On the wave of a great number of eSports events on Speed51.com in recent days, the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour made its return for a fresh new season Tuesday night, starting off at the iRacing version of New Smyrna Speedway for 100 laps of racing. With the night starting off with 40 drivers vying for 26 starting spots, the feature proved to be rambunctious with a number of yellow flags over the race.
Despite 10 restarts on the night, polesitter Bryan Narducci wasn’t fazed on any of them, leading nearly flag to flag for the win. Despite one slip up, coming second off of pit road to fellow real-world Modified driver Michael Christopher Jr., the luck of St. Patrick’s Day seemed to shine on Narducci, as Christopher was caught changing lanes too early on a restart, and assessed a penalty during the following yellow.
In the end, it was another real-world Mod Squad member, Ryan Doucette, who would give the two-time NASCAR Weekly Series Division 3 national champion a run for his money.
“At the end Ryan was really fast, I knew he was quick the whole time we were practicing, qualifying, and then the feature. I was more worried about Christopher though, he was fast, and he was right with me until we pitted then he got that penalty. He was going to giving me a run, we were so even when he got the lead, it was going to be hard to pass him. But we got some good luck, no penalties, and led a lot of laps,” Narducci said after the race.
While Doucette favored the outside line on restarts, Narducci called on his real-life instincts and experience in making his decisions late. Ultimately taking a conservative approach on the inside line.
“I thought about it for a second, but then I thought about it from real-life racing that if you take the top and don’t get a good restart, the guy on the bottom is going to be with you getting into one. So you don’t want to give a guy the whole lane like that, so even if you get a bad start on the bottom, you still have the position. It ended up working out, he was real fast on the closing lap there, I thought he was going to give a little bump and run, but he ran me clean, so I got to thank him for that.”
Indeed, while the outside was beneficial to Doucette, it was not enough to get the job done.
“It definitely helped, because I think if had been on the inside I would of gotten freight-trained back to fourth or fifth or worse. But starting second, I could maintain that spot for the late laps. Unfortunately, I didn’t give me much of an opportunity to setup any passes for the lead because that lead position gives you such an advantage on the restarts, it takes a lap or two to catch back up to them.”
Behind Narducci and Doucette, defending 51 Tour champion Brandon Wilkinson came home third, while Ryan Lutz and Evan Nugent rounded the top five.
With one race down, Narducci finds himself first in the catbird’s seat, a stark contrast to the winter season where early troubles put the Connecticut driver down in points.
“Last season we qualified on the pole three times and won just one race. Had a couple where we had a good shot at winning one race and got moved out of the way at Martinsville, then another one at Stafford we blew it by getting a pit road penalty. It’s good to start with a win.
Next up for the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour is a callback to real 1990’s Modified racing, as the 51 Tour goes road racing at Watkins Glen next Tuesday on iRacing.
“I’m real excited for Watkins Glen, been looking forward to that as soon as they put that on the schedule.”
Be back next Tuesday night at 8:30pm ET for the live broadcast of the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour from Watkins Glen. Click here to check out the full schedule of sim racing broadcasts coming up on Speed51.
Get a replay of Tuesday’s racing from New Smyrna Speedway by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT