January 25th, 2016 by Michael Chrobok
The HPP Simulation Grand National Series thundered into the Peach State last Wednesday night for Round Three of the 2016 season. Brody Hays, driving the #37 Chevrolet, dominated the SIMRacingApps 125 and left the Atlanta Motor Speedway savoring the sweet taste of an iROC sim racing victory for the very first time.
As has been the case for the past several weeks, qualifying once again proved to be exceptionally close. Jeffrey Belt, in the #67 Ginn Motorsports Toyota, clocked in with an early time of 29.879 seconds; however, he was edged for the True Power Motor Oil Pole Position by Brody Hays with a time of 29.877, just two one-thousandths of a second faster. When the dust settled after the final round of qualifying, a total of 20 other drivers recorded laps within a tenth of a second of the pole time. Reporters strolling up and down pit lane heard the same murmurs from competitors in the garage area: the field was strong, and the race was shaping up to be ultra-competitive.
When the green flag flew to start the event, Hays jumped out to an early lead, but was followed closely by the #13 HPP Simulation Chevrolet of Gary Whitson, winner of the season-opening race at Phoenix.
Just as the battle was about to intensify, a hair-raising wreck occurred on the backstretch on lap 13. Jamie Moore and Ty Hester tangled off of Turn Two, sending the latter’s #68 K7 Creations Toyota flipping wildly down the back-straight. Weekly favorites Brian Yaczik and One8 Racing teammates Will Warstler and Josh Jones were also caught up in the melee, ending their chances of victory.
While some drivers elected to stay out during the ensuing caution, their old tires were no match against drivers who had pitted for fresh rubber. Gary Whitson quickly worked his way to the lead and held the point until the second yellow of the evening flew on lap 25, when Daniel Vining, aboard Gravel Motorsports’ #99 Louisville Chevy Dude Camaro, suffered a hard wreck in turn four.
The caution, and the resulting pit stops, shook up the running order, handing Jeffrey Belt the lead and cycling Brody Hays up to second. Hays battled past Belt on lap 42 and built up a comfortable advantage over new second-place driver Michael Chrobok in the #7, before making a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 58.
A bold, two-tire strategy call put Gary Whitson back in command of the field for a brief time, but his worn left-side tires prevented him from keeping pace with Hays’ speedy #37 machine. The Elkhorn, Wisconsin native blasted past Whitson and opened up a one-second advantage over second-place, assumed once again by Chrobok.
The 52-lap green flag run that produced plenty of side-by-side racing came to an end with two circuits remaining. Michael Cunic, who was having a solid run in his #34 Chevrolet, hit a patch of oil in Turn One and was launched into a barrel-roll after making contact with the SAFER Barrier, eerily reminiscent of Michael McDowell’s infamous Texas Motor Speedway crash in 2008. Cunic’s frightening accident brought out the yellow, and as no green-white-checkers are used in iROC, the race was declared official, with Brody Hays – who led 43 of the race’s 82 laps – cruising to Victory Lane.
Last week’s winner, Michael Chrobok, settled for second. Bryce Whitson, who qualified 26th, came home third, in the process picking up the M-SPEC Hard Charger of the Race Award and the championship points lead. Austin Mistler, in the #11 Derek Speare Designs Chevrolet, and Christopher Ginn, in the #10 Toyota, rounded out the top 5.
Next week, the HPP Simulation Grand National Series moves north to the Richmond International Raceway for 125 laps of close-quarters racing under the Virginia lights using the world’s best racing game. Be sure to tune in Wednesday evening at 9 PM ET on iRacing Live (www.iracing.com/live) to catch all of the fender-banging, short-track online racing action!
Until then, visit RaceiROC.com for more information about the HPP Simulation Series and to get in on all the action that the iRacing Online Championship has to offer.