Sometimes everything just seems to go your way, much like the 2012 NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series has gone thus far for Chad Laughton. Last night saw Laughton hold-off Dustin Montgomery and Jared Crawford in a one lap shootout at Dover International Speedway to win for the fourth time in seven races.
Laughton took the lead for the first time during a round of yellow flag pit stops on Lap 166 and led the remaining 35 laps on his way to the win. Crawford looked to have the dominant car, leading a race high 112 laps, but could not get back around Laughton once he was passed on pit road.
Montgomery edged Crawford for second in the one lap shootout. Jake Stergios finished fourth and Philipp Geiss had an impressive drive from his thirty-fourth starting spot to grab fifth.
Joey Brown looked to have the car to beat early on after he grabbed the pole. He quickly built a comfortable lead but was overtaken by Crawford on pit road when the leaders made their first stops of the race under the first yellow on Lap 44.
The first caution flag of the race marked the end of a 273 lap stretch dating back to Kentucky without a yellow.
When the green flag flew again, Brown settled into second and began to pursue Crawford for the lead with Laughton holding steady in fourth. Brown was unable to run Crawford down, but another caution on Lap 79 erased Crawford’s lead and saw the leaders come down pit road for the second time.
This time it was Brown who won the battle off pit road, but his lead would be short-lived. The third caution of the race flew just seven laps after the restart and while most of the front runners stayed out, Brown chose to pit; this would prove to be a mistake.
The race restarted with Crawford and Laughton running one-two and Brown back in eighth, albeit on fresh tires. Brown started to slowly work his way back through the field and on Lap 133 he was battling Joshua Laughton for fourth place when everything went wrong. Brown got loose off of Turn 2, overcorrected and crashed into the wall. Joshua Laughton and Benjamin Burmeister had nowhere to go and were caught up in the mess, ending both of their chances at a good finish.
Brown’s car was damaged but he got it repaired under the yellow flag; meanwhile at the front of the pack Crawford and Chad Laughton had taken control of the race. Brown tried to regain his lost track position by taking two tires during a late caution, but his car just was not the same after the damage and his day ended in another crash, this time on the last lap. Brown finished eighth.
Eight cautions slowed the field for 31 laps in a race that had far more carnage than the caution-free race last week at Richmond. The most spectacular crash occurred on Lap 194 when Landon Huffman and Carson Downs got together coming off Turn 4. Downs was hooked into the outside wall and was sent for a wild ride, flipping down the front straightaway before coming to stop upside down on the pit lane. It was the second time this season Downs ended-up on his top.
The one lap shootout was also wild, as one could imagine. There were several incidents in Turns 3 and 4 coming to the checkers, leaving many more drivers with broken cars and disappointing finishes. The biggest loser was Josh Berry, who was running fourth before the last lap melee and wound up nineteenth.
After the dust settled at Dover, Chad Laughton increased his point lead to 13 over Crawford, despite Crawford not finishing outside the top three since the season opener at Daytona. Montgomery remains third, but is now 36 points behind, almost a full race. Stergios and last week’s winner Adam Gilliland round-out the top five, but are too far back to battle for the title unless something dramatic happens to Laughton.
After a two week hiatus for the holidays, the NiPS will be back in action at Homestead-Miami Speedway. You might remember that Homestead was slated to be the fourth event of the season, but technical difficulties led to the cancelation of the online race. After some discussion with the drivers, the series director decided to replace New Hampshire Motor Speedway with Homestead, since drivers had worked hard on setups for a race that ended-up not counting.
Back during the Week 4 visit to Homestead, Crawford had the pole and a quick car, but Laughton was not far behind and looked to have a solid top five car. It would be no surprise to see either in victory lane, but the pressure is on Crawford to close the gap on Laughton with only two races remaining in the season. We will see you after the holidays!