Stars from the world of motorpsort came together online Wednesday night to battle each other for $2,500 in charity prize money in the 2nd Annual iRacing Pro Race of Champions. Drivers from NASCAR, IndyCar, ARCA, Grand-Am, NHRA, and many sports car series plugged in from around the world to compete against each other in two sprint races.
When the dust settled, two drivers were left standing, but only one could claim the prize. V8 Supercars driver Shane Van Gisbergen cruised into victory lane, ending the night with a handsome check for his charity of choice, Ronald McDonald House.
“It was pretty cool to take it out,” said Van Gisbergen. “The team I raced for in V8Supercars, their charity is the Ronald McDonald House so to win the championship for them is just awesome! $2,500 US dollars is a lot in NZ dollars!”
Van Gisbergen was a standout in both the oval and road races, beating some of the best in racing.
“It’s certainly very cool,” said Van Gisbergen. “It was fun racing around with Kesolowski and Edwards in practice, guys I watch on TV most weeks! So to beat them on an oval was pretty cool!”
Race one featured 25 laps at one of NASCAR’s premiere venues, the Iowa Speedway. The vehicle… NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverados.
After qualifying on the front row, Chad McCumbee and Kyle Larson jumped out to a strong lead at the start of the feature stretching out a 3.5 second gap by lap 5.
The best racing of the 25 event was the battle for fifth through about eighth. Brad Keselowski, Timmy Hill and Parker Kligerman traded blows and raced hard lap after lap throughout the second half of the race.
Meanwhile, McCumbee checked out on second place Larson. With a handful of laps remaining, Larson began to get pressure from Van Gisbergen. With four laps left, Van Gisbergen dropped low on Larson into turn one to take second. Larson fought back on the high side and held off Van Gisbergen’s charge to finish second.
“Kyle came down to New Zealand last summer and I watched him race here,” said Van Gisbergen. “He was very impressive and I’m a big fan of his. Having such a good oval race like we did was pretty cool! I couldn’t quite pass him but we were side by side for many laps! The oval was never going to be my stronger race, so that’s what I focused the most on.”
Chad McCumbee, once known as the actor that played Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the bio-doc movie Dale, dominated the field, winning race one.
Race two saw the road racing stars come to the forefront at the legendary Watkins Glen International Speedway.
Several cars wrecked on the backstretch during the pace laps of this ten lap dash, which much like the oval race, was by all accounts a crash fest. Lap one was a total mess as cars tangled on the front straightaway as the green flag flew. Going into turn one saw more cars crash and even more carnage followed coming up through the esses. Every lap saw at least one driver hit the wall, fly off course or otherwise cause total chaos.
“It is always going to happen,” said Van Gisbergen. “I think for short races like that it is fine it just puts a lot of emphasis on qualifying.”
Up front, an actual race was taking place. Shane van Gisbergen, Richie Stanaway and Chad McCumbee battled neck and neck for ten laps, almost without a scratch.
The first lead change came with six laps to go as Stanaway used the draft to setup and pass Van Gisbergen in the chicane known as the bus stop. With four laps to go, Van Gisbergen used the same move to retake the lead in the bus stop and pulled McCumbee through with him. On the same lap in turn 11, McCumbee ducked under Van Gisbergen and lead the lap at the stripe, but was passed by Van Gisbergen going into turn one on the ensuing lap.
Van Gisbergen pulled away to take the victory while McCumbee and Stanaway decided second place with one lap to go. McCumbee hit the grass on the last lap and Stanaway came out on top of McCumbee, who finished third.
“Last year I wasn’t very good on the road course, and this year I could at least keep up,” said McCumbee. “My whole plan really was to stay in third, but when them guys got together it got me up to second. It wasn’t really what I wanted. I wanted to sit there in third, let them battle it out, and maybe I could sneak a win out of it, but then I hit the dag gone grass going into the second to last corner. I messed up there and had a little damage on that last lap.”
Both Chad McCumbee and Shane van Gisbergen finished the two race series with a win and a third place finish, thus resulting in a tie. The deciding factor became cumulative qualifying times, which saw Van Gisbergen come out on top, winning the series and the $2,500 prize for the charity of his choice, Ronald McDonald House.
“I knew it was going to come down to something,” said McCumbee. “I thought it was going to come down to laps led, but that’s fine. I really appreciate iRacing putting this on, I think I speak for everyone when I say this is a lot of fun.”