With the sand running out on its inaugural season, the NASCAR iRacing Series made its final stop of the campaign at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Although Tyler D Hudson locked-up the series championship over second place Landon Harrison last week at Phoenix International Raceway, there was still a tight battle for third and fourth in points between Jordan Westfall and Kyle McCormick to be decided in South Florida with only 86 points between the two sim-racers at the start of the final week.
Thursday night was the first night of sim-racing and saw Pro Series driver Derek Crone grab the week’s first pole from fellow Pro Series driver Jeremy Lukaszka. However, Lukaszka got a better start on the high side to take the initial lead. Lukaszka and Crone battled for the early laps before Alex Warren joined-in the fun.
Warren was able to take the lead fairly quickly, and it looked like he would take an easy win . . . that is until Hudson worked his way to the bumpers of Warren and Crone. Hudson raced all the way to second place on the track, then won the race off pit road on Lap 69 by a nose to take the lead over Crone, Warren and Lukaszka.
But for a brief stretch when Crone reasserted himself between Laps 75-85, Hudson led until the closing laps when he ran short of fuel and headed to the pits on Lap 125 for a splash ‘n go. Lukaszka took the point but he took ran short of virtual Sunoco and pitted as Dwayne Vincent moved into a lead he would keep until the finish. Jere Seppälä and Tommy Rhyne took second and third respectively ahead of the recovering Hudson and Lukaszka. McCormick finished a useful seventh – particularly given Westfall’s absence – while Crone slipped to eighth and Warren was classified P28 after falling-out at the 100 lap mark.
After race one I had the chance to talk the series champion Hudson about his run for the NiS championship in a year that also saw him capture the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship.
Q: How do you feel sweeping the two big NASCAR Series in the same year?”
A: Feels pretty awesome!!! I would have been happy to just finish both series in the top five but to win both in the same year is pretty darn awesome. It has never been done so to do something for the first time is really awesome to.
A: How did winning the NiSWC help you win the NASCAR iRacing Series championship?”
Q: I don’t think it helped me win the NiS Championship at all. If you reversed the question though, the NiS helped me tremendously in NiSWC. Track time is huge, and whether you have a really good setup or not in NiSWC, it doesn’t much matter unless you put in the time at each track to become familiarized and comfortable in the car in racing conditions. NiS was a huge help in this area.
Q: Do you think having a fixed long season like the NASCAR iRacing Series was a good for the people on the service who are working for pro?
A: I guess it could be. Those new hot shoes coming up through the ranks may not be on a solid team yet or be known by very many people. These days to compete in Pro and NiSWC you need a good solid team behind you. It is a great way to get your name out there and get known; other than that I don’t see it benefitting Pro drivers very much. We added Justin Bolton to One Up Motorsports this season, and that was strictly because I liked what I saw racing in the NiS with him every week. I knew with a good team he could do some great things, and it held true because Week 2 of his first Pro season he won his first Pro race at Phoenix..
“I would have been happy to just finish both series in the top five but to win both in the same year is pretty darn awesome.” – Tyler Hudson
Q: Who are some of the people you want to thank that have help get you to the top this season?
A: Of course the guys at One Up Motorsports. Travis Sollenberger, Mark Wright, and Marty Sponsler would help me in the NiS races by calling out accidents, fuel strategy, and overall morale in the races. They’d pump me up when I needed it and help you enjoying being around and hanging out with. That’s what it is all about.”
The second day of racing for the week was all about Saturday, the series’ final double header of the 2013 season.
Race 2 of the week gridded in the early hours of the morning with Brian V Macklin grabbing the second pole of the final week and Kevin Scholefield on his outside. At the drop of the green Macklin took the lead and ran alone out front until Vincent, fresh off his Race 1 win, made it to his bumper. He wasted no time getting by Macklin on Lap 14 and set sail for his second win in as many starts. Vincent did just that, leading all but 16 of the remaining 121 laps to take checkered flag ahead of Macklin, Jordan Werth and Alastair Topley.
A few hours after his dominating win in Race 2, Vincent was back in action looking to make it three for three on the week. However, he would have his work cut out for him after qualifying 11th and starting, five rows behind a front row consisting of pole-winner Bill Brown and Justin Kirby.
Brown duly led a few of the opening laps until third-starting Blade Whitt showed he was the man to beat by taking the lead and looking like he was going to disappear into the Florida sunset. But after leading 83 laps — and with the race coming to a close – Whitt found himself fending-off the advances of TJ Thompson. A huge crash unfolded with just six laps remaining, knocking both leaders out of contention and enabling Brown to retake the top spot as the race finished under yellow, with Vincent P2 ahead of Michael Abrams and Anthony Roselli.
Sunday brought the curtain down on the 2013 NASCAR iRacing Series with Brandon Kettelle taking the last pole of the season alongside Matt Bussa. The two front row starters spent the opening laps trading the lead back and forth, with Kettelle’s top notch pit crew repeatedly enabling him to win the race out of the pits to take the lead.
Lap 54 saw Brodie Kostecki (who started from P17) take the lead for the frist time, only to lose the top spot a few laps later as Kettelle and Bussa battled by him. After falling another to the end of the top five, Kostecki gambled by pitting when the leaders stayed out on a Lap 64 caution. When the next yellow came out eight laps later, Kostecki and his crew they stayed out to take the lead. Kostecki held until a couple of late yellows on late yellows on Lap 121 and 125, the latter for contact the between front row starters Kettelle and Bussa as they came to the restart.
Although it appeared that Kostecki was going to pull-off the easy win after leading 63 laps, Peter Bennett had other ideas. Coming to the white flag, Bennett got a big run out of Turn Four and made his move into Turn One to take the lead just as tenth and final yellow of the race flew, insuring he would win the final race of the season from Kostecki, Brandon Buie, Chris Overland and Vincent, with Westfall taking a valuable sixth place to clinch third in the points over McCormick.
Casey Tucker took fifth place in the standings ahead of Ricky Hardin, with Vincent’s moster week at Homestead vaulting him to seventh in the standings ahead of David Ratler and Greg Spears while Matthew Moose rounded-out the top ten.
With the inaugural 2013 NASCAR iRacing Series in the books, competitors can take a breather begin gearing up for Daytona in 2014. See you there and thanks to all the drivers who competed a memorable 2013 season. Click here for a complete statistical run-down of the 2013 NASCAR iRacing Series.