Even in the virtual world, there’s a reason they call it Indiana’s Baddest Bullring.
A perfectly timed slide job right after the race’s only restart was all it took for recent World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing World Championship winner Hayden Cardwell to score his first-ever victory in the Hoosier Racing Tire DIRTcar eSports 360 Sprint Car Showdown at Kokomo Speedway, besting his teammates David Heileman and Dylan Houser in a final seven-lap shootout for the $300 top prize.
“Luckily, we still got the 1-2-3… David [Heileman] almost got me there at the end, but it was a wild, wild deal,” Cardwell said. “This is my second start [in DIRTcar eSports]; I hope to be back more. It was a blast.”
And wild it was. Swindell SpeedLab eSports driver Kendal Tucker had taken the lead from polesitter Tyler Schell early on and was swiftly navigating through lapped traffic on the slicked-off quarter mile when a lapped car got loose and spun right in front of him. Tucker instantly piled right into him, sending his #00 flipping through Turns 1-2 and surrendering the lead on lap 25.
The yellow flag was thrown, and Tucker was able to salvage his now-bruised ride, lining up fifth for the restart. But despite his best efforts to reach the head of the field again, Tucker dropped back even further, setting for a 14th-place finish.
Out front for the restart was Heileman, who inherited the lead after a solid run inside the top-five throughout the race. He and the rest of the field hit the gas on the restart, gunning for the win in a seven-lap dash to the finish.
Cardwell lined up to Heileman’s outside and got a great run around the top before diving to the bottom in Turns 3-4 to set up a big slide job to take the lead in the next two corners. Heileman came back with a slider of his own on the next lap, but Cardwell’s top side momentum was just too strong. He stole the lead back and held off his hard-charging teammates in the final corners to secure the victory.
“I had a lot of luck come my way in that race. It helps when you have two of the best in the game and two of your teammates right there in lapped traffic. It helped me see the wreck with Tucker,” Cardwell said.
In the final three laps, Cardwell, Heileman and Houser were parked right on the cushion the entire way around the track with nearly zero margin for error. Cardwell’s #7 scrubbed the outside wall a few times in the closing laps and opened the door for Heileman to try and make a last-ditch effort run down low in the final corner, but he was unsuccessful.
“I actually got a lot more grip off the bottom than I thought in that last corner, and I mashed the throttle,” Heileman said of his last-lap move to the bottom. “I didn’t really think I was gonna be that close. Even if I kinda worked up the throttle right, [Cardwell] still might have nicked me at the line.”
“I was waiting for it, but [Heileman] never threw it. I probably could have protected, but I have a good history of hitting yuke tires, so I wanted to stay away from them as best I could,” Cardwell said.
The DIRTcar eSports action continues in two weeks’ time – Wednesday, July 15. The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds will take to The (virtual) Dirt Track at Charlotte for a $350 top prize, broadcasted LIVE on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
CHEVY PERFORMANCE Feature (35 laps) — 1. 7-Hayden Cardwell  [$300]; 2. 49-David Heileman  [$200]; 3. 2-Dylan Houser  [$100]; 4. 18-Austen Semmelmann  [$75]; 5. 85-Tyler Schell  [$50]; 6. 5-Rusty Kruger  [$45]; 7. 12-Alex Bergeron  [$40]; 8. 79-Billy Rowlee  [$35]; 9. 8-Matthew Howard  [$30]; 10. 71-Keven Hebert  [$25]; 11. 11-David Kalb  [$20]; 12. 1-Jeremy St. Louis  [$20]; 13. 14-Austin Wagner  [$20]; 14. 00-Kendal Tucker  [$20]; 15. 27-Dalton Wicker  [$20]; 16. 47-Brett Brunkenhoefer  [$20]; 17. 17-Cory Austin  [$20]; 18. 0-Billy Brickley  [$20]; 19. 125-John Lakata  [$20]; 20. 190-Seth Smyser  [$20]; 21. 86-Chase Swafford  [$20]; 22. 119-Miles Schwarz  [$20]; 23. 55-Matthew Erdman  [$20]; 24. 51-Clayton Tilley  [$20]. Lap leaders: Tyler Schell 1-4; Kendal Tucker 5-24; David Heileman 25-28; Hayden Cardwell 29-35. DIRTVision Hard Charger: Jeremy St. Louis +9.