With only three races remaining in the 2011 NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship, (NiSWC) it is do or die time, especially for those still alive in the quest for the championship. Texas Motor Speedway played host to the sixteenth race of the season and saw one man rise above the rest. Championship leader Ray Alfalla passed polesitter Josh Parker for the lead on the race’s long green flag run and led nearly all the remaining laps for his third victory of the 2011 NiSWC season.
Early in the race, it appeared that it was Parker’s race to lose. He started on the pole and was quickly building a gap when a massive crash happened off of Turn Two on the second lap of the race. The wreck was sparked when Derek Wood made contact with Patrick Baldwin, sending Baldwin spinning in front of the back half of the field. The incident collected over a dozen cars including Brad Wright, Connor Mackenzie, Jameson Spies, and Pedro Mojica, all of whom were force to retire with crash damage just a handful of laps into the event.
The wrecking was not over as the yellow flag would fly three more times before the race was fifty laps old. Patience was nowhere to be found as many drivers were doing everything they could to keep from losing any positions. As the field thinned with each crash, the racing took a turn for the better. The middle part of the race was full of green flag racing and even featured green flag pit stops.
Alfalla moved into second place behind Parker when the run started and slowly began reeling him in. Just before the two ducked for pit road for service, Alfalla passed Parker going into Turn One. Shortly thereafter, the caution came out which saved Alfalla. He risked losing time to those who had already stopped by staying on the track until his fuel tank was dry. This ended up being the winning call. “With the way the race was going under green, I knew Brad was going to take it if it stayed green,” Alfalla explained. “Too much of a risk though, so I decided to run the tank dry. Yellow came out, and it paid off.”
For the rest of the race, all Alfalla needed to do was survive the restarts, which he did without a problem. Parker was not so lucky. He lost his track position during the pit stops and ended up getting crashed out of the race. It was the latest in a long line of disappointments this season for the JRM driver. Alfalla easily held off John Gorlinsky over the last ten lap run for the win. Teammates Steven Sheehan and Brad Davies were third and fourth while Bryan Blackford scored a career best fifth place finish.
Last week’s winner Thomas Lewandowski was sixth while Thomas Hazard had another solid run, finishing seventh. John Prather, Vinnie Sansone, and Chad Coleman also had great runs, finishing eighth, ninth, and tenth respectively.
More importantly than getting his third victory of 2011, the win moved Alfalla to the brink of wrapping up the championship and the more than $10,000 in cash and prizes that come with it. Alfalla would wrap up the championship next race with a finish of twenty-first or better. Not a lock by any means but with an average finish of eighth this season, there is no reason not to believe Alfalla will have a great shot at being crowned champion after the penultimate race of the season in Phoenix.
At this point, the battle appears to be for second place in the championship. However, stranger things have happened in the NiSWC and last year’s race at Phoenix was one of the most action-packed of the year. Alfalla seems to have the title in hand. Can Gorlinsky or Hazard accomplish the impossible? Tune into PSRTV in two weeks’ time for all the action from the Valley of the Sun!