December 28th, 2015 by Corey Davis
After a short off-season, the ITSR Power Series gets back in action next week when its 11th season begins. The new year brings several changes that could shake up the online racing action, so before the cars hit the track at Michigan, here are the major storylines entering the season.
The Crown is Available
The obvious title favorites are Dalton’s biggest challengers from season ten. Four-time series champion Tim Johnston had a shot at the championship last season until incidents in back-to-back races at Fontana and Phoenix knocked him out of contention.
Defending rookie of the year Matt Delk made a splash in his first season, winning at Darlington and finishing third in points. Delk has continually shown great speed, but to win the championship, he needs to convert those strong runs into victories.
There are also several darkhorse sim racers to watch in season 11. Scott Simley finished fourth in points last season after a solid effort that included a win in Chicagoland. With a bit more consistency, Simley could find himself even further up the standings.
Rookie of the year hopeful Bradley McLamb got off to a rocky start in his debut races last season, but he finished with a strong fourth-place run in the season finale at Charlotte and won the first preseason test race at Kansas. Expect McLamb to contend for more victories this season.
Classic Tracks Join the Schedule
Two of America’s oldest and most prestigious race tracks make their first Power Series appearances in season 11.
In week four of the season, the series will visit the Milwaukee Mile, which bills itself as the world’s oldest operating motor speedway. The real-world track has hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Verizon IndyCar Series in recent years, and the virtual version will be ready for the high-horsepower Cup cars when the Power Series visits in late January.
One of America’s most famous road courses, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, appears on the schedule in early April and joins Watkins Glen as the two road course events during the season. Last season, Corey Davis and Dean Moll finished 1-2 in both road races, so they may be the odds-on favorites at these twisty tracks in season 11.
The rest of the 17-race schedule includes eight races at intermediate ovals, one race apiece at Daytona and Talladega, and for the second season in a row, a day/night doubleheader at Iowa.
The season finishes with a three-race “win it on the track” championship series when no dropped races can be used. However, in an added twist this season, the venue for the season finale will be determined by a driver vote later in the season.
Out With the Old, In With the New Aero Package?
The season will begin with the high-downforce 2015 Sprint Cup aero package, but that series will switch to a much lower-downforce package for 2016. As those updates make their way into iRacing, they could make a mid-season debut for the Power Series.
Real-world drivers like Carl Edwards have lauded the new package because it puts the races back into the drivers’ hands. The same could be true for the new virtual rules package since the cars will be tougher to drive.
That may spice up the sim racing throughout the field. With aerodynamics playing less of a role in handling, it should be easier for the cars to race close together. Combined with iRacing’s dynamic track feature, the cars could be more maneuverable than ever, which could further enhance the racing.
One potential beneficiary of the new package could be Terry McCuin. In season five, run with the generation five “Car of Tomorrow” that had similar downforce levels, McCuin finished third in points with one victory — his most recent Power Series win.
A New Voice in Race Control
McCuin takes on a new role this season, becoming the series’ head admin as well as being a full-time driver. The promotion came after long-time series admin John Hensley stepped back to part-time admin duty.
The transition from Hensley to his teammate McCuin should be largely seamless, but drivers will have to get used to a new voice in the pre-race drivers’ meetings and in the big red truck, if post-race discussions are ever necessary.