Ryan Luza was back to his dominant self at Texas Motor Speedway, winning his fourth NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series event of 2018. The victory also brought Luza onto the cusp of locking up a birth in the playoffs as he looks to win back-to-back titles.
Michael Conti finished second, a result that also puts him in great position to challenge for his second championship. For a moment, Conti looked to have the speed to challenge Luza for the win as the laps wound down, but he ultimately came up short as Luza had too much speed very late into a run.
Nick Ottinger crossed the line third, also helping his playoff odds. Colton Davis came home fourth, a much-needed top five result in his quest to break into the top 20 in the standings. Brian Schoenburg completed the top five.
Keegan Leahy won his second pole of the season and looked strong early, pulling out to an early lead and pacing the field for the first 28 laps. Leahy’s speed fell off as the tires wore though and Luza slipped by on Lap 29 and looked to pull away. On Lap 41, Leahy decided to short pit and was clipped by Zack Novak as he attempted to slow off Turn Four. The damage and subsequent pit road issues led to a disappointing twenty-ninth place finish.
The track became multi-groove shortly after the green flag with some drivers finding success on the bottom while others made time around the corners inches off the outside wall. With plenty of room to race and a shorter than normal field of 33 cars, the race ran caution free, allowing for varying pit strategies.
The two-stop strategy won out over the three-stop, as spending less time in the pits was worth more than fresher tires. Often, the leaders can be drawn in by drivers short pitting as staying out on older tires can cost several seconds of time. However, this time several of the leaders stayed the course on their two-stop strategy and it paid off. The top six all played the two-stopper with Ray Alfalla in seventh being the first driver across the line who visited pit road three times.
With his seventh-place effort coupled with Leahy’s troubles, Alfalla holds a comfortable lead in the standings with one race to go in the regular season. He is 32 points in front of Leahy with Luza an additional 15 points back. Bobby Zalenski fell to fourth after a twenty-second-place finish and Conti is fifth. The last three drivers currently in the playoffs are Ottinger, Nickolas Shelton, and Matt Bussa.
In two weeks the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series regular season wraps up at Darlington Raceway with two playoff spots still very much up for grabs. The tight confines of “The Track Too Tough to Tame” usually leads to close racing, contact, and some bent sheet metal. Who can stay out of trouble and clinch a spot in the playoffs and who will be left on the outside looking in? Find out on iRacing Live!