, who had also been looking good in the points, also was involved in the crash. He was even more unlucky than Berry, as his damage forced him to retire in forty-second position.
With Berry’s troubles the NiPS has a new points leader, and it is a bit of a surprise: Landon Harrison is now tied with Dusett for the championship lead after four races. Harrison has not shown great speed thus far but has had a knack for staying out of trouble in the beginning of the season. On the other hand, Dusett has shown speed, but has been involved in accidents which have hurt his finishes. Meanwhile, Berry drops to third but is only two points back of the lead. Robert Hall is fourth, just one point back of Berry, and Bryan Blackford had ridden a consistent start to the season of his own to fifth in the standings.
Next week the series takes on Pocono Raceway in what will conclude the first half of the 2013-14 season. Pocono is another wild card of sorts, mostly due to its unique shape and the setup required to do well there. The veterans of past NiSWC and NiPS trips to the Tricky Triangle should have the leg up at this demanding circuit, but the current NiPS season has been anything but predictable thus far.