Budd Back in Victory Lane in Caution-Plagued Pocono Opener

20 Jul 2023


Tuesday night's season-opening Poc OH NO 175 in the Output Series promised to be an historic event, and it certainly delivered, though in a less-than-glamorous way. The race boasted the largest field in Output Racing League history, with a total of 40 drivers eager to showcase their skills at the "tricky triangle," Pocono Raceway.

However, despite the excitement surrounding the race, race control issues at the start caused a rather slow and frustrating beginning. The pace car stayed out on track for an extended period, leading to some confusion among drivers and fans. This initial hiccup delayed the action and created a sense of impatience among the drivers and fans alike.

One notable absence in the race was driver Matt Horton, who failed to post a qualifying time, subsequently missing out on the main event due to the field size limit. This prompted race organizers to rethink the format going forward, now expanding the field to 43 cars, ensuring that all participants who join will get to race.

As the race finally got underway, we witnessed brief moments of green flag racing that were nothing short of thrilling with the new Gen 4 Cup car. The few laps of uninterrupted competition were filled with intense side-by-side battles for position, showcasing the immense talent and determination of the drivers.

Throughout the race, there were a total of five lead changes, with drivers jockeying for the top spot and differing pit strategies shuffling the leaderboard. Christian Budd started on the pole and led most of the way, relinquishing the lead briefly to Shawn Hughes and Travis Barnes before ultimately pacing the field to a win in his first Output Series action since last year.

However, the excitement was frequently disrupted by an overwhelming number of caution flags. Most of these cautions were triggered by drivers being overly aggressive on the uniquely wide and long front stretch at Pocono. The combination of drivers' eagerness to gain positions on the numerous restarts and the challenging track layout led to numerous incidents and on-track pile-ups.

The trouble started at Lap 7 when a multi-car incident, triggered by the Jaren Sanchez getting in to the back of Thad Failor into turn 1 and collecting several other cars, brought out the yellow flag. This particular caution, among others, led to extended cleanup times, further contributing to the slow pace of the race.

At Lap 27, another caution flag flew for a major incident involving L.D Sarabia and Zach Skotnicki. The two cars collided violently racing for the same space into turn 3, creating a chaotic scene and bringing out the safety crews to attend to the drivers and clear the track. Sarabia appeared to blame Skotnicki for the mishap and crashed the #44 in turn one on lap 49. That move, along with some silly behavior under caution, earned the driver of the #8 a post-race penalty.

In the end, the extreme number of cautions shortened the race and it was Christian Budd and Team Harmon that emerged victorious, with drivers finishing in 1st, 5th, and 6th place. Team Hernandez also scored three drivers in the top 10 with Jonathon Hernandez and league rookies Scott Rickard and Dylan Matthews, who had his own share of on-track trouble and a post-race warning from the admins.

Team Harmon's strong performance has catapulted them to an early lead in the team standings, setting the stage for an intense team rivalry throughout the season.

As the series heads to Richmond Raceway for the next race, we can only hope that the drivers will exercise more patience on restarts, reducing the frequency of caution periods, and allowing for more green flag racing. It is the green flag laps that truly showcase the drivers' skill, strategy, and determination to win.

In conclusion, the Poc OH NO 175 was a rollercoaster of emotions, with both exciting moments and cautionary tales. The Output Racing League demonstrated its commitment to providing thrilling racing action, but a bit of refinement in managing race control and driver behavior will ensure that future events become even more memorable and exhilarating for drivers and fans alike.

Output Racing is an online sim racing league on iRacing.

We put this league together to provide a place for the late night racer to hang out, make friends and race hard. Established in mid-2018 with the goal of building a competitive league without toxic people or egos, we focused on building a tight-knit community that meshes well on and off the track.

If you are a late-night racer that is looking for a fun group to chill and race with once a week, feel free to apply. We welcome a wide range of skill levels with a minimum C class 2.0 SR license and 1000 IR.

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