John Gorlinsky might not be the 2011 champion of the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship, but the veteran sim racer locked-up the runner-up spot in the championship with a dominating performance at Homestead-Miami Speedway last night. Gorlinsky grabbed the pole position and was never seriously challenged the whole night, leading all but a few laps during the cycle of green flag pit stops. Thomas Hazard gave a valiant effort in an attempt to hang onto the second spot in the championship, but came up just 11 points short with his eighth place effort.
There were many other spots up for grabs during the final race of the season as well. The top 12 is the cutoff for championship winnings while the top 25 in the standings qualify for an automatic berth in the 2012 season of the NiSWC. With so much on the line and Homestead’s reputation for limited overtaking opportunities, some feared the final race of the season was going to be filled with crashes.
And at times it appeared the race would never get going during the first quarter of the event as the caution flag flew early and often due to some aggressive driving. Even some of the most experienced drivers including Derek Wood and Brad Davies found trouble, seriously hampering their efforts to gain positions in the points. As the chaos unfolded behind him, Gorlinsky made all the right moves out front, mixing-up his restart points in order to keep the lead. Once he was out front, there was no touching him as he easily stretched the lead to nearly two seconds at some points.
As the race wore on and attrition started to take its toll, the race suddenly took a turn for the better with a long green flag run that included pit stops. Gorlinsky and newly-crowned series champion Ray Alfalla, who was running second, decided to short pit in hopes of using fresh tire to open a gap on those behind them. Others, notably Brian Schoenburg and Jameson Spies, opted to stay out until they nearly exhausted their fuel in hopes of stealing track position by catching a lucky caution. Unfortunately for them, the race stayed green, forcing everyone to pit road which gave the lead back to Gorlinsky with Alfalla still in hot pursuit.
Alfalla and the rest of the field would get one more chance at the leader when the final yellow of the day flew on Lap 111 of 133, setting up a 19 lap shootout. Once again, though, Gorlinsky checked-out on the restart and went on to win by .664 of a second over Alfalla, with Thomas Lewandowski, Josh Berry and Jeremy Allen rounding-out the top five.
The battle for the top 12 in the standings saw some movement at Homestead, but stayed largely the same. Although Alfalla’s championship was secure, Gorlinsky grabbed second while Hazard had to settle for third. Despite finishing 24th at Homestead, Brad Davies bounced back from a tough start to the season to finish fourth in the points while 2011 newcomer Brad Wright’s run to 13th place last night secured fifth place in the standings. The bottom half of the season’s top ten includes Schoenburg, Tyler Hudson, Berry, Wood and Steve Sheehan, with Josh Parker slipping to eleventh and Chris Main rounding-out the money spots in twelfth.
The battle for the top 25 ended-up tight as well. Jean Costa and Connor Mackenzie joined 2010 NiSWC champ Richard Towler as the final three drivers to lock themselves into next year’s championship. Matthew Moose, Justin Lowery and Jordan Erickson just missed the cut and will have to race their way back in through the NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series (NiPS).
With the second NiSWC season now in the books, the future looks bright for the series. There is some great talent waiting in the wings in the Pro Series so it will be tough for the bottom 25 NiSWC drivers to get back in the series next year. Speaking of the NiPS, now that the 2011 NiSWC is history, the focus in 2011 Season 4 shifts to the 61 drivers competing for the top 25 spots in the Pro Series and their guaranteed berths in the 2012 NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship. Let the battle begin!