Week 3 of the NASCAR iRacing.com Late Model Tour saw the teams visit a popular NASCAR venue: Richmond International Raceway. This .750 mile, D-shaped oval is the longest circuit on the series, but can still be just as tricky as any short track. As drivers and teams keep learning the new build and tire model, the racing continues getting better and better. This week’s highlight race proves the setups are improving and the racing is great. The fifty lap battle was contested on Wednesday night, and showed 2371 as the Strength of Field, with Justin Brooks and David Krikorian leading the thirteen car field to green.
The race started quietly, as the drivers had plenty of room to give and take while the tires came up to temperature. Brooks took the jump while Krikorian followed suit, but Paul Kudlick was caught sleeping, and fell to fourth from his third starting spot into Turn One. In the next two laps, Kudlick would also lose two more spots to Joseph Griffin and Raymond Bader Jr, respectively.
Drivers shuffled for position through the first ten laps, until they spread out and settled-in for the next forty laps. At lap ten, Brooks had a six car length lead over the second placed Krikorian, and the top two enjoyed a half straightaway advantage over third. The next lap saw the number Bader Jr take advantage of Griffin’s high entrance into Turn One, completing the pass attempt out of Turn Two while, half a lap later, Darren Daves dove under Bob Hera car in Turn Three to take over the seventh position.
The twelve machine of Russell Berry had worked its way up to the tenth position after falling to P13 on the start. Speaking of 13, Lap 13 Berry slid into the wall out of Turn Two and incurred substantial damage, but maintained his position and continued in the race. By Lap 18, Brooks’ lead had dwindled to three or four car lengths over Krikorian with lapped traffic looming ahead.
The apron had been a bug-a-boo all week for the new tire and, on the next circuit, Justin Wariner caught the apron in Turn One and got very loose off of Turn Two. He made a great save to keep the car straight and off the wall, but not enough to prevent loosing third position in the process. Nor was Wariner the last to fall victim to the apron as Lap 25 saw Daves’ car gets sucked-in by the unforgiving Turn One apron, sending him for a loop into the inside wall, ending his night.
Meanwhile, Krikorian continued chipping away at the lead and had it down to less than two cars when Luke Zike grabbed the apron and spun off Turn Two. Fortunately, he did not hit the wall, but the spin occurred right in front of the leaders and lapped traffic, further tightening the lead as the Brooks and Kriokorian navigated the lapped traffic. Lap 29 saw Charlie Ryan spin in Turn Two, unfortunately slamming the inside wall and retiring from the event.
By Lap 44 the battle for the lead had intensified when Brooks got into Turn One a little hot and slid sideways coming-off of Turn Two. Although he kept it off the wall, the bobble enabled Krikorian to pull right up to his bumper into Turn Three – which is where he stayed until the last lap. Brooks made the slightest wiggle off of Turn Two, opening the door for Krikorian to dive to the bottom in Turn Three. On the ensuing drag race out of Turn Four, Brooks barely held-on to close his flag-to-flag win – in this case barely meant .073 seconds.
In the standings as on the track, Brooks continues to show the way in this season’s Late Model Tour by winning a large portion of the higher split races. It will be interesting to see who – if anyone — can step up to knock derail his championship run. Their next chance comes at South Boston Speedway next week, as the online racing series travels to one of the tightest circuits on the schedule.
1. Justin Brooks
2. David Krikorian -0.073
3. Paul Kudlick -13.610
4. Justin Wariner -16.557
5. Raymond Bader Jr -1L
6. Joseph Griffin -1L
7. Bob Hera -1L
8. Carmen Comeau -1L
9. David Caines -1L
10. Russell Berry -1L
11. Luke Zike -2L
12. Charlie Ryan -24L
13. Darren Daves -26L