By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Back-to-back cautions and a difference in tires helped Collin Fern take his first career Monday Night Racing Rowdy Energy Pro Series victory.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch dominated most of the Sim Seats 120 at the virtual Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Under caution with 24 laps to go, the virtual No. 51 Rowdy Energy Toyota Camry was beat exiting pit road by Ryan Vargas. Vargas’ virtual No. 6 Monarch Roofing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was on old tires. The NASCAR Xfinity Series driver was forced into a fuel-only stop after running out of fresh tire sets.
With control of the race in Vargas’ hands, Busch was at a disadvantage. On the restart, Fern moved his virtual No. 86 Shenandoah Shine Chevrolet into the lead as Vargas fell back. Before Busch could mount a charge, the caution waved, giving the Brandonbilt Motorsports team manager control of the race.
“We had a good race there, it was pretty fun, enjoyed having an opportunity to be fast, lead a lot of laps, and run up front like that,” stated Busch. “Unfortunately, there at the end, got a good restart on the outside, fell in line, and it dissolved behind me. You had to have some momentum, push from behind.
“When you get single-filed out with this style of cars, that’s pretty typical of what goes down. The runs come so slow, and the blocks come so fast that you just can’t overcome that. What’s interesting to me though, if you back up to the final round of pit stops, Ryan Vargas went down pit road, came off first, I restarted second, and in Turn 1 he let everybody go. That took the control of the race away from me, him being able to control the restart. That I will remember.”
Fern initially fought side-by-side with Busch on the restart. The Cup Series driver briefly took the lead down the backstretch. However, Fern inched back ahead by the start finish-line and before the next caution waved. Successive cautions gave Fern the opportunity to control the tempo of the race on each restart.
On the final restart, both Fern and Busch broke away from the field. But as the battle for third became a three-wide fight, the support behind the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion faded away. With the package on iRacing mirroring the real-life package, Busch didn’t have enough time in overtime to make a charge for the lead. Fern took the checkered flag with the No. 51 Toyota 0.093 seconds behind.
“I don’t know if it’s so much anything I did (to hold of Busch), but he lost his push behind him,” explained Fern. “Those guys got really racey third on back. (Busch) just didn’t have any help to gain a run. These cars are so momentum based that without any help you’re not going to get a really good run into two laps. I just took his air away on the last lap. That was about all that she wrote.
“I was trying to joke with Kyle there, he left the session too early. I was more excited about the fact that I get a 12-pack of Rowdy Energy for free. Never tried it and I’m excited to try some of that. Thanks to Ford Martin, Paul Sutton, and all of those guys that set the league up. I reached out to Ford in the middle of the season last year. He hooked me up with a spot. They got so many entries that I’m just lucky to get into the Pro Series. It’s just a ton of fun.”
Defending Monday Night Racing champion Robby Lyons finished third with Gary Sexton and Adam Cabot completing out the top-five. Bryan Boris Cook, Rajah Caruth, Devon Henry, James Bickford, and Gabe Wood rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Nine cautions slowed the pace of the race for a total of 28 laps. The ‘big one’ of the night took place with three laps to go. Contact between Max Kennon, Travis Brown and TJ Majors sent the trio spinning onto the apron entering Turn 3. The trio spun back up the track, blindsiding Seth Eggert, Kase Kallenbach, and Justin Melillo among others. In total, 13 cars were collected in the wreck.
Three drivers made their first start of the season in Monday Night Racing, Josh Bilicki, Ron Capps, and Brad Perez. All three drivers encountered adversity throughout the race.
Bilicki was swept up in a late-race wreck and barrel-rolled. He finished just outside the top-10 after using the only fast repair available in the 120-lap (scheduled) race.
Like Bilicki, Capps was swept up in a late-race accident as well. Unfortunately, that was just one of several he was collected in throughout the night. The NHRA Funny Car driver took the checkered flag in 25th.
Perez returned with sponsorship from the Mohawk Foundation on his virtual No. 30 Ford Mustang. He announced on Twitter that if partnership results in 5,000 donations, he will dye his hair pink. 10,000 donations and the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series crew member will have a pink mohawk. Unfortunately, his return was short lived. Internet connection issues relegated Perez to a last place finish.
Next for the Monday Night Racing league on iRacing is a trip to the virtual Michigan International Speedway with Super Late Models. Last time this combination was used, Preston Pardus earned the win. On the call for the Michigan race on November 15 will be NASCAR Cup Series Crew Chief of the year Gil Martin and NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip.
For the updated power rankings, see the article below:
The race at Michigan International Speedway will feature the first ‘head-to-head’ battles for cash prizes. Vargas faces off with Will Rodgers as MLB Athletics pitcher Cole Irvin was paired to face off with NFL Super Bowl champion Bernard Pollard Jr.
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