Last night, the 27 top sim-racers in the NASCAR Xfinity Class B Open Series powered by iRacing.com battled each other, and the high banks of the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway for 150 grueling laps of wheel-to-wheel sim-racing action. At the end of their digital rendition of “Like Fighter Jets in a Gymnasium,” it was BBH Motorsports’ Keegan Leahy emerging victorious after leading only one – but the most important – lap of the event en route to his first victory in the series this year.
With five laps remaining, Leahy was glued to the virtual rear bumper of leader, and dominant sim-car for the second-half of the race, Ryan Lowe. As the laps quickly dwindled, Leahy began to show his hand and attempt to complete the pass by utilizing the inside groove several times – each one, however, without success. Crossing the start/finish line with two laps to go, Leahy bounced his Chevrolet Camaro off the outside wall and appeared to have extinguished his shot at the win. Nevertheless, the young Canadian was unaffected and remained mere inches off the back of Lowe’s rear bumper. As the pair entered Turn Three for the final time, Lowe’s Chevy slid high, nearly kissing the outside retaining wall.
Seconds later, contact between Leahy’s right front fender and Lowe’s left rear fender shot Lowe hard into the yellow water barrels at the entrance to the front stretch pit-road. Leahy was able to avoid getting collected in the fracas and crossed the stripe first. After getting his sim-car pointed in the right direction, Lowe limped across the stripe ninth.
“I’m sure he’s mad, and I’d be mad . . . but, Bristol, baby.” – Keegan Leahy
“I had the intention of getting as close as I could to him, I was trying to screw up his exit, I didn’t want to hit him, man.” Leahy said after the race. “I was on his bumper for 20 laps there I could have done it (bump ‘n run) way earlier than that if I wanted to. But I’m sure he’s mad, and I’d be mad, and I was mad in that same situation before, but, Bristol, baby.”
Jeremy B. Davis had a yo-yo kind of evening. He started ninth, but after opting for an early-race strategy call for fresh digital Goodyears, he found himself scored in the 15th position. With a strong long run, he eventually moved his way through the field and into the top-five, ultimately occupying the third place after his final pit-stop of the race on lap 84. After the race he said he “burnt his rubber up” and that allowed the front runners to “drive away.” And when asked about the difficult challenge of passing, he simply stated: “You had to move people.” When Lowe was “moved,” Davis improved his finishing position by one spot and crossed the finish line runner-up, followed by Casey Kirwan and Todd Garren.
Tyler Laughlin started on pole and led a race-high 86 laps and, along with Lowe, appeared to be the class of the field. The winds eventually shifted, though, and on lap 88 (fresh off a restart because of an incident between Dylan C. Jones and Joseph Gulotta) Lowe and Laughlin made contact exiting Turn Two, with the latter dropping to third. When the final caution of the race waived on lap 100, Laughlin rolled the dice and hit pit-lane for service. With four sticker Goodyear Racing Eagles, he restarted P11. After the final 44-lap green flag stint to the digital checkers, The NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series regular brought his virtual Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro home in the fifth position.
Canadian, Nick Furler, finished sixth, improving 20 positions from his starting place, and making him your #iRacingNight “Biggest Mover of the Race.” Jordan Werth finished seventh followed by Jake Hayes.
After leading 62 laps, and seemingly in control of the latter stages of the race, Lowe was somber-toned in his post-race comments: “I mean, after our incident with T. Laugh, (Tyler Laughlin) when he basically ran us up into the wall coming out of two, it just broke the car, so, I was always tight.” He told iRacingLive’s Tim Terry after the race. “Keegan caught up and, uh, he just ended up getting into the left rear. He said he tried to rattle my cage, but if you’re gonna do that hit ‘em square, not in the left rear, cause in iRacing it just spins ya.” He best summed up his disheartening ninth place finish with, “it just sucks.”
“If you’re gonna do that hit ‘em square, not in the left rear.” – Ryan Lowe
Adam Burley, third place in the season point standings rounded-out the top ten; while second place man in the season point standings, Michael Vanosdol, finished 11th. Although season point leader, Trent Ringler, entered the race with a 342 point advantage, Burley and Vanosdol gained some ground after Ringler’s Dupont Chevy Camaro suffered terminal engine damage on lap 45 – the Hoosier finished 24th.
Attrition, as expected, played a role in the race. The digital flagman displayed the yellow hankie four times for 20 laps, and only 15 of the 27 sim-racers finished on the lead lap. On lap 22, the second caution was prompted because of contact between then third and fourth place runners, Ethan Lane and Joey Israelson. The virtual half mile speedway became clogged and resembled a Friday afternoon rush hour traffic jam. Clear track for plotting evasive maneuvers was scarce. In total, eight sim-cars were damaged in the incident; one of those being that of Allen Boes, winner two weeks ago at Watkins Glen. A no-show in qualifying, Boes was forced to start deep in the pack, 20th. And after having just cracked the top-10, Boes fell victim to the incident and was the first car retired from the race, finishing last, P27.
Be sure to tune in to iRacing.com/live on September 1 at 9pm EST for Round 24 of 33 at the always treacherous . . . and seductive . . . “Lady in Black,” Darlington Raceway