For the iRacing.com Sprint Car Series, Week 5 at Lanier Speedway was a week where hardly anyone escaped without racking up incident points. As the drivers packed up to go to Bristol Motor Speedway for Week 6, many were expecting a similar story, and a theoretical collective sigh of relief was still seven days away. A tame week in Thunder Valley is nothing more than a week you’d only find in a dream, and the iSCS veterans were ready to tighten their seatbelts and grit their teeth once more in the race for the iSCS 2012 Season 3 championship.
A total of 62 sprint drivers showed up for roll call during the stay at Bristol. While down from the previous week, it was understandable, as any race fan knows what Bristol usually has in store for the field. While some may say that watching a Bristol race is more enjoyable than experiencing it firsthand, the best seat in the house at Bristol is still the drivers’ seat, where one can experience laps churned at less than 14 seconds on 30 degree banked turns. Defending iSCS champion Alan Binder set his best qualifying lap of the week at 13.703s, taking the pole position. Fred Lampela again took a front row starting position with a lap time incredibly close to Alan’s – 13.712s. As the last visit to “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” showed, getting a front-row starting position isn’t enough to save your car from danger, and Season 3’s visit to the track would prove this statistic true again.
The excitement began on Tuesday, when a 17 car field roared to the green flag. Alan Binder seemed to be destined for another dominating victory, leading every lap and pulling away from the second-place car of Randal Robinson. On lap 31, however, Binder tangled with the lapped machine of Brett Waldrep on the backstretch and crashed hard into the wall, bouncing off and collecting other cars before the incident was finished. On the restart, it was Robinson who took the green, but he was challenged quickly by Steve Linder who took the top spot. Robinson came back in the closing laps to put up a fight for the win, but it was Linder who crossed the finish line first by .150s over Robinson.
Robinson was happy for Linder, but was clearly sore from the missed opportunity. “With Alan out I had the lead… [H]ad a poor restart, got loose and drifted high through the corner and Steve passed me for the position. I kept the pressure on him but was unable to make the pass. It was a well deserved win by Steve but I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the win.”
Rookie Matthew Pilus placed a respectable podium finish with his third-place result. Douglas Berryman and Mark Hephner completed the top five respectively. Binder was scored in 16th place, -19 L.
Lightning crashed in Thunder Valley once more on Thursday with the only split event of the week. In the top split, it was a fierce battle for the lead as pole-sitter Binder and PJ Stergios raced side by side for a couple of laps before Binder relinquished his lead. An interesting sight for the iSCS, Stergios followed up on his edgy and rare pass around Binder to win the event. Binder, fighting a loose car in the later laps, rubbed wheels with Vinnie Sansone as they crossed the finish line side-by-side for second place. Sansone crossed the line sideways in third position, while Brandon Buchberger finished in fourth, right behind the action, all of which was under a second behind Stergios. Having another profitable night, Randal Robinson rounded out the top five.
In the second split, it was the “Buckeye Boys” at work once again, as Steve and Michael Linder dominated up front. With three cautions flown, the typical mayhem one relates with Bristol was indeed witnessed. Coming away clean, it was Steve Linder who won the event, leading 46 laps and finishing ahead of his brother Michael with only .160s separating them. Douglas Berryman had another strong finish with a third place.
Eddie Walczyk proved practice and patience beneficial as he scored his fourth place of the week. “I know some guys have asked recently what it takes to get a handle on these Beasts… I came to the conclusion that it takes the same thing as getting to Carnegie Hall. That, and a little help from some friends!”
Joshua Jewell completed the top five of the event.
Sunday showcased the last dance with danger at Bristol, as Fred Lampela led a 13-car field to the green flag. Showcasing the highest number of cautions for the week with four yellows, restarts proved to be very important. Only four sprints finished on the lead lap, and it was Fred Lampela who escaped injury to take the checkered flag under caution. Pro/WC driver Vinnie Sansone was scored as the runner-up after a long battle with Aleksi Elomaa, who overcame the bad memories of last week’s finish by finishing third. Jacob Fredriksson came home in fourth, while Michael Willard, -1L, rounded out the top five.
With the bout of short-track madness over for the time being, Alan Binder still retains the lead over Vinnie Sansone for the iSCS championship. Next week brings the return of The Milwaukee Mile to the sprints. Not being on the schedule last season, many current iSCS drivers will be testing the waters for the first time here. Will next week prove to be as exciting as Bristol? Find out next week on iRN!