The third week of the NASCAR iRacing Tour Modified Series brings the virtual ground pounders to Martinsville Speedway. The venerable Virginia short track enables the true abilities of the Tour Modifieds to come life as its long straightaways allow the sim racers to put all of that 612 horsepower to use as the cars scream down into the tight corners. Once in the corners, the 15 inches of rubber and offset chassis let the car roll through at high speed, producing lap time over half a second faster than an iRacing Sprint Cup car.
The weather conditions for this week of sim racing tested the capabilities of even the very best drivers. With high heat and blazing sun, controlling the power of the Tour Mod proved to be a challenge and the sim racers dealt with extremely loose conditions all week long.
The Thursday night feature had 24 sim racers sign up to form two splits of twelve entries apiece, with the top split registering a Strength of Field (SOF) of 4081. Samuel Dick started on the pole with a qualifying time of 19.108s, edging Heath Smith, while Jerold John and John Minotto filled the second row.
The start was hectic as the sim racers knew track position was crucial and the opening lap was a good opportunity to make-up ground. John took advantage of his position on the inside of Row Two to get by Smith on the very first lap. Further back, Christian Pederson began his charge to the front by passing four cars in the first ten laps before the field began to settle down as everyone found there groove and got into their rhythm.
Lap 41 brought action among the leaders as they came up on lapped traffic. Having led from the outset, Dick found himself stuck behind a slower lap car, which created a log-jam. John was forced to slow and Smith made contact with his rear bumper before slipping past to take over the second position.
Pederson finished his charge when as he slid past Keith Jeffery for fourth place five laps later, and the running order remained mostly unchanged from this point forward. The biggest battle for position in the closing laps featured Kyle Odaynik and Seth DeMerchant as they argued over seventh place. Theirs was a unique situation because they were not only battling for position on the track but they were also tied for the Thursday Night points lead coming into the race – a deadlock that was resolved in Odaynik’s favor . . . for the time being.
In the end, Dick took a dominating victory after leading all 90 laps of a caution-free race that saw Smith finish runner-up ahead of John. The long green flag run and slick conditions limited overtaking late in the game as most drivers were more occupied with keeping their car pointed in the right direction than passing other cars.
The second split had an SOF of 1847 and the pole went to Gary Holbrook who started inside of teammate Paul Wisniewski. The second row consisted of David Bodio and John Heyn. After a clean start the first caution came on Lap 17. Although pit road was calm as it was too early for the leaders to pit, the second yellow on Lap 40 proved appetizing for the leaders as they all came down pit road. Ollie Aina stayed out and was able to lead a couple of laps before Holbrook regained the lead.
The last caution came shortly after when Ken Zeames lost control on Lap 46. With no one taking to pit road Holbrook maintained the lead and, after the ensuing restart, never looked back en route to the win. Paul Wisniewski finished in second with tthe top five was rounded out by David Bodio, Jeff Sharp, and Shawn Bagby.
Next week the NASCAR iRacing Tour Modifieds Series heads south to the famed New Smyrna Speedway. New Smyrna’s high banks are sure to produce high speed and good sim racing. Thursday Night Features have seen three different winners in as many weeks. Will the streak continue at New Smyrna? Or will a familiar face pull into the Winners Circle?
Thursday Night Points
1 Christian Pedersen 282
2 Kyle Odaynik 272
3 John Minotto 270
4 Seth DeMerchant 268
5 Jerold John 230