By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Spacestation Racing’s Vicente Salas proved the best at tire management in the Slide Job 300, taking the victory as others struggled.
Throughout much of the final run of the 300-mile race promoted by Bryan Blackford, Salas ran just inside the top-five. The driver of the virtual No. 55 Spacestation Racing Ford Fusion cruised behind fellow eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers Michael Guest, Blake Reynolds, and Blade Whitt.
Guest dominated much of the race. In total, the Jim Beaver eSports driver led the most laps of anyone on track, 85. After pitting under the final caution with 68 laps to go, both Guest and Reynolds appeared to be unmatched. The two drivers opened a gap of over three seconds on Salas and Whitt. Then, with 14 laps to go, disaster struck. Guest blew a tire on his virtual No. 9 Big Green Egg Ford Fusion. He darted to pit road with Reynolds in tow.
Taking the Win
The lead transferred to Clint Bowyer Racing’s Whitt with just over 10 laps to go. Sensing an opportunity, Salas fought for the lead with eight laps to go. Once out front, the Temecula, Calif. native simply drove away. When the checkered flag waved, Salas had a 2.692 second lead over Whitt. Oumar Diallo, Briar LaPradd, and Anthony Burroughs completed the top-five.
“The whole race I was planning out long runs,” admitted Salas. “I was playing it safe on the short run. People were flying by me, and I was kind of like ‘whatever.’ We’d only get 20 to 30 lap runs. My strategy as soon as I started climbing was kind of destroyed. Finally for this last run, we got a solid 50, 55 lap run. I guess some people may have short-filled and didn’t make it. Super fortunate and glad we were able to bring it into victory lane.
“It was a mix of both (managing tire temperatures and tire wear). If I slid the tires, the temp would go up. Then I really had to focus the next couple laps to bring the temps back down and driving the car super straight.”
Parker White, Michael Frisch, Tyler Justice, Ethan Lane, and Andrew Pietranek rounded out the top-10. Polesitter and eNASCAR driver Matt Bussa was running inside the top-10 until he too cut a tire. He ultimately crossed the line in 24th.
After dominating the race, Guest finished 16th. Fellow eNASCAR driver Jake Nichols was 18th with Reynolds 20th, Michael Conti 27th, Jimmy Mullis 37th, and Zack Novak 38th.
Promoter Blackford also competed, starting 22nd and finishing 26th. JD Motorsports tire specialist and Monday Night Racing competitor Gabe Wood earned the promoters provisional. After a wreck and going three laps down, he took the wave around, earned the free pass, and managed to finish 25th.
The Slide Job 300 was slowed eight times by incidents. The most dramatic occurred when Mullis’ wheel died in the middle of turns one and two. The virtual No. 46 Sunoco Toyota Camry slowed in the middle of the pack with no warning. The ensuing wreck swept up Dylan Ault, Daniel Eberhardt, Kevin King, and Alex Kolonics among others.
The other Richmond Raceway eSports driver, Novak was also swept up in an incident. He got into the outside wall. Before Novak could get back up to speed, he collected Dustin Montgomery and King.
The Slide Job 300 is the latest eRacr associated event that Blackford has promoted. Last year he promoted the Hard to Drive 300 at the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway. The idea for the Slide Job 300 came about three months ago. However, from the time he mentioned the idea on social media to it becoming a reality was about one week. The sign-ups for the race filled up within two days of being launched.
“It really highlights how far the community has come,” explained Blackford. “Special events like this used to be more difficult to organize, but social media, specifically Twitter, has really changed things for the better. Although this is an enthusiast level event, it filled up in 2 days. 129 spots. That’s pretty cool. I think we can do more events similar to this that feature a cool car and track combo.
“At the end of the day, people just want the organizers of the event to care and communicate well. That’s what my polls have shown. I really care about the quality of racing and what the drivers think. If we continue doing that, I think drivers will come back. Special events don’t exist without the drivers and we do our best to remember that when putting these together.”
1. Vicente Salas  ($150), 2. Blade Whitt  ($75), 3. Oumar Diallo  ($50), 4. Briar LaPradd , 5. Anthony Burroughs , 6. Parker White , 7. Michael Frisch , 8. Tyler Justice , 9. Ethan Lane , 10. Andrew Pietranek , 11. Andrew Faryniarz , 12. Dylan Jones , 13. Logan Helton , 14. Justin Lisonbee , 15. Brian Mercurio , 16. Michael Guest , 17. Adam Benefiel , 18. Jake Nichols , 19. Garrison Hogan , 20. Blake Reynolds , 21. Collin Bowden , 22. Vincent Sorah , 23. Jose Solis Jr , 24. Matt Bussa , 25. Gabe Wood , 26. Bryan Blackford , 27. Michael Conti , 28. Nicholas Short , 29. Justin Smith , 30. Dustin Montgomery , 31. Alex Kolonics , 32. Blake Sasser , 33. Michael Gonzales , 34. Kevin King , 35. Dylan Ault , 36. Daniel Eberhardt , 37. Jimmy Mullis , 38. Zack Novak , 39. Tommy Gossett , 40. Brandon McKissic , 41. Daniel Buttafuoco , 42. Ralph Hutchison , 43. Will Cooley .
Lead Changes: 16 among eight drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Matt Bussa 1, Michael Conti 2-9, Anthony Burroughs 10-16, Collin Bowden 17-38, Jose Solis Jr. 39, Collin Bowden 40-84, Briar LaPradd 85-93, Collin Bowden 94-98, Michael Guest 99-101, Collin Bowden 102, Michael Guest 103-113, Briar LaPradd 114, Michael Guest 115-142, Briar LaPradd 143, Michael Guest 144-186, Blade Whitt 187-192, Vicente Salas 193-200.
Laps Led: Michael Guest 85, Collin Bowden 73, Briar LaPradd 11, Anthony Burroughs 8, Vicente Salas 8, Michael Conti 7, Matt Bussa 1, Jose Solis Jr. 1.
Hard Charger(s): Michael Frisch and Andrew Faryniarz (+32).
Caution Flags: Eight for 27 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 2.692 seconds.
Time of Race: Two hours, 14 minutes, 11.068 seconds.
Average Speed: 134.144 MPH.
Pole Winner: Matt Bussa, 33.459 seconds (161.392 MPH).
Fastest Lap: Michael Conti, Lap 2, 33.503 seconds (161.180 MPH).
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires