RPW Column: eStafford Speedway Round Four Goes To Mike Christopher Jr.

Column By: BRITTANY NUTILE / RPW –  Round 3 of the All Phases Renovations eStafford Speedway Series was another fun and exciting night of virtual racing. This is the 4th event that Stafford Motor Speedway put on in the iRacing simulation. Mike Christopher Jr. won the event, getting $150 from All Phases Renovations.

He had a good run and Christopher Jr. could have won last week, however he was DQ’D for being aggressive late in the running. Teddy Hodgdon finished 2nd tonight and earned himself $75. He has been consistent in the iRacing events so far. In all 4 races that Stafford Speedway has done for iRacing, Hodgdon has been in the top 10 in all races except for one.

Ryan Blanchard finished 3rd in the feature. For finishing 3rd, he received $25. Ryan has been running really well. Since starting the fans/non-driver’s races, Ryan has been in the top 3 for both of them. In the last two races of the fans/non-driver’s races, there have been 2 non-drivers in the top 10. Which is very impressive, especially competing with all the drivers that race at Stafford and are considered some of the best racers coming out of New England.

Ryan Borges had a really good race. He is one of the Wednesday night drivers that got into the feature event. He does not drive at Stafford on Friday nights on the big track, making him a fan, however he does race champ karts at Pomfret Speedway and on the mini oval at Stafford Speedway. His accomplishments on the track include Pomfret championship in the Sr. Champ Animal division three times in my four seasons.

There has been a lot of criticism from some fans in regard to simulator racing replacing the real thing during this crazy time in history, however, especially for local tracks and the younger drivers, it is helping them get more practice for when real racing actually returns. For those who enjoy racing and have to adjust to watching iRacing, it’s a bit of a curve. The wrecks are more sensationalized, however there are flashes of realism and “I’d see that in real life!” moments too. 

I interviewed the top ten drivers that competed tonight and asked the questions like how their heat and feature race went and what was going through their mind trying to get up the pack and trying to win the race. Here is what they said:

Teddy Hodgdon- “We were pretty good as usual, just had to go in and get a really good qualifying lap, which we did. Then I was just riding for most of the race, got shuffled back to third and then they collided, so that put me back to second. Just did not have anything for Christopher. I think I should have controlled the race sooner; I was about to pass Ryan when the caution came out, that when I got shuffled.”

Jacob Perry- “We had a relatively strong heat and after a decent qualifying, we started third in our heat. We had a top three break away and once we were in and settled, we just fell into a ride and conserve mock to save the car. Unfortunately, this put us a little deeper in the field then we were hoping for. We made some good moves to get us up front and got caught on outside restarts causing us to lose some track position. As the race went on, we got tighter and lost some speed and wound up another top 10. To say it was not what we were hoping for was an understatement, we felt we had more to show. I definitely learned a few things that most Stafford guys know, with some lines changing.”

Matt Vassar- “Tonight was a fun one, I felt good about my changes during practice because I was very consistent on the long run with my times and speed. I knew if I could make the feature through the heat race like the last three races, I would be good for a shot at the top five. Then we went to qualify and it went downhill from there. I learned it’s too much on the tires as far as wear to try to come from the rear. You just will not have the grip you need to make moves on the guys who ran upfront all day. With the change to street stocks next race it’s going to be totally different because these cars are a little sloppier, but we can definitely beat and bang with them. It’s definitely going to be a more exciting and enjoyable show for the fans this week.”

Ryan Blanchard- “My heat race was pretty good, we qualified on the pole for the race just barely beating Hodgdon by a couple thousandths of a second, but from the fan races, I learned I just had to hit my marks for 10 laps and that would put me on the pole for the feature. I mean this week for sure it was not really nerve wracking to be making the show. The thing that kept going through my mind during the race Friday was that I could not make any mistakes. I knew Mike Christopher Jr. was going to be good and fast. He forced me to make a mistake by getting loose off of four and he got a good run.

Some drivers have not yet been interviewed since the eStafford Series began. Here’s how they started iRacing, what they like about it and how they like competing against the different drivers that drive at Stafford and the non-drivers competing.

Ryan Borges- “I have been iRacing for seven years since 2013, I took a bit of a break the last couple of years, but I’ve gotten back into it now. My experience in the race was good, it was a lot of fun racing against some of the top drivers at the real Stafford Motor Speedway, they are definitely no slouches on iRacing. I was hoping I could finish a bit better, but I got shuffled up the track on a restart and went from fourth to ninth. I think I am definitely showing that I belong out there and that I can compete with some of the best Stafford has to offer at least on iRacing. Given the chance in real life, I think I would definitely get up to speed really quick.“

Andrew Molleur- “I’ve raced iRacing for almost 10 years. iRacing is realistic as it gets to the real thing, but the physics of sim itself is not as realistic as maybe it could be. iRacing can help me to learn how to drive the car while racing at different times of day with different temperatures and weather. iRacing gives you to the freedom to adjust whatever you want as a track state and it helps to learn what to do and how to drive the car in a real situation.“

“Practice sessions are okay, way too long in my opinion, it should not be more than an hour. Everyone is very close within two tenths of a second to each other from first all the way down into the 30’s and 40’s. Tonight’s race was my best yet for sure, definitely learned who I can give slack to and who I need to race a little more aggressive considering that how they choose to race me. I feel I have been doing pretty good, would love to grab a top five at some point but, I have definitely been working hard to better myself.”

Cory Dimatteo- “I’ve been doing iRacing since 2010, it’s pretty realistic, the cars and tracks are a little different than real life. As far as racing around someone, it’s pretty real. You do the same thing in real life that you do in the game when you are racing with people. The guys I race against in real life, they race the same way in the game. It helps you stay sharp when running iRacing. I love racing against other guys in other divisions. I like racing against Travis Hydar. We had a great battle during the race, and it’s cool to see how other people in different divisions race. I was able to finish seventh. If I did not spin out Ryan Libby early than I would have had a better finish. I put myself behind the eight ball early, that is what happens sometimes. We drove from twenty-something to seventh in about half the race. The practice sessions were kind of a wash and the track changes so much from the start of practice to the start of qualifying.

The heat races are probably the most important part of the event. If you start upfront you have a pretty good change of finishing up front. If you start up front, you do not burn up your tires. It is kind of stressful because you don’t really know what going to happen but, most drivers run clean for the most part.”

Top 10 finishers:
1. Mike Christopher Jr.
2. Teddy Hodgdon
3. Ryan Blanchard
4. Bryan Narducci
5. Troy Talman
6. Andrew Molleur
7. Cory DiMatteo
8. Ryan Borges (Wednesday advanced to feature)
9. Matt Vassar
10. Jacob Perry