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I ran a qualifying session fifteen minutes before today’s Late Model race (at 6:45am) and my best time was 22.674. After joining the 7am event I was joined by a field of seven others who were (except one other) all rookies. I sort of expected it to not be a clean race, but it turned out to be quite a challenging event. I would be starting the race from 2nd-place and was iRanked as the 2nd-best Oval racer.

I got a bit of a slow start, but it was still good enough for me to get tucked in behind the leader by the end of lap one. After a few laps I was on the tail of the leader, but behind me was the #1 iRated driver, who was just as close to me as I was the leader.

I kept putting pressure on the leader and he had begun to show signs of pushing too hard. His back end kept swaying off the turn and eventually is slid enough to slow him considerably. I made a move to the inside and we banged door to door in the turn, this made me slide a little and go onto the apron of the racetrack. I didn’t lose a position because the guys behind had lifted off, probably expecting a wreck!

I kept lapping consistenly, but was now lapping slower than the leader. I guessed that the slide and pushing beforehand had worn my tyres badly, so I just ran as well as I could. Lucky for me, the guys in 3rd and 4th-place were battling hard and this left me feeling comfortable in 2nd for the majority of the race.

On lap twenty-eight the battle for 3rd had been decided and the #1 iRated driver was right on my tail. The leader was 2.4s ahead and I knew I was probably a 3rd-place driver, so I pulled aside in the turn and let the faster driver by, hoping to hold onto 3rd to the end of the race.

Things remained the same until lap thirty-eight: The leader was 3.3s ahead and 2nd-place was 1.3s ahead, so things were still quite tight and any spin or serious contact with the wall could easily have cost them the race. I was continuing to lap consistently and was now almost a lap ahead of the 4th-place car. I got really lucky when the leader spun! He had a perfect race up to that point and had led every lap, but after spinning he was safe and remained stationary in the middle of the track… I saw him very late because his car was blocked by the cockpit of my own car and I was very lucky to squeeze between his rear-end and the outside wall.

For the next twelve laps it was just a case of staying consistent and not making an error big enough for the 3rd-place car to catch me. He was slightly faster, but ran out of laps – I finished 2nd!

My fastest lap was a 22.574 and that was done on lap six. I had no incidents (even with the car contact – it was not counted as neither driver lost control or crashed). I really enjoyed the race. :)

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British-born U.S. Resident, Tim Wheatley, works for Image Space Inc., a developer of driver-in-the-loop simulation technology. He lives in Illinois with his wife and children.
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