The iROC K7 Creations Cup Series Presented by HPP Simulation took flight on Tuesday evening at Daytona International Speedway, kicking off a 36-race schedule that mirrors the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Perennial contenders mixed with a crop of new talent for 80 laps of sim racing action on the 2.5 mile superspeedway. In the end, Corpus Christi, Texas driver Gabriel Solis rose above everyone else to take the checkers in the #121 Last Car Loaded Motorsports machine.
“The race went as smoothly as I could have hoped,” said Solis. “I worked with Craig Stykes and neither of us made any mistakes while pitting which gave us a pretty good lead. Adam Gilliland taught me long ago that when it comes to plate racing, if you pit with the pack, you finish with the pack. Great advice.”
Jason Matzel took his #23 Chevy straight to the front, claiming the first True Power Motor Oil Pole Award of the year. Matzel led early and looked to be a contender.
Trouble on lap seven brought out the first caution period. The #19 of Cody Speicher, the #45 of Daniel Glover, and the #22 of Alex Bates all received damage after tangling in the back.
Matzel held onto the lead at the restart on lap 10, as the front runners all fell in line forming a freight train of more than 10 cars. On lap 15, Aaron Kleinhans’ #85 Chevrolet made contact with Matzel in turn one, igniting the “Big One”. The crash not only took out Kleinhans and Matzel, but other front-runners such as Jay Jay Day, Jordan Harnish, and Michael Chrobok as well.
“I’m speechless,” said Matzel afterward. “It was very unexpected and I would never have seen that coming. I hate it for everyone who got involved in this big one. I also hate it for my guys who worked so hard on this Chevrolet. That car was pretty fast right off the truck. We will get them next time.”
Kleinhans took responsibility for triggering the crash.
“Just got the car back at the shop so we haven’t had time to look it over much,” he said. “Right now we think the problem was somewhere between the steering wheel and seat.”
After the carnage of the lap 15 crash was sorted out, the remaining drivers put on a solid show, including rounds of green flag pit stops and good, old fashioned Daytona drafting until the race’s final caution, triggered by an accident involving the #68 of Ty Hester and the #25 of Ken Rodriguez.
In accordance with iROC regulations, which prohibits one-lap shootouts, the race ended under caution, with Gabriel Solis taking the checkers. He and teammate Craig Stykes in the #157 escaped the melee of the “Big One” to finish first and second in their iROC debuts.
“The best you can do is to hope that you don’t get run over,” said Solis. That’s basically why Craig and I escaped the wreck with no damage. The guys running around us did an excellent job checking up and avoiding the carnage that was taking place in front of and around us.”
Danny Rodgers found his way to the front, and snagged a much-needed top-three finish after leading a good portion of the event.
“We led it for 18 laps before I fell back to third,” said Rogers. “I wanted to run a clean line all night long. I was just being patient.”
He added, “I just want everybody to know I’m a good clean racer. I take a lot of pride in any kind of racing I do. I want to contend for a championship in the Cup Series.”
While the event was bookended by spectacular crashes, there were only three caution periods for a total of laps. Solis led the most laps in the race at 38. Marc Meyers, driving the #04 Sceneofthecrash Motorsports Chevy, gained the most spots during the event, earning the first M-SPEC Hard Charger of the Race Award. Meyers started 32nd and finished fourth.
The K7 Creations Cup Series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week where sim racing’s finest will battle for 130 laps in the Atlanta 195. Visit RaceiROC.com for detailed standings, stats, and information, and keep on top of the latest news by checking out the league’s Facebook page at facebook.com/RaceiROC.