After winning the World of Outlaws Late Model iRacing World Championship in 2019, CFM eSports driver Blake Matjoulis set out on the championship trail of the DIRTcar eSports Tour in Season 4 and instantly knew he’d be in contention to win his first title. Ten races later, and the fixed-series championship gold is now his.
Coming into the final race, Matjoulis was tied with World Championship rival Alex Bergeron and one point ahead of CFM teammate Ean Seay, making the most intense battles for the championship in Tour history. Matjoulis put himself ahead early, qualifying second-fastest of 42 cars and winning his Heat Race to set him on the front row of the Feature.
Polesitter Hayden Cardwell led until exactly the halfway point, but a costly mistake getting into Turn 1 slammed him into the outside wall, coughing up the lead to Matjoulis. Cardwell then wrecked in Turns 3-4, bringing out the yellow and sending him to the tail.
Matjoulis fended off pressure from Seay from there on out, and sealed the deal in the final laps when Cardwell nearly completed an amazing comeback from the tail of the field by beating him, and Seay, to the stripe in a race off Turn 4 to clinch his first Tour championship.
Evan Seay leads all but two laps en route to third Feature win, Bergeron runner-up in points
After going eight consecutive weeks of notching nothing but wins and runner-up finishes on the DIRTcar eSports Tour, Kendal Tucker is now a two-time DIRTcar eSports Tour champion.
An incredible season for the driver from Mt. Airy, NC – notching three wins, eight top-fives, eight top-tens and all but the first event started.
“It feels good to go back-to-back in this deal,” Tucker said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done that in a series on iRacing.”
But his podium streak was abruptly ended when some contact from an incident involving Alex Bergeron and Blake Matjoulis on Lap 5 spilled over into his path. Matjoulis and Bergeron came together at the exit of Turn 4, nearly sending Bergeron completely around in front of the field.
His spinning momentum caught the nose of Richard Murtaugh Jr. and then sent him through the Turn 1 grass, back up onto the track and right into the side of Tucker, who collected several other innocent bystanders in a wild flipping sequence in Turns 1-2. Tucker nursed his heavily damaged racecar back to the pits under the yellow but was met with terminal damage upon arrival at his pit stall, forcefully ending his night.
However, coming into the event a secure 75 points ahead of Bergeron in the Tour standings, the championship gold was not lost. Neither was the love between the drivers in the DIRTVision post-race interviews regarding the incident.
“Not much of a surprise coming from the 12 car,” Tucker said. “He has no regard for people around him on the track, it seems like. Goes into the infield when he had some bad luck and comes up in front of everybody else trying to compete for position on the track.”
Bergeron repaired his car, restarted from the rear of the field and went on an incredible passing spree over the next 45 circuits, crossing the stripe third by the drop of the checkered.
“We were definitely the fastest driver out here tonight,” Bergeron said. “It’s just sad that we get wrecked intentionally every week… We did everything we could and went from nearly dead last to up to the front.”
In the end, two spots ahead of Bergeron was the one true dominant force of the race – Evan Seay. The Chesnee, SC-driver led almost all 50 laps of the Bicknell Racing Products Big Block Modified Feature at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and scored his third $250 check of Season 3.
“It’s difficult to win these races with them being fixed [setup],” Seay said. “You’ve gotta figure out what line to run and be better at that line than everybody else.”
While Tucker held the virtual championship trophy high in Victory Lane at the end of the night, he was only credited with a 23rd-place finish, much to his disappointment.
“I definitely thought we could have competed for another win,” Tucker said. “It’s probably one of my favorite tracks on here, so for the night to end pretty early, it definitely stings a little bit.”
Tucker bags third runner-up finish and points lead, Matjoulis back-to-back podiums
Until Wednesday night, he hadn’t made a start with the DIRTcar eSports Tour since the final race of Season 2 in January. Turns out, Hayden Cardwell didn’t even need it to take down an entire field of iRacing’s best with the Big Block Modifieds.
Coming from eighth on the starting grid, Cardwell advanced his #07 seven positions in the first 15 laps around Lernerville Speedway to get his first taste at the lead, using the very bottom lane and sneaking underneath his opponents to get the spots.
“There was a lot of grip on the bottom early on,” Cardwell told Chase Raudman in the DIRTVision post-race interview. “If you could get down there and shoot off [Turns] 1 and 2, it was so much better than the top.”
Cardwell, the defending World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing World Champion from Knoxville, TN, made the pass for the lead on the Tour’s own defending champion Kendal Tucker with his left-side tires touching the grass as he slid through the corners.
“I got to second and then the bottom started to go away in [Turns] 3 and 4,” Cardwell said. “Kendal moved up, so I just tried to stay down there. By the time I got to the lead, the bottom was about gone, but all it took was him to get off the bottom in 3 and 4.”
Once Cardwell got to the lead, it was game over. He was followed in hot pursuit by Tucker, of Mt. Airy, NC, and Blake Matjoulis for the last several laps, which included a green-white-checkered restart. But in the end, they were unable to get close enough to try and make a pass, leaving Cardwell with the win and the $250 top prize after 50 laps with the Big Blocks presented by Hoosier Racing Tire.
“I kinda surprised myself because I haven’t really been in competition on here, probably since the [iRacing] Pro Series in Sprint Cars. It feels good to come out here after not being on here in a while and come out on top,” he said.
Tucker brought home yet another runner-up spot in only his fourth week of action on the Tour. With three second-place finishes and one win, he now has the points lead heading into one of the most unique car-track combos of the season next Tuesday: Dirt Midgets at Lanier National Speedway.
Matjoulis, the 127 Industries captain from Ashville, NY, followed-up his third-place run last week with another in Week 5. A solid climb from sixth on the starting grid saw him use the top side to his advantage as he finally reached the podium with less than 10 laps left on the board. The finish will bode well for him in the points standings as he chases his first Tour trophy.
The DIRTcar eSports Tour action continues next Tuesday night, April 27, with a featured presentation of NOS Energy Drink Dirt Midgets and their Tour debut at Lanier National Speedway.
Check out the entire race broadcast livestream for FREE on DIRTVision presented by Drydene or on the DIRTcar Facebook page at 7:50pm ET.
Houser leads most laps, finishes fifth, Matjoulis rebounds with second podium
Forty laps in Wednesday’s DIRTcar eSports Tour Feature at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Kendal Tucker only needed one to steal the show.
In one of the most exciting finishes in DIRTcar eSports history, Tucker, the defending Tour champion and Pro Late Model race winner at Charlotte from Season 2, pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the closing laps of Wednesday’s Drydene Pro Late Model Feature and beat Alex Bergeron and Tyler Schell to the line to win his third career Tour Feature.
“That was a wild one right there, to say the least,” Tucker said.
Dylan Houser, of Ocala, FL, led the majority of the race on iRacing’s new dirt tire model – a total of 33 under his belt by race’s end – and maintained the lead as he came to three-to-go with Bergeron and Tucker right on his heels. Tucker, of Mt. Airy, NC, took the most advantage of Houser’s scrubbing of the outside Turn 2 wall by throwing a wicked slide job as the three dove into Turn 3.
He clipped the infield tractor tire, somehow stayed with it, and raced side-by-side with Bergeron for the lead as they crossed for two-to-go. Houser jumped underneath each of them and slid his way back to the lead while Bergeron and Tucker crossed it back underneath him on the backstretch.
Lead in-hand as they took the white flag, Bergeron rolled high coming out of Turn 2. Houser drifted up into him and made contact as Tucker re-entered the picture underneath them both, also banging off Houser as they entered Turn 3. A final slide job from Tucker in Turns 3-4 on them both sealed the deal as he crossed the stripe and collected $250 for the epic victory from the 10th starting spot.
“No matter how far back I start, it definitely makes it a lot harder,” Tucker said. “But with these longer-distance races, it kinda bails you out if you can keep the car clean coming up through the field.”
With all of the insanity between Tucker, Houser and Bergeron in the final three circuits, Tyler Schell and Blake Matjoulis had been on a mission to capitalize. Which, they did, taking advantage of further contact between Houser and Bergeron to grab third and fourth at the line.
Bergeron had also made significant contact with the outside Turn 4 wall coming to the checkers. It was later determined that he scrubbed the wall through the entire corner and was therefore penalized two spots post-race for wall-riding. This awarded Schell and Matjoulis the final two podium spots and a career-best finish for Schell.
The DIRTcar eSports Tour action continues next Wednesday night, April 21, with the Hoosier Racing Tire Big Block Modifieds at Lernerville Speedway. Catch all the action live and FREE on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
Yeager impressive in Tour debut, Ducharme notches career best finish
Blake Matjoulis got his goal of competing for a DIRTcar eSports Tour championship started off right with a win in the season opener Wednesday night on DIRTVision.
“We got a couple wins last season, and to start off like this, it’s definitely some good momentum for Week #2,” Matjoulis said.
A 50-lap contest stood before the Bicknell Racing Products Big Block Modified field of 38 strong at Weedsport Speedway. Matjoulis, of Ashville, NY, had yet to win with the Big Blocks on the DIRTcar eSports Tour, but looked as good as ever, backed by his newest iRacing team at 127 Industries.
Starting fourth on the grid, Matjoulis chased down early leader Tyler Ducharme, of Bomoseen, VT, in the opening laps with fellow frontrunners Alex Bergeron, Evan Seay and Dylan Yeager. Matjoulis found his first opportunity at the lead directly after a restart on Lap 18, where he rode the high side of the slicked-off track surface and gained enough speed out of Turn 4 to nip Ducharme at the line for the lead.
“I found something in [Turns] 1-2 that was about a tenth faster every lap and was pounding the fence in 3-4. That’s how I ended up getting the lead,” Matjoulis said.
That move proved to be all the #127 needed to get the lead. But, holding it was a different story. While the top side got him the lead, the bottom carried him to victory. Matjoulis quickly swapped lanes to the bottom in an effort to hold off Ducharme and wisely held the line through the remainder of the race.
Bergeron, of Drummondville, QC, was riding solidly in third with just under 15 circuits remaining when a bit of contact with his competition sent him in a near-spin through Turns 3-4, losing several spots. He impressively rebounded before the checkers, though, climbing back up to a fifth-place finish.
This incident inadvertently allowed the resurgence of Yeager and his charge back up to third, which he completed on the final lap.
“Alex [Bergeron] and Tyler [Schell] got together and I was able to capitalize on that and finally get around Richard [Murtaugh] for third-place, so we’ll take it,” Yeager said.
Back out front, the caution-sprinkled race allowed those behind Matjoulis multiple chances to make a move for the lead, but he was too good in the slick. The 2019 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing World Champion got a great final restart after the final caution in the closing laps and drove off to his third career victory with the Tour and the $250 check.
Ducharme was able to hang on for a runner-up finish, the best of his few DIRTcar eSports Tour starts since his debut last season.
“Congrats to Blake, he ran a great race,” Ducharme said. “Once he got in front of me, I got back under him a couple of times. I’m not going to driver through him for a win, I wouldn’t do that to anybody.”
The DIRTcar eSports Tour next heads to the high, dirt-covered banks of Bristol Motor Speedway next Wednesday night, March 31, for a UMP Modified showdown in race #2 of 10. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision!
Former World of Outlaws iRacing Pro Series champ makes seven winners in seven races
He might have been racing from his house in Ashville, NY, but Blake Matjoulis was right at home at Rossburg, OH’s Eldora Speedway Wednesday night.
The 2019 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing World Champion led all 40 laps around The Big E behind the wheel of his Swindell SpeedLab #127 en route to his second career DIRTcar eSports Tour Feature victory presented by Hoosier Racing Tire.
Matjoulis cracked the whip right at the drop of the green, took the lead from outside the front row and made the 24-car field pay, never once letting any of his competition get too far underneath him in attempts to steal the spotlight. More specifically, his three biggest threats in the field – Alex Bergeron, Dylan Houser and Kendal Tucker.
Matjoulis and Bergeron stuck to the bottom in the opening stages of the race while before long, Tucker and Houser began to make the high side work. Those three swapped spots all race long, passing inside and outside and using every lane available on the track. However, this only allowed Matjoulis to ride out front comfortably.
Houser, of Ocala, FL, eventually proved he knew the high side the best and was able to close-off the runner-up spot to his competition just after the halfway point, then sight his sights on the leader. And Matjoulis knew he was coming.
“Houser was definitely good up there,” Matjoulis told DIRTVision announcer Josh Pike in the post-race interview. “He tracked me down a little and I was just able to hold onto the top spot. It would have been hard for him to pass, but he was definitely right there.”
With less than 10-to-go, Houser had caught Matjoulis’ rear deck lid and was gaining a tenth on him each lap. Until he made a critical mistake and scrubbed the Turn 3-4 wall with six laps remaining, breaking his momentum just enough to throw his chance for victory out the window.
Matjoulis held off one final charge from Houser and third-place Evan Seay in the final corners to score his second career Tour victory and first since the second race of Season 1, back in May of 2020.
“Definitely a close race between the top three, no breathing room, no room for mistakes. When you get to these races, it’s all about being consistent. Frankly, we didn’t make any and were able to hold on for a win,” he said.
The DIRTcar eSports Tour action wraps up in just two weeks’ time with the eighth and final race of Season 2 at Lernerville Speedway on Wednesday, January 27, once again featuring the ground-pounding, Earth-shaking, window-rattling Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds! Register today at DIRTcar.com/eSports and watch all the action live on DIRTVision!