Race Weekend Central

James Bickford Wins Caution-Plagued Monday Night Racing Summer Series Opener

James Bickford on Monday night won the SimWrapMarket.com 250, a caution-plagued opener to Monday Night Racing’s 2023 Summer Series from the virtual Daytona International Speedway.

Bickford beat Dale Tanhardt by just 0.026 seconds after a last-lap pass out of turn four propelled Bickford ahead of Tanhardt. Presley Sorah finished third in a race that lasted an excruciating two-and-a-half hours for just 100 laps. There was a total of 18 cautions for 52 laps, meaning a majority of the race was completed behind the pace car.

Bickford started the final lap in fourth and was the beneficiary of a bad push by DJ Cummings that knocked then-race leader Bailey Turner out of contention and a late block by Cummings across the nose of Tanhardt that sent Cummings spinning into the grass.

It took just over an hour to complete the opening fifty laps of the race with cautions flying seemingly every other lap. General impatience caused poor blocks, unsettled pushes, and a lack of awareness with drivers wrecking throughout the field. In addition to that, drivers were given one fast repair.

Those factors combined with the shortened summer series format MNR is trialing before its traditional full season returns later this year likely led to the increase in incidents. Due to all the cautions, which often flew at intervals ranging from zero to five laps, the race had no flow and no strategy calls needed. The longest green flag run of the evening was an eight-lap stint just after the halfway point.

The Evening’s Race Went Well Beyond the Florida Sunset

The first wreck of any serious consequence came with five laps to go when Gary Sexton swiped the rear of Sorah in the tri-oval, the contact unsettled Sorah’s car who tried to collect the slide but couldn’t avoid making contact with Sexton. Sorah hooked Sexton who then hooked race leader Corey Heim leaving the three-wide field behind them with no lanes to choose from in avoidance.

That crash set up the race’s first green-white-checkered finish, over two hours before the race started, which was used for a crash that involved the hosts of Frontstretch’s post-race show, Brandon Hauff and Michael Massie. One more crash set up a third and final green-white-checkered.

Under caution before the last attempt, Ford Martin spun DJ Cummings and was immediately disqualified from the race. It was not clear what motivated Martin’s aggression towards Cummings.

Ironically, the final green-white-checkered attempt went caution free and the field raced back to the line to decide the winner.

Next Monday, the series switches to iRacing’s Gen 4 and Chicago before returning to the NASCAR Next Gen car Atlanta on the following week.

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