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iRacing Report: Wood holds off Sheehan for win at Magic Mile

July 06, 2011, Jason Lofing, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



iRacing Report: Wood holds off Sheehan for win at Magic Mile

Fresh off wins at Pocono and Michigan, Steve Sheehan (Schenectady, N.Y.) grabbed the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but fell just short in his quest for three wins in a row.

The result was a season-first win for Derek Wood (Lincoln, Neb.) as Ray Alfalla became the new points leader (Cape Coral, Fla.) during a hotly-contested battle.

Qualifying saw Wood join Sheehan on the front row and, right from the drop of the green flag, the two teammates battled for the top spot. Racing throughout the whole field was intenseas dirty air made it difficult for anyone to make a pass even if they had the faster car. The first 46 laps went caution-free with Sheehan pacing the field and building a lead of nearly 2 seconds until he caught the slower traffic at back of the field.

When the yellow finally did fly, the leaders all ducked to pit road for much needed tires and fuel. On the restart, disaster struck as then-point leader Thomas Hazard (Rochester, Minn.) couldn't avoid Richard Towler (Newcastle, UK) and spun into the Turn 3 wall, ending his chances of contending for the win and knocking him from the top spot in the standings. This opened the door for Afalla to seize the point lead if he could stay out of trouble as well . . . but it would not be easy.

After a quick cleanup from Hazard's incident, the field took the green once more only to be slowed by another wreck less than a lap later. Coming off of Turn 4, Thomas Lewandowski (Buffalo, N.Y.) slipped up the track a bit and spun Jordan Erickson (Mooresville, N.C.) around, sparking a melee in the middle of the pack which ended a few drivers' nights.

On the ensuing restart, Wood made a bold move on the outside into Turn 1 and cleared Sheehan, only to be passed himself a few laps later. The race again settled into a green-flag run with Sheehan opening up a gap on Wood and the rest of the field. Green-flag pit stops started to take place around Lap 100 with both Sheehan and Wood hitting pit road together before another caution flew, trapping some drivers a lap down. As the field cycled around, Wood and Sheehan once again found themselves occupying the top spots.

Wood got past Sheehan once more on the Lap 114 restart and this time, there was no looking back. Despite a run-in with Josh Berry (Hendersonville, Tenn.), Wood survived many late-race restarts to hold off Sheehan and collect his first win of the 2011 season. Berry held on with a damaged car for third, Alfalla rallied for fourth, and Brian Schoenburg (Moorpark, Calif.) continued his strong runs of late with a solid fifth.

"Man, it feels really good to finally get a win after a rough first half of the season," Wood said. "I had been pretty fast in practice this week, so I was very optimistic going into this race."

Sheehan was gracious in defeat, but was a bit miffed at a scoring glitch that lined him up incorrectly on a restart. "Anyway, didn't really have a shot at Derek after that and just tried to get a good finish and perhaps catch Derek sleeping on a restart," he said. "We had some fun crossing over and stuff but it's hard for me to not be bitter about the glitch deal. I'm happy for Derek though."

With another top five finish, Alfalla (391 points) exits the Magic Mile with a 19-point lead over Hazard (372). After coming home eighth at New Hampshire, Brad Wright (High Point, N.C.) is right behind Hazard in third with 364 points while Tyler Hudson (Brandon, Miss.) and Schoenburg round-out the top five with seven races remaining.

Week 12 sees the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship make its annual stop at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track is notoriously challenging for the big stock cars and track position will be important as there is only one groove, making for mostly single file racing. With the momentum both Wood and Sheehan will bring to the track, either one would be a good bet to reach Victory Lane again.