March 27th, 2019 by Jason Lofing
Ryan Luza won his second eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series race in 2019, narrowly beating Keegan Leahy in a one-lap shootout at Texas Motor Speedway. Luza, whose dominant #53 Flipsid3 Tactics Toyota paced the field for 98 of 167 laps, was out front seemingly headed to victory when a late caution flew with 11 laps to go. The caution sent the lead-lap cars to pit road for tires with Luza’s crew holding serve during the stop.
Another quick caution after the restart set up a one-lap shootout between Luza and G2 eSports’ Keegan Leahy. Luza got the jump at the green flag and used the inside to his advantage, narrowly holding off Leahy by .055 seconds as others tangled coming to the checkers. Renegades teammates Corey Vincent and Garrett Lowe finished third and fourth, respectively and polesitter Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) used the late cautions to rally for a fifth-place result.
“I wish we would have went green, that was a lot more stressful at the end,” said Luza, describing the events of the last few laps. “I was worried about them going through the grass, but I was able to block it. Great race by everyone.”
Conti led early but Luza’s superior long run speed allowed him to move into the lead on Lap 26. The pair continued to occupy the top two positions until Conti pitted on Lap 44, unsure if he could stretch his fuel to make it on only two pit stops if the race stayed green. Luza, on the other hand, planned to stretch his mileage and did not pit until Lap 56.
After the cycle of stops Conti regained the lead but it was becoming clear that if the race went green to the finish and the cars on the two-stop strategy did not run short on fuel, Conti, and the rest of the drivers on the three-stop strategy, would be in trouble.
When Luza pitted again on Lap 112, it was clear he would go the distance on fuel. He held nearly a five-second margin over Keegan Leahy and Corey Vincent, but the chasing pair were faster and began to close the gap. By 15 laps to go the gap was nearing two seconds and while the caution a few laps later drew everyone closer, it also put Luza back on equal tires.
Luza nailed both restarts, as the 2017 series champ has put himself in great position early on. The new package, an unknown a few weeks ago, has not been an issue for the #53 team as it seems as though Luza runs up front no matter the rules package or track.
The win increased Luza’s points lead to 10 markers over Leahy, who kept his top-five streak intact through four races. With his first top-five of 2019, Michael Conti is now third in the standings, 27 points back of the lead. He is closely followed by Richmond Raceway eSports driver Jimmy Mullis and Roush Fenway Racing’s Zack Novak. Still notably absent from playoff eligibility is Wood Brothers Racing’s ay Alfalla, who continues to struggle. The four-time champion is without a top-five finish and sits eleventh in the standings, but there is still plenty of time for him to rebound.
Richmond Raceway, the first short track event of 2019, is next on the schedule. This will also be the first test of the 2019 short track rules package for the elite simracers who compete in this series, featuring the same high downforce of the bigger tracks and 200 additional horsepower. With the second new package debuting in three races, drivers and teams will have just two short weeks to dial in their cars in hopes of chasing down Luza and Leahy. Will anyone close the gap or will the top two continue to show the way? Find out in two weeks when the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series goes short tracking at Richmond!