Built in 2006, Iowa Speedway is one of the “babies” of motorsports venues. In that small time frame, however, the track has hosted many different kinds of racing series on its five different track configurations. Not only has NASCAR’s Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series visited the track, but the IndyCar and Indy Lights series have also experienced thrills here. The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series has seen action on Iowa’s road course configuration, and the Legends have not one but two ovals to choose from for their races. When the track was scanned into iRacing’s catalogs, it quickly became a favorite of many, and drivers from many different kinds of disciplines churn laps on a regular basis. Iowa’s 7/8 mile oval is where the most populated races run, and the iRacing Sprint Car Series has seen action at this track during Week 3 for many seasons. Each visit, the pit stalls are crowded with sprint car drivers looking to run close to flat-out status, all the while showcasing some of the highest top speeds of the season.
Many qualifying sessions were available during the week, with the fastest driver sporting a time of 21.475s. That wheelman was none other than 7-time defending champion Alan Binder. In hot pursuit of his fastest time was Fred Lampela, who scored a time that was only two one-hundredths of a second off of Binder’s time. With 71 gridded entrants in the four time slots that went official during the week, Iowa Speedway was primed to have its usual fare of nail-biters.
Monday hosted the first feature with Michael Willard2 on the pole leading a pack of 12 drivers. Willard led for 7 laps but was overtaken by series front-runner Steve Linder on Lap 10 after an early multi-lap duel. With two cautions slowing down the field for 9 laps, it was a close finish when the 50 lap event was concluded. Linder had the edge on Willard at the checkers by .190s, taking the first checkered flag of the week. David Cumbo Jr. completed the podium in third. Fritz Kletke and Mark Hephner rounded out the top five respectively.
Tuesday’s main time slot featured a split with 11 drivers each. In the top split, it was 2-time iSCS champion Vinnie Sansone who took the green flag and led the pack into Turn 1. Drivers started showing signs of aggression early on, overtaking drivers 4-wide immediately after the green dropped. The excitement wouldn’t last for long, however, as Cap Henry dove into T1 too hot on the second lap, and collected multiple cars in a violent wreck that left Henry tumbling end-over-end down the turn embankment. Also involved in the melee were Cumbo and Leila Wilson, who weren’t happy with the maneuver. Showing class that is luckily common in the iSCS, Henry later apologized for the incident in his post-race comments.
After the restart, Sansone battled tough company behind him including Steve Linder and Willard2. On Lap 11, Linder found that his luck had run dry as the Turn 4 “gremlin,” as the iSCS regulars have called it, went after Linder and he spun while in second place. The yellow came out once more, but as the field prepared to go back to green again, Sansone experienced electrical issues when he lost connection with the racing server, and his car blinked out of existence. This left Willard as the leader when the field roared back to the green. On Lap 24, Larry “Coon” Landry checked up when the car of Brett Waldrep got loose next to him. Waldrep hit Linder, who was fighting back from his early spin, putting Linder’s car into the wall, and almost careened back down into Landry. Waldrep and Landry were able to continue, but Linder was sent to the garage for repairs and wasn’t able to finish the race.
As the race was winding down, Scott Kelly got entangled with the lapped machine of Cumbo Jr. when the two drivers experienced miscommunication as they entered T1, thinking both would go in the opposite lane they committed to. Kelly plowed into the back of Cumbo and both cars smacked the wall. As the two limped back around the track to the yellow flag, Michael Willard2 coasted around the track to the checkered flag, taking his first win of the week. Michael Linder was the runner-up, and iSCS veteran Scott Green completed the podium with his third place run. Brett Waldrep and Coon Landry both survived the race and finished fourth and fifth place respectively.
In the second split, Eric Nordhoff blasted from an 8th place starting spot to take the win in a race marred by only one caution. It was his second career iSCS win. Nicholas Howard wasn’t far behind in the nail-biter, as he finished only .040s behind Nordhoff at the finish line. Kletke completed the podium in third, and Craig Mintz finished in fourth position. James Stone completed the top five.
“To win a race in this series means so much based on the level of talent and professionalism displayed by all drivers. It really is an honor.” – Eric Nordhoff
On Wednesday it was a classic showdown between Binder and Lampela as the two duked it out from the green to the checkered flag. Binder ended up winning his first race of the week and cashing in a good chunk of points, but Lampela wasn’t far behind at all, finishing only .141s behind Binder. Linder finished third, and Cumbo Jr. was able to find some luck after Tuesday’s misfortunes and finished in fourth. Cap Henry also scored a respectable fifth place finish, also redeeming himself from Tuesday’s woes.
Thursday featured the last official races of the week, with the top split featuring an impressive 3141 SOF rating – the highest of the week. Binder again started on point and led the 13-car field to the green flag. The green flag was all the field would see during the race, as Binder won the caution-free event, earning himself 193 championship points. Vinnie Sansone placed second, two seconds behind Binder. Willard2 completed the podium with his third place finish. Lampela, who started second, found himself in fourth place after contact with Binder earlier in the race while racing for the lead. Steve Linder finished fifth.
Lampela was reflective after the race. “[My car] came on strong for the last half and I was able catch Alan, looking for a bobble or mistake, but he wasn’t giving me much to work with. I saw a small opening inside going into 1 with 4 to go and went for it, [but] as I got to the bottom I realized we were both going for the same piece of real estate. [I] tried to back out at the last moment, but too late – we touched wheels and I went around, kicking myself for not being a bit more patient. [A]nother lesson learned.”
In the second split event on Thursday, the 12-car field also experienced a caution-free evening, but not without plenty of action. Scott Kelly led the field to the green flag, and powered away from the pack early on. On Lap 10, the T4 “gremlin” attacked once more, this time after Kelly’s ride. Kelly took a spin across the front-stretch infield right in front of the flag stand, but no yellow flag was displayed. Kelly fell from the top position all the way to eleventh in one lap, but he was able to get his sprint going again after the spin, as he didn’t hit any objects on or around the track. Chet Wheeler Jr. took the lead after the incident, and the famous “Grave Digger” machine led for 39 laps before being challenged by Edwin Jones with just a handful of laps to go. On Lap 48, Jones made his move on Wheeler for the lead with a daring pass in T3. With Andrew Barman and Marcus Dean right behind the leaders, spectators were holding their breath as the four cars battled for position to the finish line. Jones took the win, with less than half a second between himself and the next three cars. Wheeler finished in second, Barman in third, and Dean in fourth. Craig Mintz took another top five finish with his fifth-place result.
“An exciting finish with side by side racing and no contact is why this series is my favorite.” – Edwin Jones
“I’d like to thank the flagman who fell asleep as I spun across the frontstretch,” said a distraught Kelly post-race, after he raced back to earn a sixth place finish. “Saw another spin on the backstretch, but I guess the flagman didn’t see that one either. Reminds me of last time I won the pole at this track – almost the same exact story. Regardless, it sounds like Jones and Wheeler had quite a race up front. Congrats to Edwin, great show they put on!”
With Iowa in the books, it was time to pack up and move on to one of the most notorious short tracks in existence – Martinsville Speedway. The championship has become incredibly close, with Binder slipping back in the points after his absence at Langley. Sansone currently leads by just one point over Lampela, but will he be able to keep his Fapco sponsored sprint at the top of the scoreboards after the trip to the paperclip? Tune in to iRN soon to see how events played out in Week 4!
iSCS 2013 S2 CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Vinnie Sansone
2. Fred Lampela (-1)
3. Scott Green (-65)
4. Steve Linder (-66)
5. Alan Binder (-92)