Auto Club Speedway was the playground for Week 5 of the NASCAR iRacing Series. This newest addition to iRacing proved a tough test for many of the sim-racers taking to its ribbon of tarmac, which provided for some close fought action. The wide racetrack allowed for lots of two and three wide racing, leaving lots of opportunities for gaining points on other competitors.
In the Open action at Fontana, all three online races had a Strength of Field (SoF) of over 6000, and due to iRacing calculating the points of each race based on the SoF, there were some huge points on offer at ACS. In the first race of the week, the pack was filled with NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series drivers including Brandon Hauck and Ray Alfalla, who both led multiple laps of the race (10 and 19 respectively). However it was Carolina driver Chad Laughton who finished the first NASCAR iRacing Series race at Fontana in P1. Laughton scored 400 points, one of the highest points finishes ever recorded in this series. P2 Thomas Davis, who finished .7s behind the winner, was the highest scoring A-Class driver of the week, which could prove handy in his bid to gain a Pro licence. Brandon Schmidt came home in third a further two seconds back with Jordy Lopez Jr close behind in fourth.
In the second race of the week, two of the best in iRacing filled the podium places as reigning champ Tyler Hudson secured the race win over Malik Ray. With the gap only .3s at the finish proves Ray is one of the many upcoming sim-racers in the NASCAR iRacing Series. Former PEAK Antifreeze Series champion Alfalla finished in third after a tough first race of the week. Jared Crawford was running well at the front in the opening part of the race, but his race ended prematurely, missing out on a big points haul. The second race had the most caution laps, covering nearly half of the race distance, keeping the pack close throughout the race.
In the third and final race of the week NASCAR iRacing Pro Series driver Justin Bolton was the first to reach the checkered flag out of the 30 drivers. Davis and Ray continued their solid week of racing in Fontana with P2 and P3; however these places had no effect on their points as their races earlier in the week scored higher than Race 3, due to it being the lowest SOF of the week.
The opening race of the Fixed Series was dominated by Pro/WC Drivers who are participating in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. Perhaps one of the greatest line-ups in the NASCAR iRacing Series was formed in Thursday night/Friday morning’s 5213 SoF event. Michael Conti grabbed the win from the mid-pack, ahead of Alfalla who started on the pole and controlled most of the race before Conti got to the lead and managed to keep him behind. Defending NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze champion Hudson finished third, with Matt Bussa and Adam Gilliland finishing out the top five. The action was close with only 1s covering the first five, maybe quite a surprising achievement at a virtual track such as Fontana.
Chris Hall won the second race of the week, having taken over the lead when Jordan Werth ended his race after leading 23 laps (out of 100). Steffen Nobis earned a solid P2 finish ahead of Connor Anton. Hall earned himself 240 points with the win, but scored higher in the online races after this; Nobis and Anton scored their highest points of the ACS week (231 and 222).
Race Three saw the return of the ‘black stripes’ with Bolton continuinghis winning streak from Open to Fixed . . . just. Bolton barely finished ahead of fellow Pro Series driver Steven Gilbert with the margin less than .1s at the finish. 2013 Pro Series champion Chris Overland finished third, yet was unable to contend for the win as he finished two seconds behind Bolton. Jordan Werth continued his Race Two pace and made up for his unfortunate result in that race to come home P4 in the #8 car.
The final online race of the week at Auto Club saw the biggest points payout with a 5524 SoF for the top split, so many of the best sim-racers showed up to prove their talent. Jordy Lopez Jr took advantage of this and fought-off the competition to get to Victory Lane, with a clean run through the field from P18 on the grid. Lopez bested the likes of Overland (P2), Alfalla (P3) and Ray (P4), all of whom were within a second of Lopez at the finish. PJ Stergios also had a good run but was unable to capitalize on leading for 22 laps, although he still came home a solid fifth. Lopez scored 355 points for getting the win, solidifying his aim to win the championship.
With the action finished in California, Matt Bussa heads the standings in the Fixed series. Despite being a week down – Bussa is proof that consistent results can get you to the top of the standings. Dwayne Vincent falls to second spot this week, after a few races where the points didn’t go his way. Steven Gilbert hauls his way up to third, some 40 points back from Vincent, with Lionel Calisto and Ray completing the top five, all with above 1100 points to their names.
Hudson moves his way back up to the top of the Open leaderboard after a good set of real strong results at the virtual Fontana. He is 25 points clear of this week’s top scorer Lopez who, like Vincent, drops a place in the standings. Bolton is next up in third, however he is a bit further behind the top two, with 1656 points compared to Hudson’s 1828. Ray and Steven Eszenyi round-out your top five in the Open series.
From Auto Club’s wide, fast corners and potential three-four abreast action, the NASCAR iRacing Series moves to the complete opposite side of the spectrum – Martinsville. Renowned for its single-file racing and small track feel, “Marty” will put the superspeedway specialists to the test with completely different challenges to overcome. Will lapped traffic play a big part in the outcome of the races? What do you think?
Be sure to check back here at iRacingNews to get a rundown of the races from Martinsville.