One Lap, $1000. Can you handle the pressure? Jason Lofing proved he can by turning the fastest lap in the feature session of the Landon Cassill Qualifying Challenge. Landon Cassill posited the high-stakes scenario to oval sim-racers on iRacing.com. “I want to give sim racers the opportunity to experience the pressure that real-life professional drivers experience during qualifying. Especially for underfunded teams, just making the show is critical to the team financially. It could mean the difference between $100K dollars and going home empty handed. All that hinges on that single lap.”
Organized in partnership with the Short Track Pro Cup and the Web Racing Network, the LCQC put just that type of pressure on the participants. Taking place over two nights, Friday and Saturday December 17-18, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in iRacing’s Class-A Chevrolet Impala, NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow 139 drivers took the challenge.
The premise was simple. Sign-up, be in the top 40 in the Friday night preliminaries, then turn the fastest single qual-styled lap in the feature on Saturday night. Simple. Well, excepting for that pressure.
Operations Manager John-Michael Shenette organized all of the drivers into six qualifying sessions. The top 40 fastest drivers from the six sessions were then invited into the Saturday night feature. Going in reverse order of their preliminary session times each driver took their single lap under the watchful eye the of Web Racing Network and over 750 broadcast viewers.
With the opportunity to run repeated laps during the preliminary sessions, the drivers of the first 7 PM EST session were fearlessly charging off into the corners. Just to make it into the show a driver needed to be in the low 28.5s range, if not lower. Pacing the early session at 28.224, Lofing showed that if you wanted a chance to compete you were going to have to step-up like never before. With the gauntlet thrown, the next series of qualifying attempts kicked off at 9:15pm EST. In LCQC Heat #5 Steve Sheehan answered the challenge with a lap of 28.209, setting the fastest lap in the preliminaries. Once all six heats were completed the top 40 drivers were organized with Sheehan sitting at the top, and Chris Templin as the last qualifier at 28.530.
Saturday night definitely showed how much pressure was on the drivers as they took their one and done laps to win the $1000 challenge. First out, Chris Templin ran a 28.736, slightly over 2 tenths slower than his Q session run. Every driver out ran slower laps than their earlier efforts until Byron Daley had his turn. Turning in a time of 28.437, he set a mark that was to stand up until near the end. Only one other driver, Jeremy Thornton, was able to turn a faster lap than his preliminary session.
Expectations were sky high as the final ten drivers started their segment. Some of the fastest names in iRacing Oval racing were in the field with Ray Alfalla, Brad Davies, Brad Wright and Josh Parker still left to run. Showing how difficult it can be to turn that one perfect lap, one by one they took turns trying to set that magic winning mark. Richie Davidowitz went first, setting a preliminary pole time of 28.353 that was to stand until the last three drivers. Josh Parker went out third to last and put himself in first place with a time of 28.347 that lasted all of one driver. Next out went Lofing who put up a blistering lap of 28.250 leaving Sheehan as the last driver to try a lap. The pressure was intense, and it showed. The fastest qualifier in the preliminary sessions was only able to put up a lap of 28.402, good enough for eighth place leaving Lofing as the Champion of the Landon Cassill Qualifying Challenge.
The entire event was broadcast over the internet live by Web Racing Networks, and is available for replay on their website at http://www.webracingnetwork.com/. Additionally you can purchase DVD’s of this memorial event there. Organized and administrated by the Short Track Pro Cup (www.stprocup.com) the event was a huge success for all parties involved. Congratulations go out to Jason Lofing for his win, and a huge thank you to all who participated in putting on one of the most exciting events in iRacing history.