Tyler Hudson came from being a lap down in the last 100 laps of Sunday’s Late Model 250 to take the win in the 4th Annual Late Model Championships Presented by GSRacing.net at the New Smyrna Speedway. Hudson held-off teammate Cale Gale on a four lap restart to settle the main event. Trenton Moriarity came from a 26th place starting spot in the event to finish third, followed by Tanner Stoops and Gale Force Suspension B Main winner Landon Huffman.
Hudson started on the pole for the 250-lap online race, alongside two-time and defending NASCAR iRacing.com Tour Modified champ Brandon Salvatore. The race experienced mini-rashes of “caution fever,” including the first one on Lap 4 in which pace setter from Open Qualifying Kenneth O’Keefe, Richie Davidowitz and Mike Alexander got swept up in an incident out of Turn Four. The bad luck for the Open Qualifying transferees continued a few laps later when Salvatore was forced to retire with crash damage.
The first lead change of the event happened on Lap 31 when Gale took the lead from his teammate. Hudson would head to pit road shortly after the lead change during a caution period. The driver of the #83 Rheem Chevrolet led up to Lap 68 when he surrendered the lead to Joe “The Show” Reuter under yellow. Reuter led for five laps before handing the lead over to Moriarity, who paced the 30 car field for ten laps. Moriarity battled with GSRacing.net Truck Series regular and JDR Graphics 125 winner Byron Daley for the lead with Daley taking the top spot at the end of Lap 83 for eight laps. Daley lined up alongside Brandon Williamson for a restart on Lap 89 but would give up the lead two laps later when Gale, who started behind Daley, made an outside pass for the lead.
A 57 lap green flag run would begin with that restart which resulted in Gale checking out on the rest of the field. A solo spin by Scott Blackburn brought-out the caution on Lap 145, which brought the 11 cars on the lead lap back behind Gale. The caution period turned out to be a turning point in the race when the leaders came to pit road for their pit stops. Hudson’s crew was slow working on the #01 AdaSignWraps.com sponsored car and when Hudson returned to the racing surface he found himself one lap down to then leader Reuter. With that miscommunication on his pit stop, it dropped the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship regular to the 20th spot for the restart.
The caution would fly on Lap 168 when 2010 Late Model Champion Allen Lewis got up into Jesse Bunnell, sending Lewis across the track and back into oncoming traffic. Hudson, who was running just behind Lewis, got by the wreck and was rewarded with the “Free Pass” under the caution to get back on the lead lap with just under 80 laps to go in the event. At Lap 175, Hudson had fought his way back up to the top ten and by the end of the 22 lap green flag run, the landscape of the top five would change. Reuter lost the lead at Lap 192 to Gale prior to the caution coming out four laps later. When he lost the lead, the #2 Sunset Grill Chevrolet would fall to fourth before the yellow flew again at Lap 196, one lap after he was passed by Hudson for the third place spot.
The leaders made their pit stops with 53 to go, led by Gale, Williamson, Hudson, Reuter and Eric Mahlik. Reuter and Mahlik won the race off pit road and started second and third on the restart with 49 to go behind leader Chad Coleman, who stayed out under the yellow flag. Reuter made quick work on the inside of Coleman, regaining the lead on the next lap. Gale, Hudson and Williamson would also find the inside line on the #38 JDR Graphics/Tim’s Corner Motorsports Chevrolet, shuffling Coleman back to fifth place just a few circuits after the restart. Reuter held the lead until Hudson took the point for the final time on Lap 209.
Reuter was poised for a podium finish before he and Huffman made slight contact entering Turn One on a restart with 11 to go. Reuter made a trip down pit road to make repairs while Huffman had a front row seat to the battle in front of him between Moriarity and Stoops on the final restart of the event, which saw Moriarity take the final podium spot by a half car length over Stoops.
When the dust was settled and the checkers flew, Hudson would take home a record breaking $202 from the event, eclipsing the total of 2011 Late Model Championships winner Parker Hammons by one dollar. Moriarity would take home the Gale Force Suspension Hard Charger Award by picking up 23 positions to finish third after starting the 250-lap affair in 26th. The Late Model Championships 250 Presented by GSRacing.net took one hour, 44 minutes to complete.
Qualifying races set the field for the Late Model 250 on Sunday afternoon. Alexander, Daley and Hudson each scored wins in the 35-lap Heat Races with Gareth Gonder taking the win in the C Feature ahead of Huffman and Bunnell. Following the C Feature, 25 cars took the New Smyrna Speedway for the Gale Force Suspension B Feature, which saw Huffman victorious over Reuter and Ricky Hardin. Gonder finished tenth in the B Feature, picking up the Gale Force Suspension “I Almost Made It” Award for being the first driver to not make the Late Model 250. O’Keefe was the quickest driver in Open Qualifying in the three days leading up to the Late Model 250, besting Chad Detillier, Davidowitz, Salvatore and Stoops. Maxime Paquette was awarded with the Derek Speare Designs Qualifier Award on Sunday, which was rewarded to a driver at random who attempted to qualify for the Late Model 250. Paquette will receive a Sport Button Box from DerekSpeareDesigns.com. A total of 73 drivers attempted to qualify for the event.
The Late Model 250 was streamed live, flag-to-flag, on WebRacingNetwork.com. You can check out the archive or buy a DVD copy of the event at their site.