After a brief leave of absence, the iRacing Sprint Car Cup returns to inRacingNews for the modified, shorter Season 4. Before the season even began, many of the “regulars” in the Sprint Car were unsure about the car’s recent change to the New Tire Model, which drastically modified the car’s performance. Some decided the change was too much for them, and opted out of this season’s action. Others, however, decided it was time for change. The community has come together to help get through what figures to be a supremely challenging time. Nevertheless, many faithful sim racers turned-out for the season opener in the wild west: Phoenix International Raceway.
The 40 lap sim race began with PJ Stergios leading the field to the green, followed by Fred Lampela and Vinnie Sansone. When the field sailed into Turn One the sim racers held their collective breath as they tried to put heat into their tires. The first caution, however, occurred as the #8 machine of Ronald Williams spun, and sufferered catastrophic damage, ending his race before completing four turns.
The sim race restarted on Lap 5, and as the front five filed into place, the true battles were a bit farther back in field. Sim racers such as Jerold John, Daniel Muse and Kyle Odaynik were among at least half a dozen sim racers battling top 10 positions. These battles, however, would be short and fierce, as another caution flag flew just seven laps later, this time for an incident involving the #10 car of Steven Mastro. Unlike Williams, Mr. Mastro was able to return to this race, however, just after the restart Eric Wood’s #17 triggered the race’s third yellow flag.
In contrast to iRacing’s stock car series, pitting is something that is a burden in the iRacing Sprint Car Cup. Because the sim racers didn’t want to deal with re-heating tires, there were few visitors to pit lane on Thursday night; aside from the few damage repairs, the pits were deserted.
Following the back-to-back caution period, the race resumed action on Lap 21 with Stergios extending his lead over a hard-charging Lampela. Lampela, however, had nothing for the Pro driver. Instead, he battled to maintain second place as the hard-charging Sansone attempted to grab the provisional silver medal and challenge Mr. Stergios. The battle between the short track aces continued for 10 laps, before Matt Abel lost the handle on the #14 car, triggering the race’s fourth caution with Lampela getting the better of Sansone. So far . . .
Sansone would not quit, though. With just five laps remaining, the field restarted behind the flying Stergios. Sansone made a bold move into Turn One, causing him and Lampela to make contact, spin, and collect front runners like Ronnie Wuerdeman, Michael Clement, and Jerold John in the resulting carnage.
Since the wreck occurred with less than five laps to go, the race ended under yellow flag conditions, giving the lone survivor — Stergios — a well-deserved victory in the season opener. Many mid-pack runners were able to make it through “The Big One” and found themselves surprise top finishers. Kyle Odaynik and Joey Zureick finished second and third respectively after miraculously making it through the wreck.
While it was not the ideal season opener for some, a surprise for others — and non-existent for former members of the community — PIR nonetheless started what could be a fantastic season. Since Season 4 is much shorter than any season iRacing has previously offered, only one of the six week’s points will be dropped, making each race vitally important. Next week, the Sprint Car Cup heads east to the virtual salvation of USA International, where the 3/4 mile short track will host the first of five straight short tracks to close out the season.
The Pro driver proved why he has the coveted “Black Stripe” on his helmet this week at the one mile saloon known as PIR. Will he be able to make it back-to-back in the sunny plains of Florida? Check this space next week to find out!