iRacing: All Good Things Must Come to an End, NASTRACK Won the Battle, More Wins the War
The season finale was finally upon us this past Monday evening as the driver from the NASTRACK & More league took to the banks of Daytona International to settle the “ole score.” Nothing about this night of racing said “let’s go out there and conserve. Both the team and driver championships were up for grabs, oh and its Daytona so anyone could come from tenth to first in the final lap to steal the win.
Time to break some scenarios down for you; More went into the race leading the team points, NASTRACK would need to sweep the top ten to be able to steal the title. Steven Burnett & Kieth Maiato were tied for the driver points and with each position on the track being one point it came down much like how the 2014 Sprint Cup title did, finish ahead of the other guy and the championship is yours.
The garage opened for practice promptly at 6:45 EDT and drivers from both teams wasted no time putting laps into the books. Things were shaping up to be a barn burner too with the top ten split dead even in times during practice. Back for just his second race of the season, #92 Guy Driggers Red Six Camaro set the fastest time of the entire night with a 45.825 (196.4 MPH).
Moving ahead to qualifying it was the #40 car of Andrew Burton capturing the pole for NASTRACK. Posting a time of 48.770 seconds, which comes out to about 184 mph, which is pretty sporty for the Xfinity style cars here on iRacing. What made things really fun was the fact the top 22 cars were only separated by a tenth of a second! The remainder of your starting five were, #27 Chris Simard (48.775), #92 Guy Driggers (48.776), #37 Parker Traves (48.779), #30 Steven Burnett (48.781). On the flip side to that, there were a few cars who either missed qualifying or decided not to lay a lap down, those drivers were Keith Maiato, Bruce Boyer, Jesse Call, Gary Maiato, Kevin Cornelius, Laurie Meson and Michael Almand.
With the field set and the cars finally on track we were all but ready to get things underway for the fifth and “final” round of the NASTRACK –vs- More Challenge. However, the electronic world thought other wise as the #07 of Billy Howard just takes a hard right into the wall just past the start finish line and jolts back down the track causing a train reaction of carnage. “I don’t know what happened,” Howard said on his way back to the garage. “It’s the second week where when we get the restart it feels like as if I have a flat tire.” He was able to drive his car around to the attention of his crew and use is one and only free reset of the evening and rejoin the field.
We rejoined the field as the pace car dives down onto pit road, the green flag back in the air just as the field goes by to complete lap 6, race control communicating with all the drivers to settle in and get some laps on the board! Much easier said than done around this high bank two and a half mile tri-oval though. The caution flag waved yet again, already the second time in just eight laps for a wreck near the rear of the field involving one of the drivers in contention for the driver’s championships Keith Maiatio. Things seemed to get kicked off when the #1 of Randy Hughes gave Savage a huge push going into turn four, Savage looks like he just comes to far down in to the corner and hooks Maiato, that sends him right up the banking hard into Jesse Vaughn and the wall.
Never mind the cautions as that is something to be expected at Daytona we were finally able to see some great bumper to bumper action up front for the lead once we went back green. Kevin Cornelius and Ken Richardson trying to hold onto the lead with the help of Chris Simard all while holding off a gaggle to say the least of NASTRACK drivers trying to make the high line work. With 20 laps in the books the field had separated into two distinct packs, who knows maybe for the better, the top 13 would spend the next five laps two wide six deep in a league of their own until they ran into trouble. Andrew Burton, looking to stay connected to the rear bumper of his teammate, came down the banking going into three right across the nose of Cornelius and all hell broke loose after that again collecting more cars.
After a few more restarts and mangled cars the field of undamaged machines start to become few and far between with only 20 laps to go. Plenty of different pit strategies involved working into this, different pit road styles or not it still comes down to the top thirteen door-to-door, nose to tail fighting for win. After being involved in a previous incident Andrew Burton was able to get his machine fixed and picked up where he left of up front. Back and forth was the battle with #37 Parker Traves at the front of that 13 car pack.
However, just like in true Daytona fashion, the lead pack trying to work its way around the lap machine of Charlie Needham make contact with each other and trigger the big one! All but the top two cars make it away safely as the rest of the field barrels into the corner and join the party. A lot of fast cars had to bring their cars down pit road to attention of their crews.
With just twelve laps left on the board the drivers really proving that no matter what platform you race; NASCAR, R/C racing, or Sim Racing, cautions breed cautions! The pace car taking the hard left hand turn down pit road the green flag is displayed, the field comes roaring to life with just 8 laps to. The inside line getting the better start this go around saw five or six cars nose to tail till the exit of turn two. Steve Burnett takes the risk and jumps to the outside, Jesse Call does not hesitate and jumps up with him trying to push Burnett past the 37 and keep Maiato behind him as well.
Just as things got really racing with just 7 laps to go the 94 of Stephen Musick who had been having handling problems all evening dives into turn one and is not able to keep the car down on the line and doors the 14 of Schmidt, those two end up shooting up the track and taking out four other NASTRACK teammates including yours truly! This would bunch the field up hopefully one final time with Steve Burnett & Jesse Call on the front row for NASTRACK, Traves & Maiato in row two for More for what should be a green-white-checkered finish.
This time the outside lane getting the better jump allowing the 18 of Call to drop down in front of Burnett and those two to hook up and defend the lead. You have to look about a car and a halfback to find the five-car freight train led by Maiato trying to get the momentum from the high side with the help of some of his teammates. With two laps remaining it looked as if those five cars would be able to build enough momentum with the distance the leaders had already made however that was all tucked into bed when the yellow flag was displayed after the 23 car went for a while ride after a major case of net coding. Just like that the field was frozen and Jesse Call able to steal a win.
We were able to catch up with all of the winners from this evening and get their thoughts on the night, the series, and the future. First up was first time winner Jesse Call, starting in the back due to not posting a time during qualifying, take us through that and the race from your cockpit.
“I was a little late because I was getting back from the dinning hall since I’m in college,” Call explained. “I chose not to qualify because I wanted to take time and make sure everything was all set up right. Once I was caught up my main focus was to avoid the wrecks, which I did get caught up in one with minor damage and to try and ride mid pack until it was time to start making moves towards the front.”
Call decided it was time to start laying the hammer down around lap 45 when the field was under one of its only long green flag runs. “[I] was able to push someone I could trust which was Dennis Schmidt,” Call said. “Then it was pit strategy under the next caution to get a few more positions. With about 15 to go I really tried getting up to the front pushing Justin Kern and Dennis again. Then with the final laps worked with Steven Burnett to get to the front and take the win.
With the fifth and final race in the books and NASTRACK coming just short of claiming all ten top ten spots allowed More to take home the team championship in the “inaugural” challenge series between the two leagues. We were able to catch up with Keith Maiato from More to talk about their team win as well as Steven Burnett about inching out Maiato for the driver title.
Keith going into the night tied with Burnett for the driver points were you more focused on helping More win the title or were you going to be aggressive to make sure you were able to finish ahead of Burnett?
I was confident that MORE would take the team title so my focus was being around at the end. At the beginning of the race a few of us were set on keeping me aware and out of trouble throughout the race. The rest were working on keep the MORE team in the top ten.
So it really was a total team More effort on the night. Looking back on the race you were involved early in a big wreck, did it cause any concern in your pit box?
I was concerned at that point because I had to use my only quick repair so early in the race. I had a clean race afterwards but it did come with some challenges. For the most part I drove very cautiously to make sure I could make a push to the front within 20 laps to go.
Steven, thank you for joining us here as well. NASTRACK came up just a little short with the total team points but the driver championship was still up for grabs. Going into the final race at Daytona was the plan for you and your team?
I was going in just knowing that I need to stay ahead of Keith. I knew that if I could get out front and hold that bottom, I would be ok. A lot of cautions hurt us and that allowed Keith to make it to close to call. Once Jesse got out in front on the last few laps, I knew I could push him to a victory and hold Keith off at the end. We might have lost the team points, but NASTRACK really showed up!
By the virtue of the points system and each on track position equaling one point, you finished that race second with Keith in third and able to win the championship but just one point, take us through the season and what it was like for you.
With this 5 race series, I had a blast. A bunch of great competition from both leagues. Everyone drove their hardest each week. I tried my best to get a win for NASTRACK, but just kept coming up short. Finished 3rd in race 1 and race 2. Ran out of gas on the last lap of race 3 and finished 9th. Went to race 4 and lost by .001 and then tonight come home with 2nd once more. I would like to thank everyone who put this little series together. It couldn’t have been done without great guys like Shawn, Walt, Randy, and Chris. Hopefully we can get everyone back for another series event and see if I can a win this time and hang on the championship again. Congrats to More racing. I think our guys were a little short tonight, but it made for a great show.