Nearly everyone in sim racing knows how much Kevin King likes Phoenix International Raceway . . . and it was not hard to see why on Tuesday night. King completely dominated Round Two of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series (NiPS) at PIR, leading 120 of the 156 laps and never coming under any pressure to speak of, even on several late-race restarts.
Dominant as King was he did not sit on the pole, as the advantage of starting in the number one spot went to Nick Ottinger. However, Ottinger’s time at the front was short-lived. The first lap saw him get together with Richie Davidowitz on the back straightaway, sending the pole-sitter around and losing several positions in the process. Ottinger would never regain the lost ground.
Cautions came early and often, and it did seemed the wrecking would not stop any time soon. A good setup on short runs, combined with good track position, was the key to success and King had that figured-out best. Absolutely no one had anything for him on the track under green. The only times he was passed all race was on pit road when some drivers elected to take two tires instead of four. These leads were short- lived though as King took advantage of his four fresh tires and drove back to the front every time he found himself back in traffic.
Meanwhile, back in the field drivers were scrambling just to stay out of trouble. As the laps wound down, competitors got more daring with their moves and some paid the price. Last week’s winner — Marcus Lindsey — was victimized in an incident late in the going which relegated him to a disappointing twenty-fourth place finish. Carson McClelland, Harrison Widelitz and Joshua Laughton also encountered trouble at PIR after their strong runs at Texas Motor Speedway. None finished higher than thirtieth and all took a hit in the points.
Thanks to the many the crashes, the race was decided during a flurry of restarts in the final laps. King easily held-off the field every time the lights went green, seemingly driving on a different level than anyone else on the race track. The fifteenth and final caution of the race flew with only two laps remaining, allowing King and the field to cruise under the checkered flag without any challenge.
Following King across the line after 154 laps was teammate Davidowitz followed by Michael Conti, who rebounded from being well back in the field early on, Chris Henion, and Jason Lofing.
King was thrilled with the win at his favorite track. “What can I say, I love this damn track,” he said. “That said, I have to thank the team for pouring a lot of time into getting us all ready for this race.”
King’s PIR win, combined with his NiSWC win from earlier this year, clearly make him the man to beat on short tracks as the NIPS moves forward. Look for King to be a serious contender at Richmond and New Hampshire in the weeks to come.
With two races in the books Henion holds the lead in the overall standings with a slim four point lead over Davidowitz. It is two more points back to Lofing in third while Roland Ehnström sits fourth, 13 points back of the lead. Landon Harrison and Marcus Lindsey are tied for fifth, 16 points adrift of the lead, while King’s win at PIR puts him 17th in the standings after his early exit in the season opener at TMS.
Week Three sees the NiPS transitions back to a mile and a half race track; Homestead-Miami Speedway. Several drivers are off to a slow start and desperately need a good run to stay in the running for the top 25 in points. Marcus Lindsey has to be the favorite after his performance at Texas but if the race is anything like Phoenix, just about anything could happen. Check out inRacingNews next Wednesday for the recap of all the action from HMS!