Corey Heim fended off charges from Mario Merenda and Brandon Hauff to win round three of the Monday Night Racing Summer Series from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Heim was one of the strongest cars all evening as he and teammate Leigton Sibille maintained a constant presence at the front of the field.
Sibille and Presley Sorah were involved in a lap 125 crash coming out of turn four which left just a green-white-checkered to run. Sibelle was hung out to dry along the top after brushing the wall entering turn three and burning away some of his speed. That left Sorah in the middle and the pair made contact and slid into the wall on the exit of the corner.
The strongest performance of the evening came from Matt Stallknecht who climbed from his starting position of 34th to finish fourth. The aforementioned Merenda was second and Chase Cabre finished third.
Tonight was the third race of the MNR Summer Series but the second race with the NASCAR Next Gen car. This race was considerably cleaner than the series opener at Daytona which featured an astonishing 18 caution flags. Stricter rules on driver’s involvement and responsibility in wrecks as well as a reduced field size clearly made a difference in the racing product.
“I knew that if I picked the outside on that last restart and side drafted really hard and hoped that I had at least a little help, which I did, that it would work out,” Heim told the Podium eSports broadcast team. “With the way these cars are at speedways, the side draft is just brutal so if you are in control of that it’s a lot easier to manage your race. If you’re on the inside you just have to hope you get a good enough run to clear them and luckily the people to my inside never did,” he explained.
A second-place result for series rookie Merenda is a solid finish. The Oklahoma University student cited his inexperience with his competitors, and his competitor’s inexperience with him, as a factor in the final laps.
“I’m the rookie, I don’t know a lot of people,” Merenda said. “Coming off the backstretch I knew that Heim would side draft me and probably move up the track to get away from my side draft and I was afraid to follow him back up the track because I thought Cabre, who was giving me great pushes, might put me in the middle.
“I’m just trying to get to know everybody and gain respect in this league. If that situation had happened four races down the line I probably would’ve had a better chance,” Merenda added.
The Monday Night Racing Summer Series returns to the NASCAR Gen 4 cars next week as the field heads to Chicagoland Speedway.
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