Making a name...
In the future, people might just say that if you want to make a name for yourself in sim racing, the Majors Series is the best place to do it. Who knows... it could happen.
Here's what I do know... back in the day if you wanted to make a name for yourself in oval racing, the Copper World Classic was the place to do it. It was the southwest, short track version of Daytona Speed Weeks. Every year the Copper Classic was the kickoff event for the season and whether you raced; trucks, stock cars, sprint cars, midgets, modifieds or Silver Crown cars. This race could launch your season and in many cases your career. The Silver Crown race was the “crown jewel” of the Classic and as such has a star studded list of winners; Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jason Leffler, Ken Schrader, Mike Bliss and Kenny Irwin to name a few. Tony Stewart credits the Copper Classic as one the most important races in making his future career possible.
The race may not exist in the real world any longer, but its' spirit lives on through the Majors Series. So... who makes a name for themselves today, who announces their presence in the world of sim racing?
In the International Region, two 100% green heat races were not a good predictor as the Main Event saw 14 cautions fly and the drivers had to enter full on survival mode. Californian Mark Hertzog made the pass that mattered going around New Zealand's Robert Northway just moments before the final caution would come out, ending the race. The Alliance Evolution driver, maximized his lone guest drive of the season by taking the win and 250 points back to the Pacific Region. New Zealand's Chistopher Norton was able finish 4th and edge John King by two spots, or just enough to move into a tie atop the standings in International Pro. Kinetic Racing had a statement race overall and now own a commanding lead in the Constructors.
The European region would continue the theme started in International... clean heats followed by messy Mains. iRacing World Championship driver Jamie Fluke of Apex Racing UK was the dominant driver on raw pace, but one small mistake cost the Irish driver a chance at the win and threw the door wide open for what felt like a slew of Finnish drivers. In the end it was Teemu Toikka who was able to fend off countrymen Antti Pihlaja and Marko Penttinen for the victory. With the win the Team Buschfink Racing driver was also able to wrest the points lead away from fellow Finn, Tapani Linnaluoto. Spaniard, Fernando Antolí Busquets secured a top 5 and maintains 4th in the championship and Markus Niskanen had a way more eventful race than he would have liked, but is still clinging to third overall. No surprise that Inertia SimRacing were able to build on their lead and are now 200 points clear of nearest rival Torque Freak.
British driver Ashley Howell had the field covered in the early going of the Atlantic Region, but internet failure cost him a likely win. Mike Kelley who was bad fast all day as well, happily stepped into the void and took over dominating the field. Mike would lead most of the last 100 laps and cruised to victory, extending his points lead 89 over Carl Burk of Northwest. Robert Tarbox Jr of New York came home second and Josh Tanner completed the podium. J & S Motorsports lead by Kelley were able to power past vApex Racing Atlantic for the Team lead, three races into the season.
The Pacific region also saw a British driver take command of the race early on and in fact with tons of green flag running, it seemed conceivable that Kinetic Racing's, Christian Challiner might lap the majority of the field. However, a couple of timely cautions and some alternate pit strategies mixed up the field and it became clear that there would be a massive fight at the front and that fight would come in the form of Travis Warling. The Unorthodox Motorsports driver would lead 43 laps and it appeared that a good jump on the final restart of the night had sealed the win for him, but it was not to be as Challiner was able to recover and get past Ridin' Shotgun and fellow NASCAR Peak Antifreeze driver, Blake Reynolds on his way to tracking down and finally passing Warling.
It was a legendary battle among dozens of legendary battles as the race featured only 6 cautions and an innumerable amount of passing throughout the field. Steve Driscoll completed the podium and championship leader Blake Reynolds came home fourth. Alliance Racing's top driver was Lionel Calisto, but they were able to maintain the lead in the Contructors race over junior team Alliance Evolution. Ridin' Shotgun holds down third but there are a slew of hungry teams ready to jump into the coveted top 3 spots.
At the end of the day, a number of drivers have made names for themselves and many of these are "new" names. The new guard, might just be here to challenge the old.
Next stop, Circuit of the America's on April 8th.