It’s official: Nick Ottinger is on a roll. The second year NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship driver captured his third win in a row Tuesday night at Darlington Raceway with yet another dominating performance. He becomes the first driver in the four year history of the NiSWC to win three straight races. Ottinger started-off the night by capturing his second pole position of the season, then capped it off by leading 173 of 183 laps at what many consider the most demanding track on the circuit.
“Three straight for the #05 Rheem Chevrolet! Can’t believe it!” said Ottinger. “After the third or fourth caution I barely scraped the wall off (Turn) Four and it hurt my right front toe, however I had such a lead I had to just fight it out and try and run a slower line.” Even with the slight damage, Ottinger’s lead grew to more than three seconds during the longest green flag run of the race.
“Three straight for the #05 Rheem Chevrolet! Can’t believe it!”- Nick Ottinger
Two-time champion Ray Alfalla finished second, 1.3 seconds behind and fellow NiSWC veteran Brad Davies finished third. Michael Conti finished fourth, completing an impressive charge from his dead last starting spot, with Steve Sheehan rounding-out the top five.
The Lady in Black gobbled-up drivers early . . . and in bunches. It only took 13 laps for the first incident to unfold when Alex Warren and Joey Brown got together off of Turn Two. The wreck blocked the track and collected many more cars in the aftermath including those of Chad Laughton and Jason Karlavige.
On Lap 34, there was more carnage entering Turn Three as Richard Dusett made contact with Adam Gilliland, sending both cars spinning and crashing into the wall. Once again, a secondary wreck developed behind as drivers scrambled to avoid the melee.
The evening’s largest wreck was sparked when Jon Adams lost control of his car off of Turn Two and crashed hard into the outside wall. Since the crash happened right after a restart, the whole back of the field piled into the crash, leaving the race with less than 20 damage-free cars.
These cautions enabled drivers to try a variety of differing pit strategies, but nearly everyone opted for four tires on every stop due to the timing of the cautions. Combine that with great pit stops from Ottinger’s crew and the rest of the field had no chance to overtake him on pit road.
From there, the last 104 laps of the online race went caution-free. Ottinger steadily pulled away from the field throughout the run and gained even more with a great green flag pit stop. A few drivers including Jake Stergios and Brandon Schmidt tried to stay out longer than the rest of the field in hopes of catching a beneficial caution. With the field so spread out, that caution never came and both drivers ended-up losing track position without enough time to recover.
Ottinger’s third straight win vaulted him into second place in the points. He is now a single point behind series leader Tyler Hudson, who had a mediocre race at Darlington resulting in a twelfth place finish. Brian Schoenburg fell back to third in the standings despite a strong sixth place showing at Darlington, but is only two points out of the lead. Marcus Lindsey and Alfalla occupy the back end of the top five, but are 20 and 28 points behind, respectively.
With one third of the 18 race season complete, the battle for the top three could hardly be any closer as the series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Week Seven. Charlotte is one of the fastest 1.5 mile tracks on iRacing and rewards a balanced setup and a smooth driver. At 300 miles (200 laps), this is also the longest race of the season, so having speed on the long run will be critical for any driver hoping to compete for the win.
Will Ottinger continue his unprecedented run with a fourth straight win, or is it time for Alfalla or Hudson to finally break into victory lane in 2013? Make sure to tune-in to iRacing Live and MRN.com in two weeks time to catch all the action from Charlotte!