RPW Column: eStafford Speedway Race No. 3 Pits Fans Against Drivers

Column By: BRITTANY NUTILE / RPW – Matt Kimball won in a crazy ending to another exciting race at the virtual Stafford Motor Speedway. Kimball was fourth on the final lap but, Mike Christopher Jr. was too aggressive and got into Troy Talman, making Tallman get into Dylan Izzo. They black flagged/DQ’D Christopher Jr. so, Matt Kimball became the winner of the race.

This race had a lot more on the line because the top three were awarded a money-prize. All Phases Hard Scapes and Renovations became the sponsor starting at this event for the Stafford Motor Speedway in iRacing. They are giving away a total of $250 worth of prize money for the top three finishers. $150 for first place, $75 for second place and $25 for third place.

This race is also the first-time fans/ non-drivers and drivers competed together in a Friday night iRacing event. Wednesday night they had the preliminary race and the top five drivers advanced to Friday night. The top five drivers that made their way into Friday night event were Ryan Blanchard, Brad Bubel, Anthony Bello, Matthew Kimball, and Mark Stewart.

The top 10 drivers of tonight’s race, who have been regularly competing during the iRacing events were asked about how their practice, heat and feature races went and what they thought it was like to race against fans/non-drivers. Here is what they have to say:

Teddy Hodgdon: “The heat race didn’t go as planned, I got stuck on the outside and had to start deep in the field on the feature. Got caught up in a couple of incidents in the beginning of the feature, set us back in 20th but, made our way up to fifth on the last lap but got punted and finished eighth. “

“I think we’ve shown our speed with all the cars being equal that we can compete against almost anyone.”

Travis Hydar: “Practice was decent, the feature went actually pretty smooth, it stayed single file for the most part. I just kind of hung out for the majority of it and ended up missing a wreck at the end to make me finish 3rd.”

“Racing with fans was actually pretty cool and a few of them were really fast!”

Matt Vassar: “My feature I went in with a plan to pit at the first caution then ride around out back until 20 or so to go. I rolled off p10 in the feature and stayed there for the first two laps when the yellow flew. When we went back green, I rode around going easy on the right-side tires. This green flag run ended up being our longest for about 30 laps. I almost got wrecked part of the way through the run when Dimatteo over drove turn one into the side of me trying to make a pass. The officials penalized me to the rear of the field, so I had to make a run from around 20th with 20 to go. I was able to make some passes to get to 10th without last yellow coming out with 11 to go. We started with 4 or 5 laps to go, I missed some carnage and moves that caused to a guy to get DQ’D. I ended up finished p5.”

“Running with fans is OK. The fans don’t have real experience, so they don’t know how to race with give and take. They take 100 percent of the time and cause issues by forcing positions they shouldn’t. The real races for the most part do a good job of not making bad moves.”

Cassandra Cole: In the heat race I started in second and ended up finishing third, making it into the feature. The race went pretty well for me I made it into the feature through the heat and started 12th. I got into a wreck at one point which made me have to start in the back and work my way back forward. With five to go I was in 15th and by the end of the race people were wrecking all over the place, so I avoided what I could and made my way up to seventh at the finish line.”

“I didn’t mind! (running with the fans/non-drivers) it was fun having different people but, I also think it would be cool to have a fan only race.”

Ryan Fearn: “I started iRacing in 2010, never really gave it a serious chance until March 2020 with the first Stafford iRace eSeries event. With right equipment you can seriously see a similar feeling in the steering wheel. It’s kind of tough though because you’re at a computer and not an actual car. You can’t feel the g-forces in the seat. The practice sessions are going pretty nicely. With my personal best time getting lower, new personal best come way less often and gets frustrated sometimes. Friday’s race was pretty good, definitely a top 10 car. Just got caught using Fearn Rule 1 and was given an EOL penalty. I’m going to keep at what I’m doing until it stops improving my speed and consistency.”

“Racing against so many different drivers have been amazing. With all these guys getting together, its nearly impossible to walk away having learned nothing from someone else. Using each week as an opportunity to gain new knowledge has been a blast and has brought me a long way from the lower end of the speed charts. Fantastic to get the fans involved and out there racing with us on the iRacing platform for sure.”

Jacob Perry: “Practice went well, ended up about where we expected for speed in practice and qualifying. Have a strong setup for that but, once we get to the outside the sim quality make a difference and we struggle a little bit there. We’ve had speed and some solid finishes but, still searching for our win.

Personally, I think some of the drivers that made it through to the show proved they are good. Ryan Blanchard for example was extremely impressive through both shows and showed his iRacing skill. I think if definitely adds a new twist to the racing experience.”

One of the fans/non-drivers that finished in the top three, Ryan Blanchard, spoke of his preliminary race went Wednesday night and how he feels to compete with the drivers from Stafford,

Ryan Blanchard: “I’ve been doing iRacing for around 2 and a half years. I’m 17 years old and I spot for Stephen Kopcik on Friday nights since last year. It was his first full-time season and we won two races together. Fun fact: the first time me and Kopcik teamed up, it was my first spotting start and it was also his first win. I now race champ karts at Pomfret speedway on Saturday and Sundays. I also spot for Joey Cipriano in the tour type car owned by Ted Anderson.”

“The fans race I started on the pole and led every lap and that’s how I got the provisional into the driver’s race. Racing the fans, I knew was going to be hard because a lot of the people that don’t race have iRacing and are very good at it. Aaron Plemons gave me a good run for my money on Wednesday but, got wrecked in a GWC scenario.”

“Racing with the other drivers are surreal. I’ve raced a couple of them in other racing leagues but this one really hit home. It was really cool to be battling with Mike Christopher Jr. pretty much every lap of the race. Not being able to race at Stafford Speedway in real life make this opportunity even better and qualifying second to Teddy Hodgdon and then winning my heat race over Troy Talman was probably the best feeling ever.”

“I knew my heat race was going to be tough but, if I hit my marks while second and third were going at it, I knew I had a good chance at winning my heat race. Brandon Wilkinson spotted for me during my heat race and Talman and the rest of the guys finally got single filed out and my spotter kept giving me lap time and we were consistently pulling away from Talman during the heat.”

“In the feature my ultimate plan was to just ride behind Mike Christopher Jr. throughout the race and with 10 to go or less make a move for the win. We were communicating all race letting each other know what we were doing but, for the most part I just tried to stay at his pace throughout the whole event.”

Top 10 finishers in the iRace #3 at Stafford Motor Speedway:

1. Matthew Kimball
2. Ryan Blanchard
3. Travis Hydar
4. Kyle Johnson
5. Matt Vassar
6. Jacob Perry
7. Cassandra Cole
8. Teddy Hodgdon
9. Bryan Narducci
10. Ryan Fearn