Nick Ottinger scored his second win of the 2012 NASCAR iRacing.com World Championship Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, holding hard-charging polesitter Brian Schoenburg at bay on a late restart before the latter’s motor expired with four laps remaining. After starting eighth, Ottinger ran at or near the front throughout the online race and took advantage of misfortunes that befell Ray Alfalla and Steve Sheehan to move into contention as the laps wound-down. After grabbing the lead from Byron Daley with 29 laps remaining, Ottinger took the checkered flag ahead of Alfalla, Kevin King, Patrick Baldwin and Daley, hoisting himself into the middle of the championship picture in the bargain.
The last quarter of the 200 lap, 300 mile race was packed with action. The final scheduled pit stop on Lap 165 saw Schoenburg pit from sixth position and make a risky move: adding tape to his car’s grille in the hope the rest of the race would consist of short, green flag runs. The strategy gave Schoenburg more downforce and speed than anyone ahead of him, and he quickly started picking them off one by one . . . as his temperature gauge steadily climbed. Two quick yellows enabled his engine to cool, but the last 13 lap run proved too much for the virtual V8 and Schoenburg fell to a twenty-sixth place finish.
“Best car I’ve had all year.” — Brian Shoenburg
It was a disappointing end to a strong run from Schoenburg, who fought back through the field after early crash damage repairs cost him his track position. “In the race we had a really good car. I was able to drive up to seventh after having crash damage repairs and was running down the top five,” he said. “Best car I’ve had all year.”
The dash to the checkers also spelled doom for Steve Sheehan, dominant for much of the race, when Schoenburg got into the back of him. Even though he was the one who got spun, Sheehan took the blame. “On one of the restarts I got loose and got shuffled back to fourth, and was being pressured by Brian who had taped up and was getting huge runs at the tail end of the straightaway,” he explained. “I had to play defense and (messed up) Turn One, checked-up, and got myself run over.”
Points leader Alfalla was also around the front for most of the race, but pit strategy did not fall his way as he was trapped a lap down when a yellow flew during the night’s only round of green flag pit stops. Adding insult to injury, he also damaged his car in a pit road collision. After taking the wave around, Alfalla restarted in twenty-third, with a (now) ill-handling car. No matter, the defending champion calmly drove back to the front and capitalized on Schoenburg’s misfortune to claim second place at the finish.
Contrary to much of the 2012 NiSWC season, the first half of the race produced most of the evening’s yellows flags. Many sim-racers, including the normally competitive Robert Hall and Brad Wright, were fighting loose race cars at the outset and ended-up spinning by themselves. After making adjustments during pit stops — and with a few less cars on the track — the field calmed down in the later parts of the race, producing long, green flag runs and good, hard racing throughout the pack.
After an eventful race, the top two positions in the season standings remain unchanged. Alfalla retains the top spot, extending his lead to 17 points over Michael Conti, who rebounded from early trouble to finish seventh at Charlotte. With his win, however, Ottinger moves up to third in the points, 41 behind Alfalla. King now sits fourth, 67 back, one better than fifth-placed Schoenburg.
Next race takes the series to a unique track on the schedule: Pocono Raceway. The Tricky Triangle demands a great driver and excellent chassis setup in order to be in the running, and pit strategy will likely play into the outcome as well. Ottinger was strong here in the NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series before getting wrecked, but the NiSWC field is stronger and both Alfalla and Conti look to keep Ottinger from gaining any further ground in the points race. Make sure not to miss a second of the action by tuning into iRacing Live in two weeks’ time!