Week six of the iRacing Late Model Series traveled way down south to sunny Lakeland, Florida to visit USA International Speedway. This three-quarter-mile banked oval now only exists in the iRacing world and in the memories of race fans. The race track was bull dozed in 2012, however, iracing will memorialize the great track in perpetuity.
The tough old speedway introduced numerous unforeseen factors into week six of the Late Model Series, consisting of aggressive sim racing as well as a handling monkey wrench thrown into the works by the unpredictable weather. The cars were a little tight in turns one and two and a little loose in turns three and four. The weather change led to numerous incidents as well as some enjoyable racing action. The highest strength-of-field this week was 3391.
Shane Dougherty had the fastest qualifying time, therefore he won the pole position for the start of the strength-of-field feature. Mark Jorgensen lined up on the outside of the front row. As the official iRacing pace car peeled away, Dougherty laid back a little and managed to take a big lead on the start Dougherty extended his advantage to considerably more than four car lengths over Jorgensen who never got an opportunity to mount a challenge. The top three put about eight car lengths between themselves and the rest of the field as drivers continued to dice for position from fourth on back.
Patience is a virtue in Late Model racing, particularly at a tough intermediate track like USA International Speedway. Obviously a few of the racers further back in the pack lost their patience, as there was quite a bit of bumping and banging going on.
Josh Combs drove too deep going into the turn and nudged Gary Hensley, who was running in the fifth position at the time. Hensley’s car broke loose and it looked as though he was going to lose it. Combs lifted and allowed Hensley to regroup. Just when it looked as though Hensley was going to save the car, it broke loose once again exiting the turn. Hensley over-corrected and ended up heading for the outside wall. He gathered Combs in with him and they both crashed along with Ray Farlow. Hensley’s car suffered significant damage but he was able to continue without stopping for repairs. Combs did make a pit stop and ended up several laps down as a result.
Meanwhile, the top four cars pulled further away from the rest of the field. Dougherty still led the race. He was followed by Jorgansen, Christian Corriveau, and Christian Pederson. Kevin Myers rounded out the top five, but he was some four seconds behind the top four. Myers was running all by himself, so that gave him a good opportunity to run some clean laps and perhaps run down the leaders.
With just seven laps to go, the racing heated up as Mark Jorgensen began to began to put some pressure on Dougherty for the lead. Jorgensen had a good run going into turn three, but thought better of it and decided to drop back in line behind Dougherty. Meanwhile, Kevin Myers had made his way up to third place, relegating Christian Pederson to fourth.
With four laps to go, Dougherty and Jorgensen went at it again, racing side by side for three laps. Dougherty won that battle, and Jorgenson fell back into second. Dougherty completed the final lap unchallenged, as Jorgensen and Myers continued to battle for second place. Jorgansen held the position. Myers finished third followed by Pedersen and Christian Corriveau.
Next week, the Late Model Series will head north to Martinsville, Virginia for more short track excitement on the virtually flat Martinsville Speedway.