Ray Alfalla, two-time champion of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing, kicked-off the 2015 season with a victory at Daytona International Speedway. Alfalla, who started thirty-fourth, came out on top after contact with Tyler Laughlin as the two battled for the lead with three laps to go. The incident resulted in Laughlin crashing and flipping wildly down the backstraightaway which brought out a race-ending caution. Series rookie Patrick Crabtree finished second followed by fellow-first timers Nathan Wise and Tyler Hill with Byron Daley rounding-out the top five despite minor crash damage from an earlier incident.
Restrictor plate racing in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series always seems to produce a late-race pass for the win and the 2015 opener was no exception. With a dozen laps remaining Alfalla found himself with one of the few remaining undamaged cars after a flurry of late cautions thinned the field. Alfalla restarted fifth and bided his time until six laps to go when he moved to the outside lane behind Laughlin and began pushing in hopes of clearing Crabtree’s lead car.
It appeared the same situation would repeat itself for the third time in as many laps when the field hit the line with three laps to go. However, this time Laughlin did not pull down to the bottom as soon as he cleared Crabtree. Instead he allowed Alfalla to clear Crabtree as well which led to disaster for Laughlin.
As soon as Alfalla was clear of Crabtree, Laughlin moved to the bottom faster than Alfalla, who was still connected to Laughlin’s rear bumper. As a result, Alfalla moved too far to the right side of Laughlin’s bumper, causing Laughlin to hook directly into the outside wall and back in front of traffic. The resulting spectacular crash relegated Laughlin to an eighteenth place finish.
Early in the race The Drill Isle team had complete control at the front of the pack with Byron Daley, Danny Hansen, and defending series champion Michael Conti all running at or near the front. Unfortunately, pit stops and caution flags broke-up the dominance and it was downhill from there. Both Hansen and Conti sustained heavy crash damage in the second half of the race and finished thirtieth and thirty-first respectively.
Polesitter Nick Ottinger led two laps early and also looked like a strong contender for the win before crashing out on Lap 33. Ottinger finished forty-first and, like Conti and Hansen, is thankful the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series regulations allow one drop week early in the season.
With Daytona on the books and Las Vegas next on the schedule, Alfalla and the rest of the drivers who survived the opening race carnage will look to build off their strong runs while the rest of the field hopes to get back on track. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the first of six 1.5 mile tracks on the 16 race schedule and in order to win the title, a strong 1.5 mile program is a must. So it will be interesting to see which team comes out of the gate ahead of the pack when the green flag flies. Can Alfalla keep his early season momentum going, or will Conti and Ottinger once again be the drivers to beat at the downforce tracks? Tune-in to iRacing Live on March 11 to catch all the sim racing action from LVMS!