With the checkered flag in sight, the championship contenders in the NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Series (NiLMS) have begun to step up their game. One doesn’t have to look past the last two weeks in the series to see who will be battling for the title heading down to the wire. Heath Smith and Mark Lambert landed on the podium in the last two rounds of the series at the USA International and Martinsville Speedways, putting the iRacing short track world on notice that they want the championship in 2012 Season One.

The NiLMS points battle may be a two man race, but the on-track competition remains wide-open.

Week Nine of 12 on the series took the sim racers to Florida and the virtual USA International Speedway. Both Smith and Lambert made two starts on the week and each took home two wins but it was Smith who got the edge, winning a 2844 sof race on April 1st to take the weekly victory over his rivals. Smith started from the pole and led every one of the 50 lap contested on the night and wound up coming home over six seconds ahead of Jeff Conover. Stefan Marinak was third in the event, followed by Josh Bralley and Ian Blanchard. Smith took home 176 points for the win while Conover, who is contending for the championship this season, went on to make three additional starts, winning in one and finishing his week with 149 points.

Lambert’s win came later in the day on April 1st during a 2644 strength of field (sof) race. Much like Smith, Lambert led wire-to-wire in the 50 lap race and finished six seconds up on runner-up finisher Todd Laribee. Kevin Rutland was third, followed by Marinak and Scott Blackburn. Lambert’s win garnered him 164 points, a dozen less points than Smith got for his victory.

Dillon Raffurty finished his week at USA International Speedway on the podium after four starts resulted in two victories at the half mile track. His biggest win of the season came on March 29th when he started from the pole and led 50 laps en route to the win. Caleb Williams finished second, three seconds in the rear view of Raffurty with Mike McKinney, Cale Shonk and Kyle Wicka rounding out the top five. When the points were tallied up, Raffurty finished Round Nine with 156 points.

Honorable mentions go out Sean Stitt and Ian Blanchard for their win totals on the week. Stitt was perfect on the week, winning all ten races he entered while Blanchard batted .500 by winning seven of the 14 races he entered. Keith Mac made the most starts of the week with 26 and Stitt, Blanchard and Mac all hail from the Eastern Canadian club. Stitt took the pole for the week with a time of 20.988 seconds around USA International with Smith, Lambert, Ronnie Binkley and Johnny Housley completing the top five of 459 qualifiers. Lambert took the top honors in Time Trials over Smith, Housley, Stitt and Jeremy Davis.

While a championship battle roars on, Kenny Humpe was the one stealing the spotlight from the drivers running for points. Humpe took the lead for his first and final time in a 3007 sof race on April 9th with five laps remaining at Martinsville to take the win by eight tenths of a second over pole sitter Shawn Stitt. Finishing in third in the 50 lap race was Maxime Paquette, followed by Sam Edwards and Conover. Humpe, a former Landon Cassill Qualifying Challenge champion, was the recipient of 185 points for his victory.

The top split race of the week at Martinsville saw the two championship contenders collide! The April 9th event featured a 3179 sof rating and it was Smith who got the upper hand on Lambert, leading all 50 laps from the pole to take the win by over a second on the point leader. Housley was third with Edwards and Rick Ricketts completing the top five. With this being Smith’s third start of the week though, it brought his next best finish into the mix when deciding his weekly point total, meaning Lambert would end the week with five more points than Smith, 181-176.

Mac and Stitt once again were statistical leaders for the second consecutive week. Mac made 27 starts over the seven days at Martinsville while Stitt’s 11 wins put him as the only driver in the double digits when it came to wins. Trenton Moriarity was the top driver in qualifying, pacing the field with a 19.843 second lap. Smith, Stitt, Lambert and Housley rounded out the top five. Moriarity also stuck it to his competition in the Time Trial competition, besting Smith, Stitt, Ty Majeski and Housley in that discipline of simulated Late Model racing.

When it comes to the standings, Division One’s Lambert leads Division Two leader Smith by 79 points, 1364-1285 with two weeks remaining in the season. Conover is third overall with 1218 points, followed by Tony Dugan (1133) and Jeremy Ahlum (1088). Ahlum is chased closely for fifth overall by Benjamin Harstle (1085), Division Three leader Housley (1084) and Paquette (1080). Divisional leaders from Divisions Four to Ten include Mark Meech, Jade Williams, Sean Odea, Fausto Bessa Gomes, Darrell Phillips, Cale Thompson2 and Petie Madrid. The closest battle for a Divisional Title is at Division Six where Odea’s lead is just five points over Jeremy Pool2 and only 19 over Mark Parker.

Next up for the iRacing Late Model Tour is the high banks of the Bristol Motor Speedway. Does Lambert have what it takes to lock up his title in “Thunder Valley?” Find out here, at inRacingNews!

Until then, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track!

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