RPW Column: Reagan Parent Wins iRacing Late Model Event At The Virtual Stafford Motor Speedway

RPW Column By: BRITTANY NUTILE / RPW – VIRTUAL STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Reagan Parent won the the sixth iRacing event held at the virtual Stafford Motor Speedway. This week the drivers competed in the late model cars. Parent had a good car and stayed up front the whole race after racing his way into the race in the Wednesday night preliminary event.

He advanced to the main race including Richie Coy, Tyler Wood, Aaron Plemons, and Stephen Daddio. Kyle Souza finished second in the feature. Souza had another great race and his car looked very good for another Friday night race. Mike Christopher Jr. finished third in the 60-lap late model race.

Most of the drivers who finished in the top 10 started in the top 10. There were only three drivers that finished in the top 10 that started farther back in the field. Ryan Blanchard who started 22nd, Jonathan Puleo started 23rd and Justin Bren who finished 20th. However, with patience, they drove through the field and finished in the top 10, impressively.

The drivers commented on custom setups and how that compares to the ‘fixed’ or non-adjustable setups that are the same for everyone. Also, they told us their thoughts about running a late model at Stafford. Here is what they had to say:

Ryan Blanchard: “I had a decent heat until a caution came out with three to go. When the flag flew  for a green, white, checkered, I ended up driving it in too hard and getting free and washed up the racetrack. I was still in the transfer spot but, with a lap to go a guy spun in front of me and overcorrected and took me out with him. We went into the consi and started eighth. In 10 laps, we drove to the front and took the lead on the white flag lap to advance to the feature.”

“In the feature I started really deep but knew that I had to be really aggressive but make clean passes to get to the front at the end of the 60-lap event. Obviously, that worked out for us and Puleo was able to fill the holes I was making and we both slowly made our way to the front. I was telling Puleo, we have to march through the field and when we stop progressing, then we battle it out. Thankfully, that happened but we ended up locking up our 5th place finish after Puleo got stuck battling for position. My strategy ended up working out, Puleo and I were working together, and he actually cut me some breaks if I make a move on a guy for position and it didn’t work out. It was really fun to dig like we did through the field, but I would rather start upfront.”

“I’m not really a fan of the late models but, I wanted to be known as the guy that can drive any car and be fast. I want to make my name known around here and by these consistent top five finishes. I really enjoyed marching through the field with the late models and I liked being able to have the opportunity to use someone up to get position. I guess that’s the only thing I really liked about them. Driving something other than a modified was definitely fun I mean although I’m not a fan of the late models or full-bodied car, you can have fun. I’m not really sure if it was my march from 22nd to fifth to make it so fun or what but it was a great time. I wasn’t really a fan of the handling of the setup, but it made the racing a ton more interesting for the fans. I hope the fans enjoyed the event because it was a really good show. “

Teddy Hodgdon: “ I had a really good qualifying lap that got me to start first in the heat and won my heat so I started second in the race, quickly dropped to fifth because I was stuck on the outside and spun on. Had a little bit of damage but it was enough to slow me down not to be as fast as the leaders, ended up rallying back up to ninth and we had a really long green flag run that we stayed up in ninth for the whole time. The late model setup that was given to us was not the best, but it was workable and I saw a lot of people complaining about it, so they might have to tweak some things for next week.”

Ryan Borges: “The heat and feature went decent for me. The was a lot more free during practice when the track was hot and slick, and I actually wish it stayed that way through the feature, since I was almost a tenth quicker than the field in practice. Anyways, the track definitely gained a lot of grip and made the cars pretty tight center/off. It took me a bit to adjust but I thought I ran decent overall. I wish I could’ve gotten a slightly better finish, but I tangled with Matt Swanson for third with a few laps left and neither of us made the podium unfortunately.”

“The setup was definitely all over the place from practice to the race but everyone had to deal with it so it is what it is, no complaints here. It’s definitely is a lot different than driving the modified a lot less grip in general means a lot more off-throttle time, and car control definitely comes into play. The late models are a pretty fun car, they definitely slide around a bit like the street stocks, but they have some decent power and you can really get side by side easily with other drivers, which is nice.”

“Custom setups in general, open setup races are nice in the sense you can really fine tune the handling of the car to your liking and driving style. However, it’s tough if you can’t put the hours into testing and tuning the car, or if you don’t know what your doing tuning the car as much as guys who spend a lot more time racing them, which makes fixed setups nice. It showcases driver skill more.”

Jon Puleo: “The heat didn’t go too well for me. I was in a qualified spot and got taken out on the last lap which put me in the consi. The feature was awesome, I started 25th and made it up to sixth. It was great passing cars and lots of fun. The custom setup was different. It got better and better as the run went on. I never drove anything with fenders in real life so it’s different to drive fender cars at Stafford. It switches things up and its fun trying new things and racing with new people. The late models are fun, modifieds are easier to drive, lighter and have no fenders. The late models have big power and little tires. They also weigh a lot so it’s harder to drive through the corners. The racing is totally different also. You have fenders you can use to lean on people and it’s really close racing door to door.”

“When you run custom setups, it spreads out the field. Some guys figure things out that others don’t so they are a lot faster sometimes. When you run the same setup, you can’t change anything, so you have to figure out how to be faster by changing your line, entry, lifting points, ect. I like the same setup because it keeps everyone closer and makes you try harder to improve your skills.”

Reagan Parent: “The race on Wednesday went really well leading that whole race and winning it. That was the second preliminary race I won as I won the street stock preliminary race the week before as well. Racing against all the drivers at Stafford is pretty cool. They call it the home of the modifieds and with that you’re driving against the best there is to race against people like Christopher, Talman and even Swanson the Whelen tour driver is really cool.”

“The heat race was really good racing with Talman. I was able to cross him over starting second and hold a gap with him right behind me ready to make a mistake, so I knew I had to be nice and smooth to get the heat race win. The feature race starting first was really all about restarts for me. The first start you have to go on the green than after that it’s on the leader so I knew if I could hang on to the lead after the first start I would be able to control the starts and try to get a good jump to get a gap and try to stay out front. In the race we had a long run to the end where I had a pretty good lead over Kyle Souza and I was just praying we didn’t get any cautions. He would close on me a little then I would pull away basically running the same times all the way to the end.”

Justin Bren: “There’s kind of two groups, the guys who have raced on iRacing and a lot of newcomers and guys who think they can race the sim just like we race on Friday nights and you just can’t get as rough. I think that’s contributed a bit on the amount of cautions we have seen. I think the shows have gotten better as everyone gets used to iRacing. The heat was definitely a thriller. The last few weeks I haven’t had the best time trials and I’ve been starting fairly deep in the heats. I managed to get a decent time in this week with the late model being a car more familiar to me on iRacing. Starting seventh in the heat, I knew I only needed to pass two cars. Tyler wood and I were working together to head to the front, and he ended up getting back flagged. I restarted sixth, starting to pass for fifth a big wreck happened coming out of turn two, Tyler and I both managed to avoid the wreck and we did the math as we passed cars sliding in the grass and in the wall, we had made it into the top five on the white flag lap.”

“Starting the feature 20th was a pretty good starting spot so far for this  eStafford series. I wanted to take it easy for the first 25 laps because I knew drivers were going to make mistakes and I didn’t want to get caught up in it. Lap one turn one I barely avoided front end damage, but someone ran into the back of me. I’ve actually really been enjoying racing with some of the fans/nondriver crew members. Tyler Wood is one of my crew guys and him and I have been on iRacing together since 2009. I really enjoyed racing late models at the virtual Stafford Motor Speedway. I spend more time driving late model style cars on iRacing than I do modifieds so it was definitely one of my favorite races we have done so far. I think iRacing has a lot more to offer and I always enjoy running the cup cars, that’s what I primarily run on iRacing. There’s a lot of difference between running a custom setup and a fixed setup when you race on the simulator. I’ve run a lot of races both fixed and open and my preference is the open setup. I think we would see less cautions on Friday nights if they ran open setups because guys would be a little more spread out. Fixed racing produces closer racing. Open racing can turn into who has more time to work on setups.”

Kyle Souza: “Things went rather smoothly in the late model although I didn’t have many laps before the heat race. I was able to start fourth in the heat and work my way up to finish second, which allowed me to start in eighth for the feature. Had to make some aggressive moves to get to the front, but once I was able to get to second and gain crucial track position, I had a chance to try to run down the leader. I was glad to see we had a long green flag run to the end, but it didn’t work in my favor because I needed that yellow to close the gap. Reagan did a great job.”

“In practice, I thought the setup was extremely loose, and I was a bit concerned about how it was going to hold up for a long race. The track temperatures dropped and that made a big difference during the feature, the car handled really well. Driving anything at Stafford virtually is tough, but the late model poses some new challenges with the way you have to use the brakes to slow the car down. That requires a lot more brakes than most other cars would. Running the car was actually fun, and I’m looking forward to driving a modified this week. When you run a custom setup, you can make as many adjustments as you want to have it feel the way that fits your driving style best. Although it was fixed, it allows everybody to be on an equal playing field and not have to do a considerable amount of testing to be fast. “

Top 10 finishers:

1. Reagan Parent
2. Kyle Souza
3. Mike Christopher Jr
4. Ryan Borges
5. Ryan Blanchard
6. Jonathan Puleo
7. Troy Talman
8. Teddy Hodgdon
9. Matthew Swanson
10. Justin Bren