Dover International Speedway played host to Week Eight of the NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series (NiPS) season and saw Alex Warren deny Nick Ottinger’s bid for a third straight win in the series. Ottinger made his presence known, leading 59 of 200 laps, but Warren had the speed and track position when it counted, leading the final six laps to earn his second win of the season.
The Monster Mile didn’t come by its nickname by accident, as the high-banked, bowl of concrete is often the site of some rough and tumble action. This online race was cleaner than anticipated, however, as the event had two long green flag runs including two rounds of green flag stops, both of which had a pronounced affect on the outcome.
It came down to a three lap shootout, with Warren, Ottinger and Matt Whitten fighting for the win. Ottinger had the fresher tires of the three, but could not get past Whitten quickly enough to seriously challenge Warren, who also won at Richmond earlier this season. He only led six of the 200 laps, but the car’s handling was on the money when it counted.
Though the end of the race saw some yellows, the majority of the event was very clean. After an incident on the first lap, the race went green until Lap 87 and featured a round of green flag pit stops which shuffled the running order. Pole-sitter Joshua Laughton led the beginning of the run before being passed by Patrick Baldwin, who led until he spun trying to come onto pit road. Although he did not hit anything, Baldwin never regained the track position he lost and ended-up seventh at the checkers.
The caution mixed-up the field quite a bit, since some cars had not pitted yet when the yellow lights flashed. Vinnie Sansone and Del Mears took advantage of the situation, restarting first and second respectively. But with so many good cars behind them, it was only be a matter of time before they were shuffled back down the running order.
After three more cautions, including one for a crash involving over a dozen cars, the race went on another long green flag run, this time with Ottinger finding his way to the front with Kevin King in hot pursuit. King followed Ottinger for more than 20 laps, but could not find a way around. The two leaders pitted a lap apart, Ottinger one lap before King. That lap made a huge difference, as Ottinger built a large gap during the exchange and looked well on his way to his third straight NiPS victory.
However, a caution with a dozen laps remaining spoiled his party and completely changed the complexion of the race. Four sim racers had yet to make their final pit stops, putting them in front of Ottinger and King. New leader PJ Stergios chose not to pit under the yellow, trapping King and Ottinger a lap down. Ottinger lucked-out though, and was in position to get the free pass, putting him back on the lead lap, albeit at the tail of the field.
The race restarted with eight laps remaining with Stergios and his brother Jake on the front row. Warren and Whitten were third and fourth and clearly had faster cars, but were just getting up to speed when the yellow flew again, a lap into the run. PJ kept the lead during the one lap of green, but was black flagged for changing lanes before the start-finish line, handing the lead to Warren. The yellow also helped Ottinger, who would restart third on fresh tires.
Fresh tires, however, were not enough. By the time Ottinger disposed of Whitten, Warren had built-up enough of lead that he took the checkers by .6s. Following Warren and Ottinger, were Whitten, Jake Stergios and Kevin King, with PJ Stergios slipping to sixth as the result of his penalty.
With his second win of the season, Whitten takes a narrow (two point) lead in the championship over Marcus Lindsey, who was credited with a 15th place after being involved in the big melee near the halfway point. Ottinger sits four points back on the lead in third, while King and Richie Davidowitz (30th at Dover) round-out the top five and are still within striking distance. The battle for the Top 25 and entry into the 2012 NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship is heating-up as well with only four races remaining in the season. Del Mears currently sits on the bubble, but only has a six point cushion back to Jon Adams.
Next week the series heads to the Tricky Triangle, aka Pocono Raceway. The unique tri-oval will test all of the drivers’ setup-making and driving abilities to the max. With a championship battle as tight as this, every position matters; and with the unpredictability that Pocono brings, it could be the perfect time for a new face to end up in victory lane. Who will it be? Check out inRacingNews next week to find out!