CONCORD, N.C. – He may be a UMP DIRTcar Modified kingpin in real life, but Mike McKinney became a late model star for a night during Monday’s inaugural iRacing Morton Buildings Late Model Invitational.
McKinney dominated against stars of the World of Outlaws sprint car and late model disciplines, as well as several special guests, to win the 50-lap, $1,000-to-win feature at iRacing’s simulated version of The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
The Plainfield, Ill., native led all but one lap in the main event that was extended to 51 laps due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Though McKinney’s domination appeared stout just by the box score, he was hounded for much of the feature by North Carolina sprint car driver Eric Riggins Jr., who ran second for most of the night.
In fact, Riggins did more than just applied pressure to McKinney throughout the first three quarters of the feature – he actually took the lead on lap 36 with a nifty turn one slide job to wrest command away.
However, McKinney rallied back the next time around to reclaim the lead with a similar move in turn one, and once Riggins tagged the outside wall and drifted back McKinney’s lead was never seriously threatened again.
It didn’t mean his nerves weren’t on edge, however.
“Man, my heart was racing through all 50 laps,” said McKinney. “It’s really tough being the leader here. It’s super tough, because you’re not really able to move around as much as you want. Luckily, we were good enough to hang on.”
Ashton Winger tried to make a run to McKinney’s outside on the final restart – which was sparked by a spinning Robbie Kendall with five to go – but couldn’t make the move stick and ended up in a heap at the finish line with Kaeden Cornell after the pair crashed across the stripe while racing for second.
Cornell was credited with second, while Winger held down the final spot on the podium.
“I kinda feel bad, I hit everything there was to hit on poor Ashton Winger’s car … I knocked the doors off that thing,” Cornell admitted during his post-race interview. “It was fun though.”
“I kinda missed (turns) three and four a little bit and got hung out where I didn’t need to be,” Winger added. “I think I was coming down, (Cornell) was coming up, and we were just racing for the same piece of real estate. But that was a lot of fun.”
Nick Stroupe and hard-charger Logan Seavey, who advanced from last on the 20-car grid, completed the top five ahead of NASCAR star Kyle Larson, Riggins, Michael Seibers, Nick Hoffman and Jimmy Mars.
Dirt late model superstar Scott Bloomquist, a late entry into Monday night’s program, made the feature through one of the twin Last Chance Showdowns and finished 17th.
As for McKinney, his fast race car came in part due to a couple of secret weapons behind the scenes, both of whom have plenty of laps in the iRacing World of Outlaws Late Model World Championship.
“From qualifying to the feature, I could put it wherever (I needed),” McKinney said. “I’ve got to give a big thanks to my engineers I had with me — Blake Matjoulis and Blake Cannon — they’re two drivers that run the (iRacing) Pro Series on here and I’ve spent a lot of laps with those two. Big props to them.”
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