The iRacing Pro Series Ovals’ Week 19 trip to Thunder Valley provided a wild week of racing action. Although it was the iPSO’s second trip to Bristol Motor Speedway, this time around provided much different results for most of the competitors.
The week started out rather unusually when technical difficulties ended one of the two Wednesday splits. iRacing was quick to find the problem, and hosted the first-ever make-up race on Thursday afternoon. The Wednesday race that did not get dumped was won by Tyler D Hudson in rather dominating fashion over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hudson took the victory by over two and a half seconds and led 123 of the 200 laps en route to his fourth victory in the 2009 iPSO.
The Thursday make-up race produced an interesting shake-up. Points leader Brad Davies saw his point lead shrink dramatically, as his pit strategy did not work to his favor. He led 79 laps before staying out on old tires and getting trapped a lap down, and was never able to get back on the lead lap. Davies finished 13th, the second car one lap down. The 340 point victory went to Thomas Hazard, who was able to rebound from a less than stellar week at Chicago, and grab one of the largest point victories of the season. The always consistent Josh Berry finished second, while the surprise of the year, Alex Horn rounded out the top three in that split.
Horn has been extremely impressive all season, seemingly out of nowhere. Prior to the iPSO, he was, for the most part, a Late Model master, with the occasional B car race. But right from the get-go of the iPSO Horn has been on his game. Sitting eighth in points, Horn has done it basically on consistency, only posting one win . . . until Sunday. Alex led 29 laps en route to his second victory in the iPSO, beating strong competitor Vinnie Sansone, and points leader Brad Davies. Steve Sheehan was the man to beat in that race, leading 91 laps until his race went by the wayside on lap 124.
Horn is shaping up to be one of the top sim racers iRacing has to offer. He is proving himself week in and week out, and with this win, he has all but clinched his bid in the iDWC. When asked about his win, he said, “To finally get another one is great, these races are not easy to win, and I hope there are a couple more down the road.”
Not to be outdone, Kirk Hapke found victory lane for the first time in his iPSO career on Friday. Hapke just rode for most of the race, preserving his tires and fenders at the high-banked half-mile. But when the time came, he pounced on Marcus Caton to take the victory. The win was huge for Hapke, not only for confidence, but in the standings. Hapke is on the edge of the iDWC qualifiers. Although he’s forty-third in points, he doesn’t have much of a cushion, and needs a strong string of races to solidify himself a spot in the iDWC. When asked about how he’s feeling about where he’s sitting in points, Hapke said, “I just have to run the best I can these next five weeks. I do have top fives at three of the last five tracks, so maybe I can draw on some of that. I’m pretty sure it’s going to come right down to the wire at Homestead, hopefully I’ll be on the good side of it.”
As the season winds down, many top competitors are yet to get in the win column. We have seen the Pro Series all but dominated by about the same ten drivers every week. Bristol did shake things up, with a couple of unusual, yet very deserving, winners. The iDWC may be out of reach for most of the pros, but everyone would love to put their name in the win column. With only five weeks left in the inaugural iPSO season, these drivers are going to have to step up their game if they want to beat the best.
Next week takes the pros to the Lady in Black, Darlington Speedway. This will be the iPSO’s second trip to South Carolina. Many drivers are in dire need of a great week as the iDWC inches closer. Although it’s a week of busy holiday occasions, Darlington promises to bring out the top drivers, and great racing action.