May 22nd, 2019 by Jason Lofing
Keegan Leahy made his first visit to victory lane of the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series season, dominating the later stages of the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The G2 eSports driver had some struggles on pit road and only led 49 of 200 laps, but his car’s long-run speed was the class of the field. A 46-lap green flag run to the checkered flag helped Leahy put the race on ice as he pulled away to a .944-second margin over Team Dillon eSports’ Blake Reynolds.
Polesitter Chris Shearburn finished third in his Letarte eSports Camaro after leading 106 laps for his first top-five result of 2019. Points leader Ryan Luza was fourth for Flipsid3 Tactics, followed by Burton Kligerman eSports’ Logan Clampitt in fifth.
“The car was super strong – it carried me to that victory for sure,” said Leahy after taking the lead from Luza with 33 laps to go and driving away.
While Leahy was dominant in the end, early on it was Shearburn who paced the field. The polesitter fought off an early challenge from Leahy and led nearly all of the first 35-lap green flag run. The caution brought the entire field to pit road, where Leahy found trouble by sliding through his box and exiting 11th. Meanwhile, Shearburn’s crew held serve and he kept the lead.
On the restart, Shearburn was challenged once again, this time by Bobby Zalenski, as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver tried to work the outside groove into the race lead. The pair stayed side-by-side for several laps before Shearburn was once again clear into the lead. Zalenski was able to keep Shearburn in his sights but was never able to challenge for the lead before another caution on Lap 69 slowed the field again.
Shearburn’s crew got him out of the pits first once again and he was able to hold the lead on the restart. However, a caution and subsequent restart on Lap 106 did not go as well for Shearburn, as he lost the lead when Zack Novak surged alongside Zalenski to make it three wide for the top spot. Novak eventually won the battle but on Lap 120 Leahy entered the picture, surged to the front, and began to drive away.
Another caution for a wreck involving Ray Alfalla gave the leaders another chance to work on their cars, but Leahy found more trouble in the pits as he once again overshot his stall and fell to seventh.
A flurry of cautions followed, breaking up short spurts of intense racing as drivers did not have to lift much in the corners on fresh tires. On the final restart on Lap 155, Leahy sat fourth, but he quickly climbed to second as Luza took the lead. After a brief battle, Leahy was clear of Luza and rode off unchallenged to the victory.
Luza’s sixth top-five finish of the season allowed him to hold the championship lead by 34 points over Leahy. Reynolds’ late climb to second in the race has him third, 51 points adrift. Garrett Lowe is fourth, ahead of Novak, who slipped to fifth after a 33rd place finish. Another disappointing race sees Ray Alfalla on the bubble, in danger of not earning an automatic bid to the 2020 season if his performance does not improve.
With 300 miles at Charlotte complete, the series will shift gears for Week 9 as drivers head west to Sonoma Raceway for the first road course event of 2019. Bobby Zalenski was dominant in 2018, besting Jarl Teien and Michael Conti, but this year brings a change in configuration as the full 12-turn layout will be run for the first time in series history. The unique conditions may give rise to a first-time winner, but they will have to contend with the road course aces if they hope to taste victory. Catch the action from Sonoma in three weeks on the iRacing eSports Network!