Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie Gossage’s crown jewel. A generic 1.5 miler. Whatever you want to call it, TMS is track dreaded by just about every single driver in the iRacing IndyCar series. With good reason! This sim race would prove to be an absolutely apocalyptic slug fest. At the end of the race, only four drivers were circulating at competitive speeds or on the lead lap . . . in a race that started with over 20 cars.
After setting a fast qualifying run of 23.096s, Ryan Norton led he field to green with Niles Anders (23.124s) alongside and Tim Holgate (23.134s) third.
On the green, the dicing in the field would stay clean down to sixth place, where Brandon Trost pushed into the Turn 2 wall on the second lap. Although he pulled down and brought the car to a stop, the first caution came just a lap later when Ellis Stephens and Neffry Aawg got together on the exit of Turn 2 and began to flipping wildly through the air, collecting Trevor Malone3 as he drove under Aawg.
The Lap Eight restart saw shenanigans unfold in the back half of the field. In an attempt to get a good jump, Malone3 hit the wall then slowed. This however did not cause the incident behind. Craig Fuller moved to his outside to avoid a stack up on the bottom lane even as the outside line was on the move. Fuller’s move put him into Niall McBride, who bounced off the wall into Roberto Ody, and those two spinning Dallaras then collected the misfortunate Harold Palmer. Behind them, an accelerating Marcel Gagne could not slow down in time to avoid slamming into the back of Dwayne Cooper.
This wreck brought the field back to the yellow flag before they had even gotten to Turn 1. On the Lap 13 restart, the field had a much cleaner run into the corner and they survived the initial pass through into Turn 1. A lap later, however, Diedrick Kinds and Erick Davis both found the Turn Two wall with Kinds collecting Ric Cassell for good measure, triggering another caution.
At the head of the pack, Norton still lead but Holgate had taken over second place coming to the Lap 18 restart before the caution would flew yet again on Lap 19. Cooper had gotten into the back of Cassell, with David Hagans rear-ending Cooper as he slowed from the impact with Cassell. Diving low in an effort to avoid the carnage, Alfred E Shepperd instead became part of the melee and flipping into the air, race over.
Norton would led Holgate to the Lap 26 restart, maintaining his advantage until the caution reappeared when Ody got loose and corrected up into McBride.
Norton again led Holgate to the line on Lap 32, followed by Anders. Holgate’s car had evidently come to him as he mounted a strong challenge Norton for the lead. This battle of the titans continued for a good twenty laps before Marcel Gagne got out of shape and collected it down on the apron, only for Ricardo Rossi to come down on him . . . all this directly in front of the leaders, as Norton would literally drove under “Air Rossi.”
The race was only a little over halfway through, and yet only nine cars were still running, with only eight on track. This out of 23 starters!
Holgate’s challenge was derailed by a penalty for a pit lane infraction and took the Lap 57 restart in fifth. Norton led once again, this time with Anders following him into the corner ahead of Joe Branch2 in third. It took him a few laps, but Holgate steadily worked his way back into third and set his sights on Anders. Unfortunately for Holgate, however, he could not make any headway. In fact, Branch, who laid low after slipping to fourth, regained third from Holgate and the fight for the podium positions continued.
On lap 91 Holgate returned the favor and, with a good run, passed Branch only for Branch to regain the spot on Lap 95. Undaunted, Holgate continued his pursuit before taking back third place back on Lap 96, kicking-on the afterburners and pulling away from Branch.
At the end of 100 grueling laps, an absolutely dominant Norton took the victory over Anders with Holgate third and Branch finishing fourth, the last car on the lead lap. Holgate had done what he needed to do to all but lock up the title. Coming into the Season 3 finale at Indianapolis, few could doubt his stellar season would end with a title. It would, however, take one more week to confirm, the last chance for any challengers was fading . . . and fading fast.