By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Spacestation Racing’s Rajah Caruth and Will Rodgers swept the Monday Night Racing Season 2 finale at the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Battle for the Win
Caruth started deep in the field in 35th. A long green flag run to start the race allowed the NASCAR Drive for Diversity competitor to climb through the field. A timely caution just passed the halfway point put Caruth in position to challenge pole sitter and NASCAR spotter David Schildhouse for the lead.
Caruth and Schildhouse traded the lead back and forth for several laps before another two quick cautions waved. After the third and final caution, James Davison assumed the lead after staying out. Davison’s hold on the lead didn’t last long as Caruth swept by on fresh tires.
First Series Win
The final 40 laps went caution-free. Caruth focused on hitting his marks throughout much of the rest of the race. The ARCA Menards Series East driver took the checkered flag with over three seconds to spare on Ryan Vargas. Caruth’s victory put the eNASCAR team in victory lane for the first time in Monday Night Racing competition.
“It definitely was a little bit of a nail-biter there waiting on the inevitable potential caution,” admitted Caruth. “Just worked out for us. Started from the back, got pretty lucky with how the race went in terms of green flag runs and when the cautions came out. I got the clean air when it mattered, and it worked out for us.
“That (Rodgers winning the championship) was definitely some great TV time for Spacestation Gaming. They are pretty young in the eSports space of NASCAR. To help out Will, we were in Discord together the whole race. I was telling him what I was doing, and he was doing his stuff accordingly. It just worked out for us.”
Post-Race on Twitter, Caruth dedicating his win to Kickin’ the Tires Staff Writer and eSports editor Seth Eggert and his family after the passing of his mother, Bryna Eggert, following a lengthy battle with a heart condition.
— Rajah Caruth (@rajahcaruth_) March 23, 2021
Caruth’s fight for the win was just one of two on track battles. Fellow Spacestation Racing driver Will Rodgers was one of four drivers competing for the championship. Rodgers joined Monday Night Racing Season 1 champion Nick DeGroot, as well as SCCA racer Preston Pardus and NASCAR Cup Series rookie Anthony Alfredo in the championship battle.
In the early stages of the race, it appeared that Alfredo would dual Rodgers for the title until the closing laps. However, technical issues sidelined the Front Row Motorsports driver three times throughout the 120-lap race. With Alfredo’s hopes dashed, Rodgers had to outrun Motorsport’s DeGroot and Pardus.
On the final caution, Pardus pitted while DeGroot and Rodgers stayed on track. Rodgers restarted inside the top-five and held station. Meanwhile DeGroot restarted inside the top-10 but could not break into the top-five. Pardus climbed from outside the top-20 into the top-10 before taking the checkered flag in 11th.
In the best finisher, winner-take-all format, Rodgers’ third-place finish was enough to secure him, and Spacestation Racing, the championship. To celebrate, he crossed the line in style, whipping his virtual Ford F-150 around while taking the checkered flag.
“Absolutely yes (spinning across the line was on purpose),” joked Rodgers. “I figured I’d summon my inner Joey Logano just a little bit early and whip it across. There was enough of a gap behind me, so I finished in style.
“Atlanta definitely isn’t my best track on iRacing, so it was a worry of mine all night. I started 18th and didn’t know what my pace would be like. Within 20 laps or so we got to the top-five and hung out all night. When that last caution came out, I got up to second and fell back to third.
“My spotter Leighton (Sibille) was talking in my ear to let me know how far Nick was back there. He’d tell me every few laps. I knew all I had to do is hit my marks, finish strong, and here we are. Rajah Caruth and I were able to time some restarts, get in the right lanes at the right times and cover each other. Without him, I don’t feel like I would have finished as well as I did.
“That’s a part of being teammates on iRacing. You’ve got to find the right people to work with, who you can trust. He won the race, and I won the championship. Perfect scenario.”
Behind Rodgers were Schildhouse and Brandon Brown completing the top-five. Gary Sexton, DeGroot, Matt Stallknecht, Covy Moore, and Max Kennon rounded out the top-10.
Other notables included NASCAR’s Robby Lyons in 12th, James Davison 26th, Ruben Garcia Jr. 28th, and Nick Sanchez in 35th. IndyCar’s Anders Krohn and Stefan Wilson finished 13th and 25th respectively. NHRA driver Ron Capps finished 30th with motorsports legend Max Papis in 33rd. TJ Majors finished 36th.
The long green flag run at the start of the race set up green flag pit stops. Pit road commitment line violations and speeding were big factors. Drew Welker, Michael Massie, and others were penalized for pit road penalties. During the pit road exchange, Vargas, DeGroot, and Kickin’ the Tires’ Seth Eggert each took a turn in the lead.
Tires were also a factor. Massie’s penalty was a result of a flat tire sending him to the right of the commitment line. Justin Melillo cut a tire with two laps to go and limped to the finish.
1. Rajah Caruth , 2. Ryan Vargas , 3. Will Rodgers  (Champion), 4. David Schildhouse , 5. Brandon Brown , 6. Gary Sexton , 7. Nick DeGroot , 8. Matt Stallknecht , 9. Covy Moore , 10. Max Kennon , 11. Preston Pardus , 12. Robby Lyons , 13. Anders Krohn , 14. DJ Cummings , 15. Seth Eggert , 16. Brett Baldeck , 17. Steve Auffant , 18. Ford Martin , 19. Devon Henry , 20. Justin Melillo , 21. Mark Rebilas , 22. Garrett Miller , 23. Gabriel Wood , 24. Mike Clay , 25. Stefan Wilson , 26. James Davison , 27. Michael Massie , 28. Ruben Garcia Jr. , 29. Drew Welker , 30. Ron Capps , 31. Anthony Alfredo , 32. Kyle McFadden , 33. Max Papis , 34. Steven Ellis , 35. Nick Sanchez , 36. TJ Majors , 37. Greg Stumpff .
Lead Changes: 10 among six drivers.
Lap Leader(s): David Schildhouse 1-39, Ryan Vargas 40, Nick DeGroot 41-42, Seth Eggert 43, David Schildhouse 44-69, Rajah Caruth 70, David Schildhouse 71, Rajah Caruth 72-73, David Schildhouse 74, James Davison 75-78, Rajah Caruth 79-120.
Laps Led: David Schildhouse 67, Rajah Caruth 45, James Davison 4, Nick DeGroot 2, Seth Eggert 1, Ryan Vargas 1.
Hard Charger: Rajah Caruth (+34).
Cautions: Three for 14 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 3.339 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 16 minutes, 2.710 seconds.
Average Speed: 145.808 MPH.
Pole Winner: David Schildhouse, 30.728 seconds (180.422 MPH).
Fastest Lap: David Schildhouse, Lap 86, 30.740 seconds (180.351 MPH).
Feature Photo Credit: Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires