It took eight races and a lucky break, but Ray Alfalla is finally back in the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship victory lane. Alfalla survived the early carnage and took advantage of a huge mistake by Nick Ottinger with 11 laps to go en route to his win at Pocono Raceway.
It looked as if Ottinger had sealed-up the win when he passed Alfalla with 20 laps remaining, but Alfalla tried his best to keep the pressure on. With 11 laps to go, Ottinger pushed it a little too hard and slid into the wall on the exit of Turn Three, allowing Alfalla to retake the lead. Ottinger quickly tried to close back in, but a yellow flag would trap him in second position and set up a three lap shootout.
On the restart, Alfalla got a great jump on Ottinger but third place driver Robert Hall got an even better start than Alfalla and drove it hard down into Turn One on the outside of the race leader. Hall almost cleared Alfalla on the outside, but the two made slight contact entering the corner. The contact was enough to send Hall spinning and the rest of the field scrambling to miss him. Not everyone was so lucky and it resulted in a spectacular crash that saw Brian Schoenburg, who was second in the points coming into Pocono, fly over the Turn One wall and out of the race track.
The yellow flag flew with Alfalla in the lead, just in front of Ottinger and the race would not be restarted. Polesitter Carson McClelland hung around the front all race long and ended up third. Brandon Kettelle finished fourth ahead of Joey Brown and Steve Sheehan.
Alfalla was thrilled to be back in victory lane. “I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the race, but the car ended up being pretty awesome,” he said. “Nick and I had a great battle at the end, which I really enjoyed.”
“Nick and I had a great battle at the end, which I really enjoyed.” – Ray Alfalla
He also expressed remorse for his part in the contact with Hall. “I hate that Robert and I made contact on the final restart, as I wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary into the turn,” explained Alfalla.
Ottinger, while obviously disappointed he let what would have been his fourth win of the season slip through his grasp, kept a positive outlook. “Had a good points night, I’m semi-disappointed with the outcome because of how I just gave it away,” he said. “It was shaping out to be a good finish and I know myself and Ray would have put on a great show.”
The first third of the online race was marred by crashes that resulted in more than a dozen cars receiving heavy damage. There were six cautions before Lap 35, most caused by overaggressive driving on restarts. Drivers who had the best pit strategy and stayed out front were the ones in best position to avoid the mess and come away with a good finish.
After the sixth caution, the next 55 laps went green. Hall led the first part of the run, but was passed after the conclusion of green flag pit stops as Alfalla came out of the pits with a two second gap back to Ottinger due to pitting a few laps earlier. However, Ottinger made the most of his slightly fresher tires and faster car, allowing him to close-in quickly on the two time champion to set up the duel for the win.
With both Schoenburg and Marcus Lindsey having poor results, the points standings have been shaken up once again. Tyler Hudson still leads the standings despite an eleventh place finish and now enjoys a 23 point cushion over Ottinger. Second through fifth in the standings is incredibly tight. Third-placed Alfalla is just two points behind Ottinger and a single point ahead of Schoenburg, who slipped to fourth after a rough race. Marcus Lindsey rounds out the top five, just two points back of Schoenburg. The top five are well clear of sixth on back, with a 32 point gap separating fifth and the sixth-placed Peter Bennett.
After the carnage at Pocono, the NiSWC shifts back to a mile and a half track with Kentucky Speedway playing host to Week Nine of the season. Kentucky marks the end of the first half of the season and it is safe to say the top five in the standings still have a great shot at a title.
Ottinger and Alfalla look ready to square-off for another victory but do not forget Brown, who has shown speed all season at the 1.5 mile tracks. Hudson, despite being the series points leader, is still looking for his first NiSWC victory and is one to keep an eye on as well. Check out the action under the lights at Kentucky in two weeks’ time on iRacingLive and MRN.com!