An unfortunate turn of events lands Marc Pilon in victory lane with his first ever SK Modified Overall Championship.
The final race of the season took the top drivers in the iRacing.com SK Modified Series to Thompson International Speedway. While the series’ top sim-racers all showed-up to do battle one final time, the spotlight was on Richard Smith and Marc Pilon. Pilon entered the final week of the season only 23 points behind Smith, so the probability was high that this race would decide the championship. Smith was not taking any chances, as a superb qualifying run landed him the pole position, flanked by James Zimmerman to his outside. Pilon, on the other hand, would have his work cut out for him, as would begin the race in the fifth position.
The green flag fell and the duo of Smith and Zimmerman wasted no time in getting a jump on the rest of the field, which was led by Brett Osborn, Mike Keirstead, and Pilon. For the first seventeen laps, no passing took place as the field quietly spent their time figuring out one anothers strengths and weaknesses. Finally, on Lap 23, Pilon decided that it was time to go, and quickly slid under Keirstead (who had brushed the wall) for fourth place.
Then, on Lap 42, disaster struck. Smith and Zimmerman, who were clear from third place Osborn, came up on the lapped car of Gary Holbrook. Smith checked up high, unsure of where Holbrook was going, while Zimmerman attempted to seize the split second opportunity and dove low. The two made contact, and while Zimmerman went looping through the grass, Smith made an incredible save and managed to keep his car pointing in the correct direction. However, Osborn, unaware that Smith had saved his car and was re-entering the paved surface, moved low to pass the lapped car of Holbrook. All three cars made contact, resulting in Smith spinning across Osborn’s bumper and slamming nose first into the wall.
As soon as the wreck unfolded, Pilon smelled blood. He quickly moved past the badly injured car of Smith on Lap 43. It took him another five laps before he caught the damaged car of Osborn, and on Lap 48, Pilon slid under Osborn and cruised to first place, claiming his first SK Modified Series Championship in the process. On the final turn, Keirstead made a mistake while trying to pass Osborn for second, and allowed David Markham to slip by. Osborn ended up second, Markham grabbed third, and Keirstead was forced to settle for fourth. Andrew Van Cleef rounded out the top five.
When interviewed after the race, Smith’s reaction was quite unexpected. “I am not angry about the outcome of the final race,” he said. “I was racing the man (James Zimmermann) that taught me how to race the SK Modifieds and we were having a blast racing each other. As far as the championship battle goes, I was fortunate enough to be there at the end and that is enough for me. Marc Pilon is my teammate at Sinister Racing, and without his help, I could not have been in championship contention.”
“As far as the championship battle goes, I was fortunate enough to be there at the end and that is enough for me.” – Richard Smith
Not surprisingly, the new SK Modified Series champion was overjoyed after the race.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “This was my seventh season in the SKs, so winning the championship in such a high points season was great.
“Richard (Smith) and I have been racing on a team together for about a year and a half,” he continued, “so for it to come down to just us for the championship seemed like a win-win situation, and I knew I could trust him to race me clean.
“I would have liked to been side-by-side with (Smith) coming off of Turn 4 for the win and the championship, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.” – Mark Pilon
“I feel really bad for what happened with nine to go. All week I struggled setup wise, even though I had the set that he was running. There was just a difference in our driving styles that kept our times from being close. I would have liked to been side-by-side with him coming off of Turn 4 for the win and the championship, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.”
With Season 2 of the iRacing SK Modified Series in the books, sim-racers are eager to get their hands on iRacing’s newly-updated SK and Tour Modified cars for Season 3. The update will change everything, as many drivers fear that the cars will be transformed from the loose, drifting cars that the community loves into a car that feels like the Late Model. Only time will tell what iRacing has to offer and how the community will react. But if next season turns out to be just as close as this one, then I think the build was well worth it. Don’t you?