Pink Thrills.

NASCAR Challenge 2019
21st September 2019
Falcon Raceway GT Circuit

Returning for its fourth year, the NASCAR Challenge is always a highlight of the Falcon Raceway calendar. Despite a reduced entry list, the 2019 event proved to be a classic, with an evenly matched field and some fantastic, close racing. Over the course of seven races, entrants would each contest four races each, starting in each grid slot once. Each race lasts for 50 laps, with points awarded for finishing positions as well as for the number of laps completed.

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As the lights went out for race one, it was Anthony, starting from second on the grid, who got into an early lead until he crashed on the second lap. This allowed Darren through into the lead, and left Anthony firmly in Lee’s sights. By the thirteenth lap, Darren had built on his lead and was now a lap ahead of second placed Anthony, who had consolidated his position ahead of Lee.

Falling Down

After the first round of stops, Darren had held onto his lead; indeed, after short-fuelling, his lead was now two laps. By the second round of stops, it looked like Darren’s strategy was falling down – each of the three leaders were now on the same lap and the pressure on the leader was mounting. As the race entered its final third, the drama mounted. First, Lee’s Toyota ground to a halt, out of fuel. Not wanting to meet with Lee’s fate, Anthony ducked into the pits a few laps later, again short-fuelling to try to stay ahead, he was forced to pit again just eight laps later, dropping to second in the process. Then, just when Anthony seems resigned to the runner-up spot, Darren ran out of fuel, handing victory to the Chevrolet driver.

Race One Result:
1st Anthony – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.576
2nd Darren – Chevrolet Camaro
Laps: 47; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.267
3rd Cliff – Ford Fusion
Laps: 44; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.903
4th Lee – Toyota Camry
Laps: 34; Pit stops: 1
Fastest lap: 9.346

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A crash on the second lap dropped leaders Lee and George down the field; they’d made a great start, but their coming together allowed both Darren and Scott through. Two laps later, Scott had caught and passed Darren to take a deserved lead. It wasn’t to last however, and a crash a few laps later sent him tumbling down the order.

Drama

What was remarkable about this race was how close everything was. With forty of the race’s 50 laps completed, all four cars were still on the same lap, with early leaders Lee and George now back at the front, closely followed by Darren and Scott. The win really could have gone any of four ways, but ultimately, late pit stops – or a lack of them – settled things. First, a very late stop for George dropped him to third. That seemed to be it for George, with so little time remaining, but there was more drama to come. Race leader Lee again ran out of fuel, within inches of the finish line, dropping him to fourth, and handing victory to Darren.

Race Two Result:
1st Darren – Chevrolet Camaro
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 9.610
2nd George – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 50
Fastest lap: 9.492
3rd Scott – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.357
4th Lee – Toyota Camry
Laps: 49; Pit stops: 5
Fastest lap: 9.418

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Race three saw another close battle at the front, this time between Steve and George. The former had made a good start from the front of the grid, and lead for much of the race. But, for all that time, George had run very close in second. George got ahead during the second pit stops, but Steve re-took the pace, taking on slightly less fuel. It was a gamble – and one that ultimately didn’t pay off. With fuel levels dwindling, Steve was forced to make a late stop, handing the lead and, ultimately, the win to George.

Cropper

Further back, there was more fuel-related drama, but this time it was Scott who was to come a cropper. Again, the circumstances were somewhat cruel, with Scott grinding to a halt just shy of the pit entrance.

Race Three Result: 
1st George – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.256
2nd Steve – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.215
3rd Cliff – Ford Fusion
Laps: 43; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 10.107
4th Scott – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 41; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.238

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With a huge crash in the first corner at the start of race four taking out three of the four runners, it was Anthony who was the last man standing, and able to pull out a huge lead early on. With a sizable lead so early in the race, Anthony was able to maintain a steady pace and manage his fuel consumption brilliantly. Behind him, the chase was on.

Second

Steve emerged from battles with first Darren, then Cliff and began his pursuit of Anthony. Ever so gradually, Steve drew closer to race leader Anthony, finally catching him with ten laps to go. Try as he might, he was unable to find a way around the Star Wars liveried car, so had to settle for second. Further back, Darren faded from contention early on with an apparent car problem, which would see him retire the Camaro from further involvement in the remaining races.

Race Four Result: 
1st Anthony – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.591
2nd Steve – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.270
3rd Darren – Chevrolet Camaro
Laps: 47; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.270
4th Cliff – Ford Fusion
Laps: 44; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.537

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All four runners made a clean start in race five, with Lee and Darren fighting for the lead. The pace at the front was furious, and perhaps a mistake was inevitable. This came on lap five, when Darren spun off in the esses, and Lee raced away. It wasn’t long before he had company at the front in the shape of George’s Chevrolet. This time it was George applying the pressure, but this time the pressure boiled over into a full-on collision, with George punting Lee into the barriers on his way through into the lead.

Showdown

Things went from bad to worse for Lee shortly after half-distance when he, once again, he ran out of fuel. With Darren fading from contention by this stage, the fight for the win was now between Anthony and George. Shortly after Lee ran into trouble, both Anthony and George made pit stops, setting up a showdown for the win. George dropped the ball somewhat on lap thirty-five, letting Anthony through to take the lead. With fuel supplies running low, a late stop for Anthony meant the lead was handed back to George, who held on to take the win.

Race Five Result: 
1st George – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.375
2nd Anthony – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pits stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.396
3rd Darren – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 46; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.689
4th Lee – Toyota Camry
Laps: 28; Pit stops: 0
Fastest lap: 9.428

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Going into the penultimate race, there were some drivers for which this was very much make or break. While Lee, for example, had too many DNFs on the board to make any kind of impact on the final points, there were others who really needed a win here. Another win for George would put him in a really strong position for overall victory, and with Anthony marshalling it was a great opportunity to get one hand on the trophy. At the same time, Steve, who had clocked a series of second places so far, but no wins, was still mathematically in contention too.

Messy

When the race got under way, it was George who leapt into an early lead, and was to go largely unchallenged at the front. Steve, however, had a messy race, with a series of spins dropping him down the order. He was able to deal with Lee, who appeared to be playing things safe with his fuel consumption, but could not catch Scott, who was putting in a great performance in second.

Race Six Result: 
1st George – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.118
2nd Scott – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 48; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.195
3rd Steve – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 48; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 8.986
4th Lee – Toyota Camry
Laps: 46; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.238

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With George’s racing done for the day, all he could do now was wait. A win in the last race had put him in a really strong position, and Anthony would need a win in race seven to secure the 2019 NASCAR Challenge winner’s trophy. He would have to first beat Steve, who – with two seconds and a third in his previous races – was eager to climb to the top step of the podium. Add to this the rapidly improving series newcomers, Scott and Cliff, and Anthony was facing a real challenge.

Victory

As the lights went out, it was clear that the fight was to be between Steve and Anthony for the win, as they steadily pulled away from Scott and Cliff. It was a close fight, with Anthony running under Steve’s rear wing for most of the race. But, with both racers seemingly on the same fuel strategy, and Anthony unwilling to make a reckless attempt to pass, it ended with Steve edging a narrow victory, and the 2019 NASCAR Challenge title going to George for the first time.

Race Seven Result: 
1st Steve – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 8.937
2nd Anthony – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 50; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 9.235
3rd Scott – Chevrolet SS
Laps: 48; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.234
4th Cliff – Ford Fusion
Laps: 45; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 9.389

Final Standings

1st: 2nd: 3rd: 4thLaps CompletedTotal
1
George

3

1

200

385
2
Anthony

2

2

200

370
3
Steve

1

2

1

198

343
4
Darren

1

1

2

190

325
5
Scott

1

2

1

187

287
6
Cliff

2

2

176

256
7
Lee

4

157

217

Fastest Laps: 

1st Steve: 8.937
2nd George: 9.118
3rd Scott: 9.195
4th Anthony: 9.235
5th Lee: 9.238
6th Darren: 9.267
7th Cliff: 9.389

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