Whether it’s the real deal or the sim version, Martinsville Speedway always seems to bring out the ultimate brand of short track chaos. Tuesday night, that’s just what happened on the sim side, as the penultimate round of the winter season for the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour was decided on a last lap bump and run featuring two real-world up and comers.
The 80-lap feature was dominated over the first 60 laps by Ryan Lutz, but he was overtaken on a restart with 15 laps to go when Bryan Narducci took over with help from his fresh right-side tires. Two more yellows would ensue, setting up a one-lap shootout, leader Narducci on the inside of the front row, with Ryan Blanchard to the outside, and Michael Christopher Jr. behind on the inside of row two.
On the final restart, Narducci and Christopher both got superior jumps, putting both of them ahead of Blanchard, and putting them bumper to bumper. Going into turn one, Christopher would push Narducci wide, setting up a side by side duel. In the end, Christopher would prevail on the inside line, taking his second 51 Elite Tour win of the season, while denying Narducci his second win in a row.
After the race, the two real-world SK Modified drivers from Connecticut gave their sides of what happened. For Christopher, it was a matter of doing what he had to do to win.
“I knew there was only one lap and only one or two chances to get it done. He went a little early on the restart and checked up again, so I was pretty glued to his back bumper going into one. At that point I drove it in harder than I hard all race, moved him up the track, went down the backstretch side by side, went into three, came up the track a little bit, and came out with the win. I wasn’t fast all race and I knew I’m not in points, I’m here for wins, I had one shot, and I took it.”
Narducci mirrored Christopher’s description, albeit with more frustration.
“Not to sound like a jerk or anything, but the 04 just drove into one and never lifted. I guess that’s how he’s going to drive. Who knows? We had a good strategy, I was running third, the yellow came out, everyone behind Lutz pitted, had a good pitstop, beat Blanchard off pit road. Got a good run on Lutz and got the lead. Got a couple of yellows, I wasn’t worried, the car was good, and I didn’t kill the tires. We went down into one and Christopher decided he wasn’t going to lift. It is what it is, we’re second, and we’ll be back at Thompson.”
Ironically, these two Connecticut drivers will begin going head to head on track on a weekly basis at Stafford Motor Speedway this coming season in the SK Modifieds, as Narducci moves up to the division from SK Lights. In the meantime, the next 51 Elite Mod race looms ahead at Thompson Speedway.
“It doesn’t change anything. Thompson is a top groove racetrack, it’s kind of hard to pass on the bottom. But, I know one thing, if we’re racing hard I’m definetly not going to give him an inch, and I know he won’t give me one. Now I got a little chip on my shoulder to go beat him at Thompson,” said Narducci.
For Christopher, he was not overly concerned with possible payback.
“Nah, he’ll talk smack, but he’s got bigger issues with Marcus (Fruchtenicht), he wrecked him today. I’m sure he’s not happy. I’m not really too worried. He’s fast in qualifying so he’ll start near the pole; I’m bad in qualifying so I’ll work my way through the field. It’s Martinsville, it’s a tour car, it’s a one-lap shootout, I did what I had to do. You go back to the beginning of the season, he wrecked me at Myrtle Beach and destroyed my race, I guess it’s a little payback, not like wrecked him.”
Behind Michael Christopher Jr. and Bryan Narducci was Andrew Rucker in third, and Justin Brown in fourth. Rounding the top five, points leader Brandon Wilkinson had gotten enough points to lock up the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour winter season title with one race to go. It is the first major sim title for spotter from Rhode Island, who intends to enjoy the title to its fullest after going for a win next race at Thompson.
“It feels great, man. Eight years of racing on here and I’ve never won a championship. But, to do it on this stage makes it all come full circle. It was worth the wait, but I have one more race to go win next week at Thompson, my home track. Thanks to my guys at EPYK Media, Rocket Performance, The POSSE, and Race1.us. We will celebrate next week, and enjoy what we’ve accomplished,” said Wilkinson.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT