On Thursday night, the NASCAR iRacing Whelen Tour Modifieds rolled into the famed USA International Speedway. USA International may not exist in the real world anymore, but it is alive and well on iRacing.com and it happens to be one of the most popular short tracks on the service. Organized by Untamed Motorsports, with help from Shawn Bagby, the Thursday Night Feature began in Season 2 and – we’re happy to say – is continuing in this, Season 3. The Feature is growing in popularity and it is evident that if you want to race the best in short track racing, the Tour Modifieds on Thursday nights is where you will get that test.
Thirty-four of these virtual ground-pounders took to the track on Thursday, racing in two splits of 17 digital cars each. The top split boasted a strength of field (SOF) of 3275 and contained modified regulars like Jerold John and John Minotto, along with Wicked Autosports sim racers Seth Demerchant and Christian Pedersen.
The race was caution-heavy with eight yellow flags within 80 laps; with most drivers agreeing that this was due to the unusually tight conditions faced by the field. The cautions started on the very first lap when Bagby and Chris Stewart made contact their first time on the back straight. Stewart was able to maintain position; however, Bagby was not as fortunate. He dropped to last place and was forced to work his way forward from there.
Things settled down on the ensuing restart, but not before Minotto and Rick Webster made contact. Due to the incident, Webster was passed by multiple cars because of the incident but no caution was thrown. Lap 34 produced the most bizarre incident of the night occurred as Demerchant and Kyle Odaynik were battling for position. As Odaynik attempted a crossover move coming out of Turn Two, Demerchant tried to get to the gas and hold his position. In the process, he hit the outside wall and his car climbed up the concrete and rolled onto its lid before sliding down the back straight. Miraculously, the following sim racers avoided the wayward car. Perhaps even more amazingly, Demerchant only suffered minimal damage and was able to rejoin the race after getting a virtual tow to the pits, albeit three laps down. He managed to earn three lucky dogs over the rest of the race and finished in fourth position.
On Lap 72, the field was coming to a restart and, with only eight laps remaining, it figured to be an aggressive finish. The 15 remaining drivers dived down into Turn One but, unfortunately – predictably even — many did not make it out of the other side. Running second and third, respectively, Ronald Williams and Jerold John made got together and created a large pile-up involving half of the field with John, Williams and Keith Jeffries getting the worst of it.
The following green-white-checker restart took place with Minotto and Odaynik leading from Steven Mastro, Demerchant, and Peter Taloumis. Odaynik was able to clear Mastro coming out of Turn Two and set his sights on Minotto, but it was too little too late as Minotto took home the first Thursday night feature split for the Tour Modifieds ahead of Odaynik, Mastro and Demerchant with Taloumis completing the top five.
The second split had five cautions for 25 laps and had five lead changes, with Jason Metcalfe coming out on top ahead of Randy Murphy, Danil Romberg, Daniel Folds and Ken Zeames.
Next week the NASCAR iRacing Tour Modified series travels to the largest track of the season: Gateway Motorsports Park. The large track should promote good sim racing and will be an entirely different test than the short track of USA International. No matter the size or location of the venue, however, the Thursday Night figures to once again be a showcase for the Tour Modifieds.