Writer's Note: Well, this is quite different! When the 906 SIM League came about, I jumped at the opportunity to race with some of the best racers from the Upper Peninsula. It has been a blast thus far and I hope to continue having fun racing in and writing about the 906 SIM League. To avoid any confusion, I refer to myself in the third person.
For the past week or so, all of the buzz in the sim racing community has been around the addition of the historic, and now defunct, North Wilkesboro Speedway to the iRacing service. Prior to last Wednesday, the only racers to take to the virtual track were the drivers of the NASCAR Cup Series for the final round of the Pro Invitational Series prior to real racing returning this weekend at Darlington.
In a surprising announcement, iRacing revealed the track would be available to the public just three days after the Cup event due to the interest in the track. The original release was set for June.
With a new track added to the service, it would only make sense for the 906 SIM League to take the action to North Wilkesboro this week for round seven of the Spring Series, as each week, seemingly, brings new drivers, cars, winners, and now tracks.
Throughout practice, different drivers took turns swapping fast times. Scott Hoffman turned a fast lap, then Robby Iverson, then Kyle Johnson, who ended up on top of the charts at the end of the hour long session. When it was time for qualifying, drivers ran their three laps, then eagerly watched the timing sheets to see who could carry over speed from practice.
The first driver to go to the pole was Todd Rose, who was swiftly knocked off by Scott Hoffman. It wasn't much longer before both drivers watched as Cameron Clifford and Kyle Johnson turned faster laps, Johnson on the pole. Robby Iverson, though fast in practice, struggled in qualifying as he crashed during his run.
As the field rolled off for two pace laps prior to the 100 lap race, several drivers noted how loose the cars were in practice and were weary of tire fall off worsening the issue. The green flag fell and for the first ten laps or so, drivers kept things clean and tidy. As things usually go, that's right when the race's first yellow flew for an incident involving Chris Bouplon and Scott Bolster. Bouplon made contact with Bolster's rear bumper, sending Bolster spinning (below).
Under the first caution all but four drivers made their way to pit road, leaving Kyle Johnson as the race's leader, with Todd Rose in second. When the race restarted, Rose made his way by Johnson who then fell into the hands of Cameron Clifford on new tires. It was at this point Johnson had his first major moment of the race, breaking loose out of turn two and running all the way down the track and through the infield grass to save it (below)
Moments later, Kyle's brother Cody had a near identical moment on the other end of the track exiting turn four. Cody, who had made his way to second, lost the rear end while battling to the inside of race leader Todd Rose. Cody's car spun and found the inside wall, bringing out the caution. Behind him, Chuck Carmin did nearly the same thing as his car broke loose. In an attempt to not hit Johnson, Carmin cranked the wheel right, but found the outside wall.
During the ensuing caution, the entire field made their way to pit road led by Rose. However, it was Robby Iverson who led the field off of pit road as he gambled on a two tire stop. After inheriting the lead, Iverson would lead the field back to green and have control of the race for the next segment of the race. That was a good as it would get, though, for Robby. Even he would admit the odds were not in his favor Saturday night. On the next caution, Robby faked out the field by hitting pit road for tires at the last possible second. He then promptly drove right through his pit stall. After the restart, he would have more issues, ending his race early.
While the majority of the field elected to take new tires, a few drivers led by Todd Rose chose to hold on to track position by staying out. Slowly but surely, the new tires began to make their way to the front of the field in the form of Cameron Clifford who charged his way to second between caution flags in the latter half of the race. A late race yellow set up a green white checkered finish with Rose leading Clifford. The entire two lap battle can be seen in the video below.
When the dust settled, it was Cameron Clifford taking the win in the above wild two lap sprint to the end. After the race, Clifford said he was not going to lift exiting turn four no matter what. In the virtual world, there is no need to worry about fixing a broke car! Behind him, Rose did the same thing but came up short. Both drivers were vocal about how much fun the battle was.
"It was awesome for sure," Clifford said, "Best race so far! It was cool as hell, hopefully next week will be the same."
Todd's thoughts: Man, WHAT A RACE! In the two years, on and off, that I have participated in iRacing events, this was hands down the best race I've been a part of. I knew Cam had newer tires, but I was sure I could hold him off before the last caution came out. On the restart, I tried my best to get away from him, but knew he would be breathing down my neck. I thought, at the time, I could not let him under me at any cost. So I moved down a lane, which probably cost me the race looking back. Had I just run my line, I probably could have held him off. But that's racing! I tried backing up turn three on the last lap to get one last run on Cam exiting four. I could have fed him a bumper, but didn't want to win a race that way if I hit him too hard and spun him. After leading as much as I did against some of the best drivers in the area, a second will always feel like a win to me. In response to Todd's statements regarding the last lap, Cameron Clifford had the following to say. "Thank you for not spinning me," said Clifford, "I wouldn't have been mad with a bump, though. That's racing!"
Below are full results from North Wilkesboro as well as the current top 10 in the Spring Series points standings. Beneath those are links to both the 906 SIM League Facebook page and the iRacing homepage for more information regarding both.
Note: Matthew Frazer2 in Robby Iverson.
By Todd Rose