According to iRacing, it’s still season four of 2013. I have no idea why they don’t run their seasons on a calendar year. Nevertheless, it’s week ten and the end of the season is drawing near. The iRacing Late Model tour paid a visit to Richmond International Raceway for the week for some
horrible unpleasantness exciting racing action.
Richmond is the biggest race track that the Late Model tour will visit this season. This track is really a bit too big for Late Model stock cars, which is probably why Late Models seldom run this track in the real world. I think the last time Late Models actually ran the track was in 2011 for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown.
The Late Model stock car just doesn’t work very well on the big track at Richmond. The wall coming off of turn two is treacherous. The wall coming off of turn four is no piece of cake, either. Handling is at a premium there, and it’s difficult to drive fifty laps without losing that handle at least once. It’s an easy matter to spin the car coming out of turn two, or run a little hard and hit that wall in the same turn. Given a good setup and a practiced driver, tire wear, conservation, and consistency are the keys to victory at this track.
Scott Howell won the pole for the feature race of the week, with Scott Schrader positioned on the outside of the front row. As soon as the pace car pulled into the pits, Howell was on the throttle and quickly built a big lead headed down the front stretch. Schrader pulled up into second place by turn one, clearing Bill Martin, who started on the inside of the second row.
Most of the field fell into line and was running single file right off. Ricky Brinkman met with some bad luck as he got a tap from Joel Wood and fell all the way back to eleventh position. Wood moved into fourth position but not for long. He had a “Come to Jesus” moment with the treacherous wall exiting turn two, and lost a lot of momentum. On lap three, Bill Martin got his wheels on the apron in turn two. If you’ve ever driven this track in a Late Model, you probably know what happened to him. Martin went into a spin, but quickly regrouped. He lost a lot of momentum and dropped from third spot all the way back to seventh. While these things were happening, Kevin Berg was the man on the move. Berg started tenth, but by lap three he was in sixth position.
Bill Martin had another encounter with the wall in turn two, this time with the aid of Joel Wood. Martin held Wood low in turn two, pinching him on the bottom of the track. With little room to maneuver, Wood came up and lightly tapped Martin, and that was enough to send him into the outside wall once again. He also collected the cars of Ricky Brinkman and Thomas Bedgood. Erik Haag spun to avoid crashing with the two. He didn’t hit anything and was able to continue.
Turn two continued to take its toll. On lap eight, Shemer T. Tobin hit the wall exiting the turn and called it quits as his car was heavily damaged. Kevin Berg continued his tear, by now moving into the third position, chasing Scott Schrader who seemed to be a little off the pace.
After ten or twelve hair-raising laps, the field settled down and began spreading out around the big track. Kevin Berg ran down Scott Schrader and blew by him to pursue the leader, Scott Howell. Howell had a big lead at this point, so Berg had to focus on smooth, consistent, fast laps to run him down. It took Berg about fifteen laps to cut into Howell’s lead and pull up behind his car. Further back, Scott Schrader’s car continued to slip back. He was soon passed for the third position by Jeff J. Rogers.
Berg made his first bid for the top spot on lap four. He was lifting early to gain a better exit, hoping to get a run on the low side of Schrader coming out of the corners. Berg finally made a run coming out of turn four, headed down the front stretch. Schrader held on, racing the outside line for a full lap, but that was a losing proposition and Berg took the lead.
Third position was also up for debate as Jeff J. Rogers worked his way to the inside of Scott Schrader on lap forty-seven. Kenneth Lane was running fifth when his car puttered and ran out of fuel in the last turn of the last lap. Lane lost one spot, and Joel Wood advanced to fifth.
Howell tried to hang on to Berg, but there was nothing doing as Berg pulled away to win the event by several car lengths. Jeff J. Rogers finished in third position with Scott Schrader fourth, and Joel Wood rounding out the top five.
Next week, the racing improves as the Late Model tour heads north again, to Thompson International Speedway in Connecticut. Thompson is one of the few track on which the high line is preferred. It’s a rough track, but the racing is very good. Passing is difficult, but can be accomplished with skill and patience.