Chad Laughton grabbed his second NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series victory in three starts, winning Tuesday’s wreck-filled race at Phoenix International Raceway. Laughton started third and gained the lead during pit stops and was never passed on the track. He led 97 of 156 laps and clearly had the best car on the long runs, able to pull away from the rest of the field.
Jared Crawford finished second, right in front of Jake Stergios who had a very strong run to finish third. Dustin Montgomery backed up his win at Texas last week with a solid fourth place run while Kenneth OKeefe rounded-out the top five.
Carson Downs started on pole, giving him the early advantage on a track that has proven to be one of the toughest to pass on in all of iRacing. However, Downs lost the lead during the first yellow flag pit stop of the race and could never recover to reclaim the lead. After spending most of the race in the top five, Downs was involved in quite the spectacular wreck on Lap 105 when he flipped and slid down the backstretch after contact with OKeefe. Downs finished twenty-eighth.
Fresh off a strong run at Texas Motor Speedway, Joey Brown motored from fifth to first in the opening 35 miles only to see his chances for a victory suffer a serious setback when he received a speeding penalty on pit road on Lap 45. The penalty dropped Brown all the way back to twenty-ninth. Brown was not to be denied though and when the caution flew on Lap 85 he was already up to thirteenth. The leaders all pitted under the yellow and Brown took two tires, came out of the pits second and regained his track position.
The two tires did not agree with Brown’s car and he started to slide back, and then was turned off of Turn Two by Montgomery. The spin did not damage Brown’s car, but it dropped back in the field once again, this time back to twenty-third. Brown once again clawed his way back into the top ten, but was wrecked late in the going and wound up a disappointing twenty-second.
The third caution featured the biggest wreck of the day when Benjamin Burmeister hooked Dylan Duval into the Turn Three wall. Mayhem ensued as many drivers in the back half of the field could not avoid the spinning cars and piled into the wreck.
Cautions bred cautions throughout most of the race, which is more or less the norm on short tracks in iRacing. Drivers knew that the restarts were the only time they could pass and make ground, leading to many aggressive moves.
Laughton extended his points lead with the victory and now leads Crawford by 31 points. The two point leaders are the only two drivers who have not run into some trouble at some point during the first three online races. Adam Gilliland moved-up to third in the points after a strong sixth place finish. Things looked bleak for Gilliland after he botched both of his qualifying laps and had to start from the thirty-eighth position, but the NiPS rookie kept his nose clean all race en route to a strong finish.
Downs slipped to fourth in the standings after his wreck, but is just a single point behind Gilliland. Montgomery continues his strong start to the NiPS season and is currently fifth in the points.
Week Four takes the NiPS to Homestead-Miami Speedway, the second 1.5 mile track of the season. The first 1.5 mile race at Texas was much cleaner than PIR, which bodes well for a field of drivers fresh off the Arizona crash-fest. Laughton will be trying to distance himself for the rest of the field, but Crawford, Montgomery and Brown have all been very strong at the 1.5 mile tracks in the past. Homestead is one of the tracks that could very well come down to fuel mileage and pit strategy if there is a long green run, something both Laughton and Downs excelled at during Daytona. Whatever the case, Homestead always features some great side by side battles so make sure to catch all the action live on ETV Live next Tuesday night!