After 17 weeks of tough online racing, Ray Alfalla has won the NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship title for the second straight season. Alfalla came into Homestead-Miami Speedway with a comfortable 31 point lead over Michael Conti, stayed out of trouble all race and earned a solid fifth place finish which easily secured the title.
“What an incredible feeling,” said Alfalla. “A few years ago when I got started in this deal I never thought that I’d be in this position. Thanks to all the awesome people who have contributed to this accomplishment!”
Conti, who finished seventh, also took it easy for most of the race, knowing it would take bad luck or a serious mistake from Alfalla to have a chance at the upset. Unfortunately for Conti, Alfalla ran a flawless race. Despite not winning the title, it was a strong season for the NiSWC rookie, who pocketed a cool $3,500.
“What an incredible feeling,” — Ray Alfalla
The battle for fourth through sixth in the standings lived up to expectations as well. Patrick Baldwin looked ready to wrap-up the fourth spot, but a costly penalty put him back in the pack where he was then caught-up in a crash and was unable to finish.
Baldwin’s demise left Brian Schoenburg and Nick Ottinger battling it out for fourth and fifth. Whoever finished in front of the other would get the spot. Schoenburg looked to be the stronger of the two early in the race as Ottinger hung on to a very loose race car, but Ottinger found some speed after making adjustments in the pits. The two then had a nice door-to-door battle, with Ottinger getting the best of Schoenburg late in the going and earning the $1,000 for his fourth place finish in the points. Schoenburg earned $500 for his fifth place effort.
The battle for the Top 25 had less action than expected with only one driver falling from the ranks of automatic qualifiers for the 2013 championship. Nevertheless, history was made when Jason Karlavige became the first NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series driver to make the NiSWC without having to race his way in through the NiPS. Thomas Hazard was the lone driver knocked-out of the top 25, thanks to the fact he did not enter the race.
As for the race itself, Kevin King was a dominating force, leading 82 of the 134 laps. King could not be challenged by anyone on the track; the only time he lost positions was due to pit strategy.
“Going into the race I knew that I didn’t have anything to lose and everything to gain. The guys came up with a really good car, I put tweaks in it that suited me and we were really fast,” said King. “Thankfully the car was stout enough to make (the pit strategy) work to finish the season out leading most of the laps and winning.”
King’s win secured third in the championship standings and a $1,500 payday, completing an impressive rebound from a disappointing start to the season. Look for King to be a serious challenger for the championship in 2013.
However, the night belonged to Alfalla, who earned more than $10,500 in cash and prizes, including a trip to the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale at Homestead in November. With two straight titles in the most competitive oval series in sim racing, he is truly a model of consistency. It will be up to the rest of the field to step-up their game to prevent Alfalla from making a run at a three-peat.
So, who has the best shot of beating Alfalla in 2013? Conti had a fine rookie campaign and, at the tender age of 15, will only be better the second time around. King has the speed to hang with Alfalla at nearly every track, but his luck has never been the best while Ottinger showed flashes of dominance as well, but had frequent connection issues, dashing his title hopes. The wildcard could be Karlavige. He showed more than enough speed to challenge Alfalla, though he has yet to experience the full NiSWC season and all the pressure that comes with it.
Of course, only 25 of the 50 drivers have a spot on the 2013 NiSWC roster at the moment. The other 25 will be decided in the upcoming NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series season, which gets underway the last week of October.
In all, 2012 was a great season with close racing right down to the last lap of the season. The 2013 season should build on this momentum and it will be here before we know it. Alfalla will be looking for an unprecedented third straight title, but 49 other hungry drivers will have him in the crosshairs.