Allen Boes opened the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series powered by iRacing.com season with a thrilling victory at Daytona International Speedway, beating Brandon Schmidt and PJ Stergios in an abbreviated green-white-checker run to the finish.
Boes (Deadzone) found himself out front when the caution flew on Lap 94 of 100 for a crash further back in the field. The yellow allowed the leaders, who were all borderline on fuel, to conserve enough to go the distance and when the green flew on Lap 99 the battle for the win was on.
Stergios started on the outside of the front row on the restart and began to make his move down the back straightaway, using a timely push from Schmidt (Last Row Motorsports). As Boes headed to turn three Stergios inched to his outside, but worn tires combined with a hot, slick race track were about to make turn three very interesting.
Almost every single car overestimated the grip level and slid up the track. Stergios grazed the wall as he fought to stay alongside Boes then made contact with the race leader. The impact killed Stergios’ momentum, along with his chance at victory.
The contact set up Schmidt to make a charge up the inside as the leaders came off turn four to take the white flag. Schmidt drew alongside Boes at the exit of the corner and the two cars came together. The contact sent Schmidt into a slide, just as Casey Tucker spun in front of the back half of the field.
The caution flew before the leaders could take the white flag, with Boes just in front of a sliding Schmidt when the caution lights illuminated. Schmidt regained control and held onto second followed by Corey Vincent (Premiere Motorsports Group) and Timmy Hill (Aftermath Motorsports and current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver). Stergios faded to fifth after his brush with Boes and the turn three wall.
Initially, the race looked as if it would come down to fuel mileage after a caution on Lap 51 which put many drivers into a window to go the distance without stopping again if they could save a couple laps of fuel. A handful of drivers including reigning NPAS champion Kenny Humpe (The TEAM) decided against saving fuel and pitted in hopes the rest of the field would run out before the finish.
As the laps clicked down the strategy to pit appeared to have a chance at paying off as the pack of drivers who stayed out were running so slowly in an attempt to save fuel they were in danger of being run down by the cars with plenty of gas in the tank.
Unfortunately, the late-race caution did not allow the differing strategies to play out. The drivers that pitted under green and were not involved in the crash had little hope of securing a good finish with just two laps of racing remaining.
For the first time in the history of NPAS handling was an issue at Daytona. The drivers fought with ill-handling cars all race and passing proved difficult after the tires heated up. While the racing may not have been as close in years past, the race was more in the hands of the drivers instead of luck. Handling and a looser pack also contributed to less crashes as thirty-six cars finished the race, thirty-four of which were on the lead lap when the checkers flew.
The NPAS will go without an off week between the first and second races of the season as Atlanta Motor Speedway is due up next Tuesday. Atlanta is the first 1.5-mile track of six such circuits on the schedule and the race should be a great litmus test for which teams have done their homework over the offseason. Boes will look to continue his recent hot streak on the intermediate tracks, which dates back to the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series, but Humpe and the rest of the NPAS veterans will likely be hard to beat.
Who will come out of Atlanta in good position early in the season and who will have already dug themselves a hole? Tune into iRacingLive next Tuesday at 9pm ET to catch the action!