This MNR Review is presented by Monday Night Racing.
MNR’s Summer Bash Series pressed on with the second of four Next Gen Races, this one taking place at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Monday, July 10. It was the first time this summer that James Bickford did not visit victory lane. Instead, Corey Heim took the checkered flag, fending off multiple challenges in the closing laps.
Here are the key storylines from the 130 laps at Atlanta:
- Rule Changes Improve Racing Product
To say that the first Next Gen race at Daytona was sloppy would probably be putting it lightly. Going by the numbers, the Daytona race featured 18 yellow flags, 52 of the 110 laps were run under the caution flag, and the drivers combined to accrue more than 1,300 incident points.
It was clear that changes needed to be made, and MNR did just that prior to the Gen 4 opener at Charlotte two weeks ago. The notable rule adjustments included no fast repairs, incident point limitations, and a reduction in the field size.
The new race procedures reaped immediate benefits, with cleaner racing and fewer cautions in the Gen 4 race at Charlotte. However, the question remained: would the rule changes improve the superspeedway racing?
After Atlanta, it is safe to say that the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. With only seven cautions, the superspeedway racing took a big step forward.
2) Heim On a Hot Streak
It has been a great few days behind the wheel for Heim. On Saturday, July 7, Heim picked up his second win of the Craftsman Truck Series at Mid-Ohio, taking the series’ points lead by 26 over Zane Smith.
Heim’s run of success carried over to the virtual race track, as the Georgia native made his way quickly to the front from his 18th starting spot. Once Heim took the lead for the first time on lap 34, he rarely relinquished it. A late wreck between Leighton Sibille and Presley Sorah set up a two-lap sprint to the finish to put a little scare in Heim, but he staved off the field for his sixth career MNR win. Heim is also the reigning MNR Pro Series champion.
Will Heim’s strong performance carry over to the rest of the Truck Series and MNR seasons? Time will tell.
3) So Close Yet So Far for Hauff
Frontstretch’s own Brandon Hauff acquainted himself well against the MNR competition at Atlanta, putting himself in contention for the win at the end. Starting 13th on the grid, Hauff had his work cut out from him a bit, but he steered his way to the top 10 by lap 13. Hauff then became a mainstay in the top five during the race’s second half.
In the final two-lap shootout, Hauff lined up second on the outside lane behind eventual race winner Heim. On the final lap, Hauff pushed Heim clear of Mario Merenda, but he was not content with running second. Hauff peeked to the outside of Heim through turns three and four, but contact with Michael Fisher turned Hauff around, relegating him to a 14th-place finish. Nonetheless, it was a great effort from Hauff.
“Every single one of these races I feel like at the end of it, I’m always there, but something just prevents me from getting to the top three, getting to that win,” Hauff said on the Frontstretch post-race show. “Tonight I felt like was my best shot to do it. But I tell you what, that was a really fun race to be a part of.”
4) Next Week: Gen 4 Cars at Chicagoland
Next Monday, July 17, the Gen 4 cars take center stage again at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The track and car combination presents a great deal of intrigue. The Gen 4s are popular among many NASCAR and iRacing fans alike, and Chicagoland produced its fair share of great finishes over the years. In fact, some fans are clamoring for Chicagoland’s return to the NASCAR schedule. It will be interesting to see the Gen 4s at Chicagoland again in a virtual setting next week.
About the author
Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.
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