Kentucky Speedway welcomed all the sim-racers of the NASCAR iRacing Series to its 1.5 mile tarmac – where the action in Week 16 was to unfold. With its steep banking and tricky bumps, Kentucky can make or break a drivers season. With one groove becoming the prefered line as we have seen a few times over the course of 17 weeks, only the brave attempted two and even three-wide action! Ryan Lowe secured the fastest qualifying time of the week – with a 29.038 and only .011 separating his time, to Benjamin Burmeister in P2.
The opening race in the Fixed Series saw Malik Ray make his way through the field from P16 at the start to take the first win at Kentucky. Craig Stykes finished just .140s behind Ray for a handy 294 points to add to his total. Although he led 13 laps, Heath Hinderman couldn’t hold onto the win, coming to the flag 1.7s back from Ray to collect a top three finish. Justin Kirby and Ray Alfalla finished fourth and fifth, with Alfalla finding Kentucky a tough challenge this time around. Brian Schoenburg clocked the fastest lap time – just .010s faster than Ray’s fastest lap.
In keeping with tradition, Race Two was the least popular race time of the Fixed week, with just three splits and 93 simracers taking to the Kentucky asphalt. After exactly half race distance (67 laps) out front, Jordan Werth captured the win after starting from 16th (like Ray) and making his way up to the front. Matthew Moose stayed with Werth and applied the pressure but. ultimately, couldn’t make his way to the front in the final moments. Eke David completed the podium finishers in the top split. Robert Shweda was the winner of Split Two, and Michael Van Der Linden finished five seconds in front of the rest of the Split Three competitors.
After trouble in the Open Series, Alfalla rebounded to take the win in the third Fixed race at Kentucky. With 72 laps led, fastest lap and of course – the win, Alfalla will have a hard time finding something wrong with that race! Adam Gilliland kept things close to pick up the pieces if Alfalla made a mistake – but it wasn’t meant to be. Matt Bussa was the third DWC driver in the top three – showing why they really are DWC drivers. The top three finishers were all within a second of each other at the flag, with Kris Kelley and Markus Johansson completing the top five.
The Final Fixed race of the week produced the biggest points haul at Kentucky with a SoF close to 5000 (4932). Brandon Chubirko took advantage of this, swapping the lead with Ryan Lowe and Dylan Duval with all three up front for over 30 laps. Michael Guest narrowly missed out on second, just .081s behind Duval at the checkered. Danny Hansen scored a fourth place finish with Justin Bolton close behind. There was to be no repeat of Rays Race One win; he couldn’t manage to complete a lap despite starting mid-pack.
The most points of the Open Series came from the first race of the week. The 6152 SoF presented an opportunity for nearly 400 points to the victor. With 10 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series drivers in and amongst the field, you could have bet that one of them would have finished in the top five . . . and lost the bet! Ray stole the show by leading just one lap of the online race – and it happened to be the only lap that mattered. Ryan Lowe hung onto the lead for an impressive 76 laps, but was unable to keep Ray behind him for the win. Lowe still took an incredible 379 points from the race, with Sasha Wesler close behind – just .38s back of Ray at the finish. Jordy Lopez Jr and Tyler Hill completed your top five, with just under a second separating all five sim racers.
Charlie Foster came out on top in Race Two at Kentucky, mastering the bumps that make the 1.5 miler what it is today – finishing ahead of many DWC drivers. Race Two saw more drivers record laps in the lead, with Michael Conti out front for a dozen and Kenny Humpe leading 47 of the 134 lap race. However, Foster finished a clear 1.4 seconds ahead of Chad Laughton despite Laughton having the fastest lap and being .3s quicker on that lap than Foster’s personal best. Kyle McCormick split the DWC drivers in third ahead of Conti and Humpe.
The Final Race of the week couldn’t match the points payout of the other two races but, nonetheless, a 5820 SoF could easily alter a driver’s position in the standings. Adam Gilliland took the initiative and made the most of what his Chevy Gen6 had to offer on the way to Victory Lane, taking with him 372 points towards his position in the standings. Race One winner Ray finished .3s behind Gilliland to take second spot, with Cody Byus getting in the mix at the top end of the field en route to third. Benjamin Burmeister and Chris Overland finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with Overland making-up for his misfortunes in the previous races at Kentucky.
The leader in the Open Standings remains unchanged after the three races at Kentucky – with the DXRacer Ford Fusion of Patrick Crabtree sitting high above the rest of the field. His lead is still just under 400 points, but Ray in P2 is slowly catching up. Ray has 4860 points after 15 weeks, meaning that if we see the kind of Top Split SoF races that have been traditionally been a feature of the NASCAR iRacing Series – Ray could fight for the lead in championship once drop weeks are accounted come into play. Teemu Iivonen moves up to third a further 120 points back from Ray – with Steven Eszenyi and Charlie Foster making up the top five.
Dwayne Vincent continues his role as the leader in the Fixed Series – with the gap being quite static between himself and second-placed Matt Bussa. The pair have reached the 4000 point barrier, with Vincent further past it than Bussa. Steven Gilbert holds onto third with Eric Hansard a further 400 points back in fourth ahead of Justin Bolton. However with only 15 weeks counted, Bolton should make-up ground ala Bussa when drop weeks become a factor.
The NASCAR iRacing Series makes its second pit stop in Florida next week, with Daytona International Speedway the scene for 80 laps of draft-filled sim racing in Week 18 of the series. Week 18 also marks the halfway point in the Fixed Series, with the Open Series finishing earlier to enable Pro Drivers to earn their way into the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. Although we are returning to Daytona, we won’t witness the ‘marathons’ that we saw in Week 1 with the 500 – as mentioned above only 80 laps will be completed per race. Who can challenge Crabtree and Ray? Be sure to check iRacingNews next week, for a rundown of all the action at Daytona Beach!