The ninth round of the fall/winter season for the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway producing a thrilling finish that matched up two drivers who had no sign of luck over the first eight races of the season. It was an East vs. West battle, as West Coast sim racing ace Tate Lightle stayed out on old tires to hold off real-world Modified pilot Bryan Narducci after a game of cat and mouse.
Following the halfway break of the 80-lap race, Lightle assumed the lead on the restart after electing not to visit pit road. After running second behind Chad Frankenfield in the first half, Narducci pitted with the rest of the leaders and avoided trouble soon after which eliminated several favorites, including Frankenfield.
After getting back to second, a long green flag run over the final laps seemed to give favor to Narducci. But, it was Lightle who was able to control the fast inside line, denying Narducci the line to make a pass. Ultimately, Lightle survived multiple bumper taps from Narducci’s No. 02, with the No. 56 crossing the finish line first.
After the race, Lightle was surprised he had been able to survive the late-race assault.
“Normally if you make contact in these things you’re either going to hit something or spin out," Lightle said. "He’d hit me and it’d just push me up the track, and it slowed him down enough to where I could get back to the gas and stay in front of him. I definitely wasn’t expecting it the last four corners in a row, but glad we were able to hold on."
Overall, Lightle was glad to just to have had the chance to compete for a checkered flag.
“I think this is the second race I haven’t wrecked out of in nine races. You just got to be lucky and avoid the crashes, and when you do, just try to minimize the damage. I don’t think I’m the one to ask there.”
Despite the long run at the end, Narducci felt he needed just a bit more time to get the job done.
“Just needed a couple more laps, I had the newer tires. I was actually going to stay out, I was talking with a couple of other guys that were in the race, and we were all thinking about staying out when I was running second," Narducci said. "Then I decided I’d be better off putting tires on and getting back to the lead. We were real close, I had a good battle with Tate there and had a lot of fun.”
Similarly to Lightle, the two-time and defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III National Champion has been tripped up almost every race on the current Speed51 Elite Modified Tour season, and he was more than happy to at least turn his bad luck around.
“It was nice to be able to run up at the front. I’ve gotten two poles, led a lot at Stafford and got a penalty on pit road. Led a lot at Five Flags and got taken out. Been a tough season, but hopefully this is the start of a win coming.”
Tommy Kreymborg finished in the third spot, holding off points contender Brandon Wilkinson who slotted in fourth. It was still a big night for Wilkinson though, taking advantage of misfortunes for top two in points, Gerald Campbell and Chad Frankenfield.
Both Campbell and Frankenfield are now tied for the points lead, with Wilkinson now just one point out in third place. It is setting up an epic points showdown for the final three races following the upcoming two-week holiday break.
“Just want to thank my guys at EPYK Media, Rocket Performance and The Posse. They kind of let me do whatever I need to do to get in a good situation. I know I roughed up a few cars tonight, but ultimately we ended up the points leader at the end of the night. I'm stoked for South Boston next race, we will have a great piece,” Wilkinson said.
The Speed51 Elite Modified Tour championship stretch begins on January 7 at South Boston Speedway, and you can watch it live for free on Speed51.com.
An on-demand replay of Tuesday night's race at Bristol can be viewed now by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT