ROSSBURG, OH – Finally. After three-straight runner-up finishes, twice behind one of his biggest rivals, Kendal Tucker is a DIRTcar eSports winner.
The Swindell SpeedLab eSports star finished second to fellow iRacing Pro driver Alex Bergeron in two of the last three races and found himself in a similar spot Wednesday night at the virtual Eldora Speedway, staring down the rear spoiler of Bergeron, who had led the first 19 laps of the 50-lap contest.
And after getting beat by Bergeron almost six weeks ago in the DIRTcar Pro Late Model division, Tucker wasn’t about to let it happen again. He made a terrific move to the outside of Bergeron’s ABR #12 on a Lap 20 restart, beat him back to the line and led the rest of the way to collect a big $300 check in the VP Racing Fuels Pro Late Model Showdown.
“We’ve been trying the last three or four times they’ve put these races on to win one, and we’ve been in contention to win them all, just had some bad luck and three second-place finishes to show for it,” Tucker told DIRTcar eSports announcer Hannah Newhouse in the DIRTVision post-race interview. “I’m just glad to finally get one of these wins.”
Coming from fifth on the starting grid, Tucker spent only a short time in the low groove before putting his #00 right on the top side and carefully began picking off spots in the opening laps. A big slide job thrown on Cometic Gasket Quick Time Award winner Evan Seay on Lap 10 moved him into second, about 10 car-lengths behind Bergeron, and Tucker’s pursuit of the lead began.
The race’s first caution was thrown on Lap 17, which re-stacked the field and put Tucker to Bergeron’s outside. Tucker got a great restart and carried his top-side momentum down the backstretch, taking the lead away from Bergeron as the field rounded Turn 4 and passed under the flag stand as another caution was quickly displayed, setting Tucker as the race leader.
This time, Tucker was the one to choose the inside lane for the restart and made the most of it, slamming the door shut on Bergeron’s attempt to drive down even lower as the field barreled into Turn 1. The two traded some paint before the exchange was over, but Tucker made it stick on the top side.
Now just past halfway, Tucker took the lead and ran with it. Making slight work of lapped traffic on the top side with Bergeron right on his tail the entire time, Tucker never once broke his concentration, leading the field all the way back to the finish and fending off Bergeron’s surge in the closing laps.
“He closed in on me with about 10 to go, and I started hitting my marks, being a little smoother and I started pulling away,” Tucker said. “I really didn’t want to give that one away when I saw him closing in on me like that. He was going to have to do everything to get by me.”
Once they were clear of lapped traffic, Tucker and Bergeron were able to break away from the rest of the pack using a very creative line, dive-bombing into the corners then pushing way up to the outside wall on corner exit. In the end, Tucker said it was his smoothness in this line that carried him to victory.
“I was trying to position the car to where it needed to be to catch the moisture off the cushion on both ends because the curb up there was really big and really fast,” Tucker said.
One spot further back found a stumped Alex Bergeron, who ran a great race overall and provided some relentless pressure on Tucker throughout, but was unable to come up with the kryptonite for the leader’s strength in the end.
“The right side of the spoiler was bent and that costs a lot of speed in these cars,” Bergeron said. “It’s tough to get in the race when someone jumps the start like that, so there’s nothing we could have done there. This track was just one-laned, nothing we could have done.”
Kevin Dedmon, the DIRTcar eSports Street Stock Showdown winner at Lanier, picked up the DIRTVision Hard Charger award in the VP Racing Fuels Feature after a solid run to complete the podium from eighth on the starting grid. He preferred the bottom lane at the start, and said it began to work for him as the race progressed.
“I was able to make it work a little bit, though, and get up to third by the end of the race, but it was just too little, too late,” Dedmon said. “I would have loved to have seen a caution there with 5 or 10 to go and seen if I could have found some magic at the end.”
The DIRTcar eSports action continues in two weeks when the DIRTcar 360 Sprint Cars tackle virtual Kokomo Speedway on DIRTVision! Drivers can register for this and all future events at DIRTcar.com/eSports.
VP RACING FUELS Feature (50 laps) — 1. 00-Kendal Tucker  [$300]; 2.12-Alex Bergeron  [$200]; 3. 0-Kevin Dedmon  [$100]; 4. 74-Blake Brown  [$75]; 5. 35-Evan Seay  [$50]; 6. 8-Tyler Jackson  [$45]; 7. 3-Barrett Bishop  [$40]; 8. 99-Mike McKinney [$35]; 9. 39-Ian Blanchard  [$30]; 10. 9-Chad Combs  [$25];11. 69-Hank Silver  [$20]; 12. 15-Brett Punkari  [$20]; 13.32-Bradley Bauer  [$20]; 14. 76-Broc Lawrence  [$20]; 15.7-Aaron Sparks  [$20]; 16. 46-Jonathan Nause  [$20]; 17.19-Chris Dolack  [$20]. Lap leaders: Alex Bergeron 1-18, Kendal Tucker 19-50. DIRTVision Hard Charger: Kevin Dedmon +5.
RACING ELECTRONICS Qualifying — 1. 35-Evan Seay [16.375] [$25/CometicGaskets]; 2. 12-Alex Bergeron [16.387]; 3. 8-Tyler Jackson [16.398]; 4. 74-Blake Brown [16.419]; 5. 9-Chad Combs [16.419]; 6. 99-Mike McKinney [16.483]; 7. 00-Kendal Tucker [16.492]; 8. 0-Kevin Dedmon [16.51]; 9. 3-Barrett Bishop [16.544]; 10. 39-Ian Blanchard [16.549]; 11. 76-Broc Lawrence [16.622]; 12. 7-Aaron Sparks [16.64]; 13.46-Jonathan Nause [16.688]; 14. 15-Brett Punkari [16.755]; 15. 69-Hank Silver [16.756]; 16. 32-Bradley Bauer [16.816]; 17. 19-Chris Dolack [17.973].
DRYDENE Heat 1 (10 laps) — 1. 35-Evan Seay  [$25]; 2. 8-Tyler Jackson ; 3. 00-Kendal Tucker ; 4. 9-Chad Combs ; 5. 3-Barrett Bishop ; 6. 76-Broc Lawrence ; 7. 69-Hank Silver ;8. 46-Jonathan Nause ; 9. 19-Chris Dolack .
COMP CAMS Heat 2 (10 laps) — 1. 12-Alex Bergeron ; 2. 74 -Blake Brown ; 3. 99-Mike McKinney ; 4. 0-Kevin Dedmon ; 5. 7-Aaron Sparks ; 6. 39-Ian Blanchard ; 7. 15-Brett Punkari ; 8.32-Bradley Bauer .