WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – Blake Matjoulis got his goal of competing for a DIRTcar eSports Tour championship started off right with a win in the season opener Wednesday night.
“We got a couple wins last season, and to start off like this, it’s definitely some good momentum for week two,” Matjoulis said.
A 50-lap contest stood before the Bicknell Racing Products Big Block Modified field of 38 strong at Weedsport Speedway.
Matjoulis, of Ashville, N.Y., had yet to win with the Big Blocks on the DIRTcar eSports Tour, but looked as good as ever, backed by his newest iRacing team at 127 Industries.
Starting fourth on the grid, Matjoulis chased down early leader Tyler Ducharme, of Bomoseen, Vt., in the opening laps with fellow frontrunners Alex Bergeron, Evan Seay and Dylan Yeager.
Matjoulis found his first opportunity at the lead directly after a restart on lap 18, where he rode the high side of the slicked-off track surface and gained enough speed out of turn four to nip Ducharme at the line for the lead.
“I found something in [turns] one and two that was about a tenth faster every lap and was pounding the fence in three and four. That’s how I ended up getting the lead,” Matjoulis said.
That move proved to be all the No. 127 needed to get the lead. But, holding it was a different story. While the top side got him the lead, the bottom carried him to victory.
Matjoulis quickly swapped lanes to the bottom in an effort to hold off Ducharme and wisely held the line through the remainder of the race.
Bergeron, of Drummondville, Quebec, was riding solidly in third with just under 15 circuits remaining when a bit of contact with his competition sent him in a near-spin through turns three and four, losing several spots.
He impressively rebounded before the checkers, though, climbing back up to a fifth-place finish.
This incident inadvertently allowed the resurgence of Yeager and his charge back up to third, which he completed on the final lap.
“Alex [Bergeron] and Tyler [Schell] got together and I was able to capitalize on that and finally get around Richard [Murtaugh] for third-place, so we’ll take it,” Yeager said.
Back out front, the caution-sprinkled race allowed those behind Matjoulis multiple chances to make a move for the lead, but he was too good in the slick.
The 2019 World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing world champion got a great final restart after the final caution in the closing laps and drove off to his third career victory with the Tour and a $250 check.
Ducharme was able to hang on for a runner-up finish, the best of his few DIRTcar eSports Tour starts since his debut last season.
“Congrats to Blake, he ran a great race,” Ducharme said. “Once he got in front of me, I got back under him a couple of times. I’m not going to driver through him for a win, I wouldn’t do that to anybody.”
The DIRTcar eSports Tour next heads to the high, dirt-covered banks of Bristol Motor Speedway on March 31 for a UMP Modified showdown.
Bicknell Racing Products Feature (50 laps): 1. 127-Blake Matjoulis ; 2. 25-Tyler Ducharme ; 3. 48-Tyler Yeager ; 4. 033-Richard Murtaugh ; 5. 12-Alex Bergeron ; 6. 32-Tyler Schell ; 7. 96-Gunnar Swanchara ; 8. 33-Evan Seay ; 9. 71-Keven Hebert ; 10. 213-James Boniface ; 11. 81-Bobby Sweeney ; 12. 0-Kevin Dedmon ; 13. 77-Brandon Planck ; 14. 1-Jesse Enterkin ; 15. 331-Dustin Hall ; 16. 17-Brett Rowles ; 17. 91-Felix Roy ; 18. 79-Maxime Plante ; 19. 114-Joe Garcia ; 20. 77-Blaise Baker ; 21. 2-Chance Carr ; 22. 41-Logan Rumsey ; 23. 115-Boddie Parker ; 24. 44-Mason Hammel .