As the Chevy Silverado Championship descended on Chicagoland Speedway for Week Seven, so did the return of the often dreaded draft. Drivers had enjoyed a two week break from the “draft lock” tracks at Bristol and Phoenix, but would have to quickly settle back into pack racing in order to be successful. Since this was the first ever visit to Chicagoland Speedway by the CSC, no one knew exactly what to expect and the series points lead could hang in the balance.
When the trucks rolled onto the race track in practice sessions, drivers quickly realized that the draft was back in full force. Driver Jameson Spies likened Chicagoland to “a mini Daytona” in the way the trucks behaved on the race track. Like it or not, this sort of racing produced some extremely competitive racing and some terrific last lap passes for the win complete with photo-finishes.
In overall points news, Josh Berry yet again made the most out of his single start of the week, earning 272 points in a second place finish, 0.121 seconds behind winner Thomas Hazard. Berry extended his series points lead to 190 points over second place driver Tyler D Hudson. Jesse Atchison holds third place and is currently 295 behind Berry. Byron Daley moved from fifth to fourth and now trails the leader by 363 points. The new face in the top five this week, Brandon Buchberger, sits seven points behind Daley and 370 points behind leader Berry. Fourth last week, Justin Roberts sat idle and fell all the way to twelfth, showing just how competitive the CSC really is.
The first of two extremely close finishes featured drivers Joel Nori and Jameson Spies. Spies led the majority of the race, but it came down to a four lap shootout between the two competitors. Nori took his shot and passed Spies coming out of Turn Four heading to the white flag. Spies tried everything he could on the final lap, attempting to pass Nori coming to the line, but fell just short. 0.014 seconds short, or about the length of a nose, to be exact. When asked about the finish, Spies explained “Joel had a rocket ship on new tires, and with the draft feeling like Daytona, he was able to get me. Lots of hard racing this week. I was surprised by the quality of driving by most people.”
Even that finish was out-done by one that featured Michael Main and Ray Alfalla. A late yellow once again was the deciding factor, with Alfalla and the top four staying on the race track, and Main and the rest of the field pitting for tires. Alfalla took-off on the restart with five laps remaining, hoping Main would have trouble getting through traffic. The plan nearly worked. Main caught Alfalla on the white flag lap on the back straightaway, and the two stayed side-by-side all the way to the checkered flag, with Main edging Alfalla by a mere 0.001 seconds. The great part was, neither driver made contact in order to win the race. A true gentleman move by both of them, and a testament to the quality of racing that is showcased week after week in the CSC.
As the week came to a close, many drivers were looking forward to another break from the draft as the series heads to The Milwaukee Mile for Week Eight of the season. With the only five weeks left, the battle for the championship is heating up as well. Berry has looked unstoppable, and there’s no reason to expect anything else at Milwaukee. His closest competitors will have their work cut out if any expect to mount a comeback.