Staying out of trouble.

Race Report: Club NASCAR 2019.
Round 3 (5 December 2019).
Bristol Oval.

After dominating round one of the 2019 Club NASCAR championship, Steve was brought back down to earth with a bump in round two. Mistakes with fuel strategy and a number of spins and crashes saw him eclipsed by Darren, Lee and George. He may have gone into the final round at the top of the standings, but a good night for any one of the four racers below him in the table would see the title go elsewhere. As our racers put in some early laps in free practice, the excitement levels at the Bristol Oval steadily grew.

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Race one saw Darren leap ahead of George at the start; the STP Ford clearly having the measure of the #1 Chevrolet on raw pace. As George struggled for straight line speed, he steadily slipped backwards, with both Scott and – a lap or two later – Steve overtaking him. By the tenth lap, an intriguing battle was developing at the front, with Scott mastering the quick, but twitchy, DeWalt Toyota to mount a serious challenge for the race lead.

Trio

The lead was to change hands a few times as the race progressed, but somehow the leading duo were able to maintain a decent gap back to Steve in third. The M&Ms-liveried Toyota could not get close to the leaders on pace alone, so Steve opted to try to close the gap through pit strategy. By the time the leading trio were making their fourth stops, Steve had closed to within striking distance of second-placed Scott, and when the NASCAR rookie spun at the far end of the circuit, Steve made the place his. With fuel supplies dwindling, a late splash n’ dash was required, and he dropped back to third.

Race One Result:
1st Darren – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 100; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 6
Fastest lap: 4.568
2nd Scott – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 100; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 6
Fastest lap: n/a
3rd Steve – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 100; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 5
Fastest lap: 4.733
4th George – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 96; Grid:1; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.615
5th Cliff – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 94; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.689

(n/a: timing error – fastest lap time not recorded)
(* out of fuel)

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Darren, now at the wheel of possibly the fastest car on the grid, continued his solid start to the round by grabbing an early lead in race two. Behind him, Anthony had also made a good start from the back, but a crash on lap four saw him lose a lap and he seemed to fade from the race from there after a degree of frustration coloured his driving. Steve too had a similar crash on the start-line on lap 18, and also lost a lap. Fortunately for our championship leader, he was driving one of the quicker cars on the grid and managed to claw his way back up the order.

Bounty

Back at the front, Darren was happily motoring towards another race win, when disaster struck late on when the same fate that had earlier upset Anthony and Steve’s races befell the race leader. Unfortunately for Darren, this came at the worst possible time. With barely a handful of laps to go, there was no time for Darren to mount a recovery, and Steve – who had shadowed the leader for much of the second half of the race – was able to grab the bounty and take a last minute win. Further back, Lee drove a scruffy race to third; too many crashes meant he was always too far back to trouble the leaders.

Race Two Result: 
1st Steve – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 100; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 4.539
2nd Darren – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 98; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 5
Fastest lap: 4.377
3rd Lee – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 97; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.572
4th Anthony – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 96; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.415
5th Scott – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 95; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.410

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If crashes has shaped the outcome of race two, it became clear very early on that race three was going to be more of the same. Norman got away cleanly from second on the grid, but the rest of the field managed to put their car into the barrier (or another car) at some point on the first few laps. As the only one to keep it on the island at the start, it was Norman who lead the race for the first ten laps. Once they got back up to speed, it was Lee and Anthony who got themselves back to the front and busied themselves with a duel over the lead.

Marathon

Norman fell steadily backwards, with both Steve and Cliff passing him. Cliff would eventually come home fourth; a good distance ahead of erstwhile race leader Norman, but too far back to worry the podium places. Steve, realising this was a marathon rather than a sprint, found a strategy based on fuel saving was the best option in the sluggish #1 Chevrolet, but could manage no better than third. At the front, Lee found that a ‘little and often’ approach to refueling was the order of the day, with his six stops resulting in a race win over Anthony’s three.

Race Three Result: 
1st Lee – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 100; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 6
Fastest lap: 4.350
2nd Anthony – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 100; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: n/a
3rd Steve – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 98; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: n/a
4th Cliff – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 93; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.673
5th Norman – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 88; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.553

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George guided the sprightly Ford past Anthony’s slower Chevrolet at the start of race four. The McDonald’s liveried car had been driven by George in his only race so far this evening, and he’d managed fourth place, some four laps down on race winner. Now with some faster machinery at his disposal, he was making every effort to improve his chances of successfully defending his NASCAR title. His chances received a boost when second-placed Anthony was punted off the track by an over-enthusiastic Cliff, in the yellow Toyota. Dropping to fourth, it would be a while before Anthony found himself back at the sharp end of the field.

Time Out

As Anthony embarked on his recovery drive, he found his route blocked by the hard-charging Darren with the other Toyota. Switching to a fuel-saving strategy, Anthony was the last of the field to pit and, having already passed Cliff when he crashed at mid-distance, he leapfrogged Darren when, after taking time out for fuel, he emerged from the pits in second place. George’s lead was now down to a single lap, but despite both the leading duo needing late fuel stops in the final ten laps, the gap was maintained in George’s favour.

Race Four Result: 
1st George – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 100; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: n/a
2nd Anthony – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 99; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.539
3rd Darren –  Toyota Camry  #18
Laps: 98; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 5
Fastest lap: 4.416
4th Cliff  –  Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 96; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.536
5th Norman – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 78; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 4.931

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George continued his championship push in race five with a strong performance which secured him his second race win of the evening. His route to victory saw a number of challengers try – and ultimately fail – to deny him the winner’s laurels. As the race began, it was Scott, with the Ford Fusion, who mounted an early challenge for the lead. Over time, George was able to pull away, and over time Scott’s game plan switched to defence under increasing pressure from Darren. The Ford succumbed to the pressure on lap 14, when Darren’s deft move into turn two paid off.

M&Ms

George was first of the runners to stop for fuel, coming in on lap 33. Darren, Scott and Lee all came in together two laps later, but George was able to maintain his lead. This was to change after the second stops, with Lee short-fueling and exiting just ahead of George’s Chevrolet. George had the performance edge with the Chevrolet, however, and it wasn’t long before he’s caught and passed Lee’s M&M’s liveried car. As was the case with Scott earlier in the race, Lee’s attention swiftly switched to defence when he came under pressure from Darren. The yellow Toyota managed to pass Lee, but a clumsy counter strike sent Darren careering out of the slot. Darren rejoined, but Lee had – despite running out of fuel on lap 98 – done enough to hold on to second.

Race Five Result: 
1st George – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 100; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 5
Fastest lap: 4.406
2nd Lee – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 98*; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.492
3rd Darren – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 98; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 6
Fastest lap: n/a
4th Scott – Ford Fusion #43
Laps:83*; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 3
5th Cliff – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 71*; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 1
Fastest lap: n/a

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Steve returned from marshalling duties and started race six on the front row with the STP Ford. He made a poor start, spinning on the first lap and dropping to fourth. The lead of the race was taken by Scott, but he had both Lee and Darren snapping at his heels. As the first stint of the race progressed, Scott was able to steadily pull away, while Lee and Darren enjoyed a separate battle over second and Steve pursued a more conservative strategy back in fourth.

Topic

By the second round of pit stops, Steve’s strategy had paid off, and he rejoined in second. Darren was looming large in his mirrors, however, and the Chevrolet had retaken the place shortly after. The battle turned in Steve’s favour once again as the race entered it’s closing stages, pulling off a pass to take second with just ten laps to go. Luck became the topic of conversation at the end of the race, when a crash for Lee handed Steve second place and some valuable extra points.

Race Six Result: 
1st Scott – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 100; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.419
2nd Steve – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 98; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.556
3rd Lee – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 98; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.479
4th Darren – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 96; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.700
5th Norman – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 47*; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 0
Fastest lap: 4.680

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The penultimate race was our champion-elect’s last of the evening, and he was driving undoubtedly the quickest, but also most fuel-efficient car on the grid for what was without doubt his victory march to the 2019 title. The race got under way with the front row pair of Lee and Anthony taking – and holding – the lead, but an early spin for Steve saw him immediately switch to a fuel-saving strategy in the first stint. It payed off royally – enabling him to stay out for an extra five laps after the rest of the field made their first stops. He rejoined in the lead, with a very handy two lap gap back to second placed Anthony.

Chomp

Further back, Anthony had pulled away from George who had taken third from Lee during the first stops. The battles that raged over second and third became a little rough and ready at times, and this undoubtedly further helped Steve’s cause, as he was able to control the pace at the front; saving fuel, staying out of trouble, and turning on the pace when he needed to. As Anthony pulled away from the fun and games behind him, he took a chomp out of Steve’s lead, but he was only able to get to within a lap of him.

Race Seven Result: 
1st Steve – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 100; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 4.380
2nd Anthony – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 99; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: n/a
3rd George – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 96; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.007
4th Lee – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 93; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.355
5th Norman – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 88; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 1
Fastest lap: 4.862

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With the championship now settled, the race for the rest of the positions was settled in the final race. The end of term feeling had clearly got the better of our racers; this was a very lively affair that kept the marshalls busy throughout. The rough n’ tumble began on lap two, when pole-man Norman took out George at the end of the back straight, allowing Cliff through into the lead. The new race leader came under immediate pressure, with Scott, Anthony and George breathing down his neck. Cliff’s moment in the sun ended on lap 12, when both Anthony and George passed him. He would steadily drop down the order after a handful of spins, and ultimately ran out of fuel on lap 58.

Fuse

George grabbed the lead of the race on lap 20 when Anthony crashed out. He rejoined with an narrow lead over Scott in third, who himself had recovered from losing a lap after a crash on the start-finish line. The status quo was maintained after the first pit stops, but on lap 55 everything was to change. As madness seemingly reigned around the circuit, as if someone had lit a fuse, a succession of crashes saw Anthony, George, Cliff and Norman all come a cropper, and Scott gratefully powered away in the lead. He held on to the lead after the second stops, but when the leading trio came in for a final top-up on lap 82, it was Anthony in the lead. Scott went on to run out of fuel on lap 98, but had done enough to hold on to second.

Race Eight Result: 
1st Anthony – Chevrolet SS #14
Laps: 100; Grid: 4; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.476
2nd Scott – Toyota Camry #18
Laps: 98*; Grid: 5; Pit stops: 3
Fastest lap: 4.435
3rd George – Toyota Camry #20
Laps: 98; Grid: 3; Pit stops: 4
Fastest lap: 4.421
4th Norman – Chevrolet SS #1
Laps: 91; Grid: 1; Pit stops: 2
Fastest lap: 4.731
5th Cliff – Ford Fusion #43
Laps: 58*; Grid: 2; Pit stops: 1
Fastest lap: 4.665

Round Three Result: 

1st Steve – 681
2nd Anthony – 664
3rd George – 655
4th Darren – 640
5th Lee – 636
6th Scott – 611
7th Cliff – 462
8th Norman – 427

With his first round performance undoubtedly giving him a real boost, victory in round three secured Steve his first Club NASCAR championship title, and his first class championship win since 2016. He’ll undoubtedly face a stern challenge to retain his title in 2020!

Championship Standings:

Round 1: Round 2: Round 3: Total
1
Steve

750

619

681

1431
2
Anthony

702.5

609

664

1366.5
3
George

618.75

691

655

1346
4
Darren

XXX

666

640

1306
5
Lee

611.25

629

636

1265
6
Scott

XXX

602

611

1213
7
Norman

528.75

482

427

1010
8
Cliff

XXX

487

462

949
9
Alex

545

XXX

XXX

545

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