After a week’s break from competition, the NASCAR iRacing Series moved to the world renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Week 20 of the championship. The virtual Brickyard plays host to not just the NASCAR iRacing Series – it recently hosted the 2nd running of the iRacing Indy 500, which was well populated due to unparalleled notoriety of the Indianapolis 500 itself. This popularity carried over to this week; with almost 900 drivers racing in the Fixed Series – and 450 sim racers taking part in at least one of the thee Open Races that ran during the week.
The first race in the Open Series was the not the highest SoF race this week for the first time in a long time! The second race provided a 6038 Top Split SoF, creating the opportunity for drivers to collect huge points at Indianapolis. Corey Vincent was the winner of the smaller (but not small) SoF that Race 1 offered, leading just over half the laps run, taking the fastest lap and converting that into 379 points to add to his seasonal score. David Rattler was almost 1.4 seconds back at the finish, all but matching the raw pace Vincent showed over the course of the race. Kyle McCormick was a further 7 seconds behind Vincent, but still gained a few points from his P3 finish to add to his Daytona win just three weeks ago. Greg McKinney and Shane Dougherty completed the top five.
Ryan Lowe walked away from Indy with the most points this week – by winning the high SoF conjured by Race 2 . Starting from the pole, Jordy Lopez Jr ran in second and kept the pressure on Lowe for the majority of the race, but was unable to make the overtake to grab the win. NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series driver Chad Laughton was close behind in third – just .5s behind Lowe and .2 behind Lopez at the finish. 35 laps were run behind the pace car due to nine cautions over the 80 lap race, meaning that strategy wasn’t particularly important as virtually everyone pitted under the cautions en masse. Justin Bolton and Michael Conti made their way through the field to finish P4 and P5, respectively.
The final Open race of the week saw Brian Blackford take the win from Ray Alfalla in the closing laps. Alfalla lead 27 laps compared to Blackford’s four, therefore he probably felt he could have captured the win. Justin Trombley lead 38 laps and ran the fastest lap around Indy, but couldn’t convert that to a top five finish. Charlie Foster finished within inches of Alfalla, with .3s separating the duo. Finnish driver Aleksi Elomaa and Brandon Coppinger completed your top five finishers.
In the first Fixed race of the week, Tyler Hudson made his return to Victory Lane by narrowly beating Lopez Jr. How narrow? Try .094s. Lopez Jr was the only A licence driver in the top six, with the rest of those places being filled out by NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series drivers. Adam Gilliland was a further .3s behind Lopez Jr in third, with Matt Bussa holding onto fourth after leading the most laps. Alfalla finished just .018s behind Bussa, but no matter how small the margin, he couldn’t side-draft himself past Bussa before the Start/Finish line.
Race Two saw four splits of 28/29 drivers taking part in each split. In the Top Split (3408 SoF) Arrey Ati took the win after 25 laps in the lead, with Jordan Werth just .131s behind at the finish. In the second split, Michael Horwath drove to Victory lane after leading the majority of the race (67 laps) and overtaking pole man Robert Schmitz. Francis Dechilly was the victor in Split Three, with Toby Plevey dominating the Fourth Split, winning by over seven seconds.
Hudson once again found himself in the driver’s seat for Race Three, as he and Alfalla battled for the win, arguably two of the best oval simracers on iRacing. However after 80 laps of competitive driving, Hudson overcame Alfalla by two seconds at the checkered flag. Elomaa was a further four seconds back from Alfalla, scoring his biggest points yield of this week (274). Ryan Michael Luza earned a top five finish, leading 18 laps and bringing his virtual car home in fourth. Fifth place finisher Justin Bolton was 20 seconds back off Hudson, reflecting the fact that the field was fairly spread out in Race Three.
The final online race at IMS provided the most points of the week with a 5586 SoF. For those aiming for a good result in the Championship, getting the most points from the high SoF’s is key. Michael Conti drove through the field from P20 on the grid – all the way to first after 80 laps of sim racing, and proved why he is in the running for the DWC title. Ricky Hardin managed to hold onto Conti throughout the race, but was unable to execute any passes. Still, second place rewarded him with 347 points. Danny Hansen was around four seconds behind Conti at the checkered flag, battling with Jason Karlavige battling for the final spot inside the top three. Hansen got the better of Karlavige this time round – we await future contests to see if Karlavige can level the score! Logan Cathcart drove a solid race to fiftt, scoring a handy 312 points for his efforts.
Dwayne Vincent’s streak of leading the Fixed Standings for the majority of the Season has come to an end, with Bussa leapfrogging to P1 after sitting second for most of the season. However, the gap between the two is closer than ever with just 10 points separating them after 20 weeks of competition. Steven Gilbert sits just behind them on 4515 points in third, with Justin Bolton and Kris Kelley holding P4 and P5 respectively.
In the Open Series, Patrick Crabtree’s DXRacing Machine stands high above the rest, poised in a commanding position to take the Open Series title with only a couple of weeks left to run in the series (the Open Series schedule is the shorter of the two to allow the Oval Pro Series to be run whilst the Fixed Series continues as normal). Bolton is Crabtree’s nearest competition; however – over 600 points separates them, showing Crabtree’s dominance over the field this season. Third-placed Steven Eszenyi is just 14 points shy of Bolton’s 5625 point mark while Casey Tucker holds the fourth after his win at Daytona, with Jordy Lopez Jr just 15 points behind Tucker in fifth.
The NASCAR iRacing Series makes its second visit to Pocono Raceway for Week 21 of the Series. The sim racers can use the experience (and potentially mistakes) they gained from their last visit to the Tricky Triangle – and apply them to their approach for the seven Fixed and Open races scheduled for the week. Will anyone be able to challenge Crabtree for the title? Can Vincent overhaul Bussa to regain the top spot? Check out iRacingNews next week to see how it all played out at Pocono.
Huge thanks to SDC Motorsports for the photos this week – find the rest of their album and more at https://www.facebook.com/iracingteamm2