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.
Donning a Taco-themed design across his 358 Modified, Former iRacing World Champion Hayden Cardwell took advantage of a starting grid mishap ahead of him and made it count, leading all 40 laps en route to his fourth career DIRTcar eSports Tour victory Wednesday night.
Cardwell was originally scheduled to start third on the grid, but was permitted to fill the spot when polesitter Blake Matjoulis’ internet connection failed before the start of the race. He took off with the lead at the drop of the green and ran away with the race, crossing the finish line over four seconds ahead of second-place to win the VP Racing Fuels 358 Modified challenge at Cedar Lake Speedway.
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.
Tucker goes six-for-six in podium finishes, Cardwell backs-up win with runner-up
For the winningest driver on the DIRTcar eSports Tour from Season 1, it hasn’t been an easy road back to Victory Lane. But six races into Season 2, and Alex Bergeron has finally gotten the monkey off his back with a win in the 305 Sprint Car division presented by NOS Energy Drink Wednesday night at the Tulsa Expo Center’s Chili Bowl track.
In short, it was “fighter jets in a gymnasium.” Lapped cars were everywhere. The entire top-five stacked on top of each other at one point battling for the lead. Nothing but 30 laps of near-chaos as these full-size winged Sprint Cars zipped around this virtual quarter-mile bullring, primarily intended for iRacing and real-life Midget competition.
And when all was said and done, Bergeron, of Drummondville, QC, was the one man that stood above the rest, taking the lead from polesitter Hayden Cardwell in a fury of slower traffic and leading the rest of the way for his fourth career DIRTcar eSports Tour victory.
“It got a bit tricky there with the lapped cars, but we knew going into this race that it was going to happen,” Bergeron told announcer Chase Raudman in the DIRTVision post-race interview. “This track is so small and it’s bizarre to see these kinds of cars on this track, but it was fun to race and the competition [level] was high. We’re glad to be on top here tonight.”
Cardwell, of Knoxville, TN, had been leading from the drop of the green when, in digging though the rear of the 20-car field, he and the rest of the top-five cars all came up on a large group of slower traffic as they completed Lap 15. Colt Currie and Jesse Enterkin were battling for position when they made contact right in front of the leaders, forcing Cardwell to take evasive action out of his low groove, which left the door open for Bergeron to slip by underneath.
“I just made a couple mistakes in lapped traffic, and if you leave a hole open here, someone’s gonna push through. That’s what Alex did, and he capitalized,” Cardwell said of the pass for the lead.
However, Cardwell lost more than just the lead in the exchange. With the extremely limited racing room on the track, the two wheel-banged a couple times down the front-stretch, sending Cardwell into a pinball-like bounce off of each of the other top-five cars on his way backwards. When it was all over, Cardwell had gone from the lead to fifth in half a lap.
With a never-say-die attitude, Cardwell immediately got back on his horse and took it to the top-side, regaining three of his lost spots before the final caution flag was displayed with three-to-go.
“I feel like this one kinda got away from us,” Cardwell said. “We wanted to be the first ones to go back-to-back on this tour, but some things just aren’t meant to happen.”
Now with a clear track in front of him, it was all Team ABR #12. Bergeron cruised to the checkers for the $250 victory.
While Cardwell was able to hang on for second, just one week after getting a win with the UMP Modifieds at Fairbury, current Tour points leader Kendal Tucker crossed in third for his sixth-consecutive podium finish. He had one shot at Bergeron before the final yellow was thrown, but more lapped traffic got in his lane and slowed him down, allowing Bergeron to pull away on the top side.
All-in-all, Tucker, of Mt. Airy, NC, has been nothing short of spectacular in Season 2, earning almost $1,000 total in prize money since the start of the Tour one month ago. All he’ll need to do is maintain his consistency over the final two races to secure the points championship.
“It feels pretty good to keep running as consistent as we have been. That’s the sixth top-five and we haven’t finished outside of the top-three, actually, so it’s pretty cool to be that consistent with all these races and all these different types of cars,” Tucker said.
The DIRTcar eSports Tour action continues next Wednesday night, Jan. 13, with Round #7 – Pro Late Models presented by Hoosier Racing Tire at Eldora Speedway. Sign up today at DIRTcar.com/eSports or watch all the action live on DIRTVision!
Tucker runner-up for third time in Season 2, retains points lead after lapped-car tangle
Just two weeks after suffering a last-place finish in his DIRTcar eSports Tour Season 2 debut, Hayden Cardwell now sings a sweet song of redemption.
The iRacing Pro driver from Knoxville, TN, exited the DIRTcar eSports Tour lobby early back on December 16, his Season 2 debut in shambles after starting on the pole of the Big-Block Modified Feature and crashing out less than 10 laps in.
But Wednesday night made up for all of that, as he took his Mike McKinney-identical #96m-painted Summit Racing Equipment UMP Modified to Victory Lane at the Fairbury Speedway for the second time in his DIRTcar eSports career, picking up the $250 winner’s check for the first time since July 1 in Season 1.
“It means a lot to come out here and pick up a win in something that isn’t a Sprint Car,” Cardwell told announcer Chase Raudman in the DIRTVision post-race interview. “It feels pretty good.”
Cardwell began his march to Victory Lane from fourth on the starting grid and had front-row seats to a slide job-fest in the opening laps between polesitters Austin Carr and current Tour points leader Kendal Tucker.
Tucker, of Mt. Airy, NC, eventually won the passing battle and began to open up a gap between he, Carr, Cardwell and 2019 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing World Champion Blake Matjoulis.
Cardwell eventually wrestled the runner-up spot away from Carr and set his sights on leader Tucker. He stayed glued to the top side of the virtual quarter-mile and closed the gap on Tucker as the race neared the halfway point. Then, opportunity knocked.
The slower lapped car of David Ortiz II had been running right through the middle groove when Tucker reached his rear bumper and dove to the inside in an attempt to make the pass; Cardwell a half-car-length behind. Tucker slid up the track and right into the side of Ortiz, throwing him off-kilter, opening the door for Cardwell to make the pass on the top.
“I much rather would have gotten passed straight-up than getting into it with a lapped car right there,” Tucker said of the incident. “[Ortiz] was entering in the middle in no-man’s land and I was trying to slide him, but… he should have gotten out of the way in my opinion, but that’s just racing. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Cardwell raced into the lead as they crossed the line to complete Lap 17, Tucker a few car-lengths behind. One final restart gave Tucker and Matjoulis behind him a chance to make a move, but both stumbled as the green flag dropped, allowing Cardwell to pull away and bring it back home for his second career DIRTcar eSports Tour victory.
“They are probably one of the hardest cars to run on the top, in my opinion,” said Cardwell, an iRacing Sprint Car regular, of piloting the DIRTcar UMP Modified. “In these, it’s kinda tricky because if you barely miss it, you’ll be off the pace. But if you get the right-rear in the wall too much and the front end comes around, you’ll pretty much knock the right front off and can’t drive it anymore.”
Despite the earlier tangle with the lapped car, Tucker was able to nurse his beaten Swindell SpeedLab eSports #00 home to his fifth-straight podium finish of Season 2. Bottom-feeding for most of the 40-lap contest, Tucker once tried the high line but couldn’t make it work in order to regain the lead.
“I just had too much damage to run up there with them guys. Luckily, I was able to put around that bottom on the slider line in [Turns] 3 and 4 and keep enough speed to keep them guys behind me,” Tucker said.
Matjoulis crossed the line in third after a solid outing in only his third appearance with the Tour this season. Coming from fifth, the Ashville, NY-native picked up $100 for his efforts, but was left with much to be desired from his performance.
“Hayden would have been hard to get by,” Matjoulis commented on his perceived chances to make a move for the lead. “I couldn’t pass; just couldn’t go anywhere. In [turns] 1 and 2, there were a couple grooves but in 3 and 4, it was so single-lane. It was a bummer, honestly.”
The DIRTcar eSports Tour action picks back up next Wednesday night, Jan. 6, with the NOS Energy Drink 305 Sprint Cars at the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, OK. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision!
KOKOMO, IN – 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.
DIRTcar eSPORTS SHOWDOWN; 360 Sprints at Virtual Kokomo Speedway; July 1, 2020 RESULTS