Ryan Lowe won his first career race in the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series in only his second start, holding-off Allen Boes and Tyler Hill in a one-lap shootout at Phoenix International Raceway. Lowe took the lead from Trey Eidson on a restart with 15 laps to go, making a strong move on the outside through Turns One and Two in order to grab the lead entering Turn Three right before the yellow flew for a crash in the back of the field.
Lowe had to survive two more restarts after grabbing the lead, including the tense, final one-lap shootout. As the leader, Lowe had control of the restarts – good thing for him as getting a good restart was critical since the outside line was working through Turns One and Two. Lowe executed this to perfection, getting a huge jump on Boes who had no shot to catch him and had to settle for second, just edging Hill at the line. In all it was a strong run for Boes started fortieth after a poor qualifying run. Last week’s winner – Tyler Hudson – was fourth while Brandon Kettelle came home fifth, rebounding from a disastrous run at Texas. Edison, who had the lead before Lowe took it away, fell all the way to eighth at the finish.
The race was both competitive and chaotic. Seven leaders paced the field with Boes leading the most laps, holding the top spot for 44 of 156 laps. The pace car also led the field early and often with ten yellows slowing the pace for 38 laps.
The night started-off with Taylor Hurst leading the way for the first 34 circuits before Patrick Crabtree finally took over the top spot after a lengthy side-by-side battle. Once in the lead, Crabtree set sail, building a large gap over second place before the yellow flew, triggering a round of pit stops for the leaders. During the visit to pit road Crabtree slid through his box, costing him several positions on the track. To make matters worse his care was damaged on the ensuing restart, ending his chance for the win.
Being up front was no safe haven either as Josh Berry looked to be heading to the lead when he self-spun and found the wall off Turn Four, a theme that would become quite common throughout the race. Berry could not keep his car out of the inside wall which then sent him back up the track into the path of an oncoming Greg McKinney. Berry wound up forty-first and now has a large mountain to climb if he hopes to make it back into the top 20 in the standings.
By the middle of the race it looked as if the race would come down to Boes and Lowe, but Eidson entered into the mix when he took two tires during a pit stop under the caution at Lap 128. Boes would restart third after losing an additional spot to Lowe on pit road. This proved doubly costly for Boes who could not get grip on the bottom side on restarts and so lost a shot at the victory.
Hudson leads the NiPS championship standings after two of ten races, but things are tight at the top. Hill and Eidson are tied for second just nine points behind. Brian Schoenburg has quietly moved to fourth thanks to a pair of quality top ten runs and Kevin King is fifth despite a disappointing sixteenth place finish at PIR, a track he would likely consider one of his best.
One thing is clear for this NiPS season: the title is anyone’s to win. Several different drivers have shown they have the speed to run up front through the first two weeks which bodes well for the sim racing competition during the next eight events. Week Three sees the series head to the 1.5 mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, a track just visited by the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. Look for drivers who recently competed in that race to hold a small edge but, if the first two weeks are any indication, predicting a winner at Homestead would be a futile exercise. Who can come away with the win? Make sure to check out all the action next Tuesday night on LSRTV!