Ryan Luza resumed his dominant ways at Richmond International Raceway Tuesday night, leading 179 of 200 laps on his way to his sixth victory of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series season. The win allowed Luza to all but officially clinch the series title with still one race remaining.
Darik Bourdeau and Jarl Teien both continued their stellar seasons with second and third place finishes, respectively. Chris Shearburn used a timely caution to score fourth despite suffering damage early in the race while Blake Reynolds rounded out the top five.
One week after not having elite speed at Sonoma, Luza was back to his top-flight self on an oval as he grabbed the pole and was in a league of his own for most of the sim race. Bourdeau attempted to keep pace with the Luza early but a flurry of yellows broke-up the runs, preventing Bourdeau from mounting a challenge for the lead.
The biggest incident of the night developed on Lap 29 when Casey Kirwan made contact with Adam Benefiel as the field raced through Turn Two shortly after a restart. The contact sent Benefiel into a slide which turned Colton Davis into the outside wall, all but completely blocking the track. The back three quarters of the field had no place to go and over a dozen cars ended-up piling into one another off Turn Two.
With the field considerably thinned by the crash, cautions became less frequent and the field was slowed just a single time in the last 150 laps of sim racing. The smaller field also enabled Luza and the rest of the leaders to enjoy an easier time with lapped traffic as long-run speed appeared to be the winning formula.
By the time the leaders headed to pit road under green around Lap 100, Luza had nearly a full straightaway on Bourdeau; he increased his lead even further during the pit stop as he undercut the rest of the leaders by a lap. With leaders’ pit stops being uneventful, the order at the front remained the same with Luza well clear of Teien and Bourdeau.
The next run was a near-mirror image of its predecessor, with Luza simply dominating the competition. He stretched his lead over five seconds and no one could match his long-run pace. However, a caution during the final round of green flag pit stops brought the field back together with Shearburn, who had yet to make his stop, at the front.
The yellow drew all lead lap cars back to the pits but the number one pit stall paid off for Luza as he was able to beat Shearburn off pit road and retake the lead without having to pass anyone on the race track. The final 40 lap run to the finish saw Luza easily manage the gap back to Bourdeau and Teien as Shearburn slipped further back due to his damage.
Luza’s victory brings him to the cusp of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series title with only Daytona left on the schedule. His pre-drop points lead grew to 182 over Bourdeau, who is now second after Bobby Zalenski struggled to an eighteenth-place finish. Zalenski now sits third and is comfortably ahead of Marcus Richardson and Brian Schoenburg, who are fourth and fifth heading into the finale.
With just Daytona remaining on the calendar, tense times await for sim racers around the tenth and twentieth place bubbles. The top ten will qualify as locked-in drivers for the 2017 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series while eleventh to twentieth will have the opportunity to qualify their ways into the three open spots on a weekly basis.
Can Luza grab an unprecedented eighth win to close-out the season, or will someone spoil his show? Might a surprise make it into the top ten? Find out next week on iRacing Live when the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series concludes at Daytona!