January 21st, 2016 by Jason Lofing
Nicholas Johnston (High Performance Motorsports) drove from the thirty-second grid position to win the season finale of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series at Daytona International Speedway. Johnston passed teammate and series champion Josh Berry to take the lead with 23 laps remaining and held on despite not taking tires during a late-race yellow. The victory also locked Johnston into the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series.
Berry was strong all night and finished second after leading 16 laps. After Allen Boes (Deadzone Racing) was caught up in a crash near the finish, Berry was all but assured the title barring a disaster during the final few circuits. The veteran sim-racer will return to the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series where has enjoyed success during past seasons.
David Rattler finished third, followed by Timmy Hill and Dylan Duval.
The race came down to a 10-lap sprint to the finish after Brandon Schmidt (Last Row Motorsports) and Ryan Lowe tangled off Turn Four. Johnston and Berry, along with several others, stayed out despite tire wear being a factor all night while Duval, who was running second at the time of the caution, led a host of others down pit road.
Duval restarted tenth but quickly began to move through traffic in hopes of challenging for the lead. He tried a bold move to the outside down the backstretch, hoping his fresh tires would carry him, but no one went with him, costing Duval his momentum. Before Duval could regroup for one final push, Mitchell Hunt crashed just shy of the start/finish line on Lap 97, causing the race to end under caution.
Early on it became apparent passing would be difficult especially after a few laps into a run when the tires began to wear. Polesitter Blake Bryant looked to be the class of the field early and led a race-high 25 of 100 laps, but he was shuffled back during the first round of pit stops, never recovered, and came home twenty-first.
Next, it was Allen Boes’ turn to lead the field, but he too was shuffled out during pit stops, this time it was Berry and Johnston getting the best of him during the only green flag pit sequence of the race. Once in the lead Berry appeared in complete control but Johnston took advantage of a rare mistake by Berry on Lap 77.
Berry was leading with Johnston and Boes side-by-side for second. Boes got a run on the outside line off Turn Four and Berry moved up to block. This maneuver hurt his momentum just enough to allow Johnson to get his nose under Berry, taking the inside away from the race leader. With his momentum stalled, Berry slipped back to second and Johnston went unchallenged the rest of the way en route to victory lane.
Despite his mistake on the track, Berry’s consistency over the brief nine-race season earned him the championship, a comfortable 42 points in front of Boes. Duval finished third, six points behind Boes. Hill (Aftermath Motorsports) and Raffurty (Trifecta Racing Group) each closed out strong seasons as well, finishing fourth and fifth in the championship, respectively. Further down the running order, Tyler Laughlin earned the final transfer spot into the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series, beating Hunt and Brad Davies.
With the NiPS done and NPAS still a couple months away, drivers who transferred will look to relax and plan ahead for the upcoming season. For those who fell short, they will either have to fight for the three spots up for grabs in the NPAS field each week, or qualify for the 2016-17 NiPS through the NASCAR iRacing Class A Series.
Berry and Boes both were the class of the field in NASCAR iRacing Pro Series, but can they compete with defending NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series champion Kenny Humpe and the rest of the star-studded field? Find out in just a couple months when the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series takes the green flag at Daytona!