October 16, 2013 – By Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online – Homestead, FL – Ding dong, the king is dead!
And the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship crown shifted to a new owner in thrilling fashion Tuesday night during the iRacing.com 250 season finale from Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Tyler Hudson, a veteran sim-racer out of Brandon, Missisippi came into the night two points in arrears to two-time and defending iRacing World Champion Ray Alfalla, looking for the three-peat after a season of dominance. Two points separated the two title contenders coming into the night, and from the onset, it was lauded as the battle for the record books.
Both contenders began the event in the top twelve, but with Hudson able to find long run speed that Alfalla lacked for the entire race, the defending champ knew he had to try and outwit the challenger to retain his hold on the series crown. And after three early cautions, a green flag stretch of 122 laps to conclude the event left the final outcome to fuel mileage.
And when the dust and pit stops settled, it was Hudson finishing on the podium (3rd), but the finish, combined with Alfalla’s disappointing 14th place run, was enough to secure Hudson the upset 2013 NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship. The title run caps an unbelievable five-race stretch in which Hudson scored his first career win at Chicagoland and capitalized on late season misfortunes by Ray Alfalla. Keep in mind, Tyler Hudson accomplished all this despite missing a race in late August.
“It’s still sinking in, but let me just say first ‘Hats off to Ray,’” said Hudson on the champion’s stage, pocketing $10,000 for his first NiSWC title. “Even though he didn’t have the speed in the race, he found a way to make it work . . . it just didn’t work out. Great season as always, tough luck at the end. You’ll always be a champion.”
When asked about his race, Hudson said he knew he had to go for broke.
“I knew Ray was on a strategy plan, so I thought I absolutely HAD to win the race. I drove my guts out racing with Nick and finally, the race that mattered, I think we had the absolute best car on the track. Against Nick, that’s rare . . . That car was the class of the field and to have that in the race we needed it most is a testiment to One Up Motorsports and what the guys can accomplish. It was a lot of work this week, and it paid off.”
While Hudson claimed the championship glory, the fuel-mileage race itself lent Lady Luck to another sim-racer who had paid his dues many times over through the 2013 season, as Last Row Motorsports driver Peter Bennett (Hartford, Connecticut) stretched his mileage just enough to hold off iRacing veteran Thomas Lewandowski for his first career NiSWC win.
“This is big. My goal this season was to have two top five finishes in the 18-race schedule, and this is our fourth of the year. Not to mention we just won a NiSWC event. Unbelievable. It feels fantastic,” Bennett lauded in Victory Lane.
Behind Bennett, Lewandowski and Hudson, six-time 2013 winner Nick Ottinger, who led the most laps on the night, finished fourth. Series veteran Chad Laughton completed the top five finishers.
16-year-old Michael Conti (West Paterson, New Jersey) came home sixth in his final full-time NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship start, after 3 career wins over the past two seasons and a runner-up finish in the championship in 2012. For Conti, the close of the 2013 season brings with it potential new opportunities, of which he has left open-ended since his announcement to leave the series earlier in the season.
A disappointed Ray Alfalla battled his race car’s handling and ultimately could not keep pace with the front runners due to fuel conservation in the closing laps. His 14th place run left him 9 points shy of Tyler Hudson in the final tally.
“There were lots of ups and downs tonight, and we came up just a bit short,” the two-time champion said simply following the race. “With a little better luck, I’m sure the outcome would have been different. I learned a lot this year. That’s the way things go sometimes in racing. Overall it wasn’t a bad year, and I can say that I look forward to 2014. Congrats to Tyler on the championship, he raced hard, and it was a job well done for him.”
For Hudson, the NASCAR-sanctioned championship now equals a trip to Ford Championship Weekend in November to be presented with his NASCAR championship ring and the $10,000 check that goes along with the champion’s title. Hudson will also be honored for his breakthrough crown at the NASCAR Night of Champions in December at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, along with the K&N Pro Series East and West, WHELEN Modified and Southern Modified, All-American Series, WHELEN Euro Series and Canadian Tire Series champions for 2013.
The NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship is now in the history books for 2013, with a new champion on the throne. And for Tyler Hudson, Ray Alfalla, and the rest of the NiSWC field, the road to Ford Championship weekend begins once again in February with the 2014 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
And after what we’ve seen in this year’s championship, 2014 will certainly be one wild ride.
Photo Credit: iRacing.com/Brandon Simmons
Results – iRacing.com 250, Homestead-Miami Speedway, iRacing.com Series World Championship Race 18 of 18
1. 69 – Peter Bennett (1st career NiSWC victory)
2. 16 – Thomas Lewandowski
3. 01 – Tyler Hudson (2013 series champion)
4. 05 – Nick Ottinger
5. 26 – Chad Laughton
6. 5 – Michael Conti
7. 83 – Jared Crawford
8. 93 – Byron Daley
9. 55 – Brian Schoenburg
10. 4 – Brian Day
11. 80 – Brandon Kettelle
12. 29 – Kevin King
13. 81 – Adam Gilliland
14. 2 – Ray Alfalla
15. 24 – Carson McClelland
16. 22 – Rob Ackley
17. 82 – Alex Warren
18. 91 – Josh Berry
19. 39 – Michael Johnson
20. 34 – Matt Bussa
21. 89 – Landon Harrison
22. 54 – Brandon Buie
23. 40 – Joshua Laughton
24. 20 – Danny Hansen
25. 33 – Bryan Blackford
26. 12 – Joey Brown
27. 37 – Steven Gilbert
28. 21 – John Gorlinsky