January 16th, 2013 by DavidP
Brandon Schmidt capped off the 2012-13 NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series season with an impressive victory under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Schmidt led 117 laps of the 200 lap, 300 mile season finale and was clearly the class of the field. The win also locked Schmidt into the upcoming NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship season.
“Wow….I can’t believe how that last Pro race went. I knew I had a very fast car, short and long run, but no idea how dominant it would be,” said Schmidt.
Meanwhile, a few seconds behind Schmidt a fantastic championship battle was taking place between Jared Crawford and Chad Laughton. Due to Laughton staying-out under the first caution and leading a lap, whoever finished in front of the other would be champion. Both drivers were nearly equal for much of the race and it looked as if it was going to be a matter of who was going to slip first as the laps wound down, but a late yellow threw a monkey-wrench into the finish.
“I knew I had a very fast car, short and long run, but no idea how dominant it would be.” — Brandon Schmidt
During that caution, both Laughton and Crawford pitted and it seemed the championship was in the hands of the pit crews. All that changed when Crawford was caught speeding in the pits, sending him to the tail end of the field for the restart and ending any shot he had at the title. He would go on to finish thirteenth, just his second finish outside the top ten in nine NiPS starts.
The online race started with pole-winner Richard Dusett leading the field to the green in one of the closest qualifying rounds ever in the NiPS. The top 11 drivers were separated by less than .05 of a second, which many thought would lead to a very close race. Schmidt quickly extinguished those thoughts when he took the lead shortly after the first caution and was never threatened.
After the first yellow on Lap 10, which saw Joey Brown’s quest for a top five in season the standings come to an end, the race went green for the next 175 laps. This allowed many different strategies to play out. Schmidt, Crawford and Laughton decided to break the remaining laps into four equal segments to maximize their time on fresh tires. Others, including Dustin Montgomery, Carson Downs and Jake Stergios, opted to stretch their fuel every run in hope of catching a yellow.
That yellow finally came on Lap 185 when Josh Berry got into Matt Whitten, sending both cars crashing down the front straightaway. This is when Crawford’s fateful pit stop and speeding penalty took place.
Things got interesting on the restart when Stergios and Brandon Buchberger stayed-out even as the rest of the leaders came in for tires. Buchberger got a sub-par restart and faded outside of the top five, but Stergios fared far better. Although he was no match for the #3 Chevy and let Schmidt by with seven laps remaining, he nevertheless wound-up second on the night.
Laughton held onto third, coming across the line just behind Stergios, while Richard Dusett finished fourth and Cody Byus ended up fifth.
The final margin in the championship was nine points. Montgomery rode another solid top ten run to third in the standings. Stergios finished fourth after an amazing second half of the season and Downs ended-up fifth.
The battle for the Top 25 was fairly non-eventful. Buchberger was the last driver in, joining Andrew Fayash III and Rob Ackley as one of the final three qualifiers for the 2013 NiSWC.
With the conclusion of the NiPS, the field of 50 drivers for the fourth season of the NiSWC is set. Ray Alfalla will be going for his unprecedented third straight title, but the rest of the field has him in the crosshairs. The new Generation 6 car will also make its debut at Daytona International Speedway, which could level the playing field. Whoever figures out the tricks and nuances of the new car first will have a big advantage the first few weeks of the season, which kicks-off March 12. Be sure to stay tuned to inRacingNews and wcs.iracing.com for more information on the upcoming NiSWC as the first race of the season draws near.