January 26th, 2017 by Jason Lofing
The NASCAR iRacing Pro Series season may have belonged to Ryan Luza, but John Gorlinsky owned the season finale at Daytona International Speedway. Starting from the outside of the front row, Gorlinsky led 58 of 100 laps on his way to victory lane. He and polesitter Chris Shearburn dominated most of the race, leading all but eight circuits.
Alex Bergeron finished third, vaulting him into the top 20 in points, while Zack Novak finished fourth and Tyler Hill came from twenty-ninth on the grid to grab fifth.
The race started cleanly, with no cautions until Lap 71. The first run of the race was mostly orderly with Shearburn at the point for the first 34 laps and Gorlinsky staying attached to his bumper in second. The only major incident in the first run occurred when Luza experienced a computer problem and bounced off the outside wall into Trey Eidson. The incident looked serious enough to draw a caution flag, but with both cars off the racing surface the race continued under green as pit stops approached.
A few cars ducked onto pit road on Lap 28 and more followed in the coming laps but around half the field, including Shearburn and Gorlinsky, decided to stretch their first run past Lap 40. Shearburn finally lost the lead on Lap 35 when lapped traffic forced him to run a higher line and allowed Marcus Richardson to pass. He led five laps before heading to pit road on Lap 39.
Shearburn and Gorlinsky visited the pits one lap later with Gorlinsky taking full advantage of a conservative pit entry by the race leader. Gorlinsky’s much more aggressive entry enabled him to roar out of the pits ahead of Shearburn, cycling him to the race lead.
The second fuel run played out much like the first, except with Gorlinsky spearheading the lead pack. With most drivers looking to ride until after the second and final stop, things were orderly at the front as the laps clicked down. Lap 71 saw Gorlinsky and Shearburn call for service and catch a break when the first caution of the day flew just after they exited pit road.
The timely yellow allowed both drivers to cycle back to the front row on the restart, with Gorlinsky once again showing the way. When the green flew again the two locked together nose-to-tail on the bottom and proved very difficult to pass. Keegan Leahy was the first to try the outside but could not muster the speed to even get alongside the lead duo. A few laps later Novak jumped to the outside to try his luck and proved to be stronger, drawing alongside Gorlinsky for the race lead at one point before he too faded.
One final late-race caution set up a six-lap dash to the finish, but the Gorlinsky and Shearburn tandem was too strong. The rest of the top ten also looked content to stay in line, as many needed the points to have a shot at advancing to the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. Only Richardson made a move to the outside but, without help, he quickly faded to tenth.
Despite his early-race crash, Luza still easily captured the series title by 203 points over Darik Bourdeau. The margin between second and third was much closer as Bourdeau grabbed the runner-up spot by just three markers over Bobby Zalenski. Richardson earned fourth, a dozen points back of Zalenski with veteran sim racer Brian Schoenburg completing the top five.
With the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series in the books, attention quickly turns to the 2017 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. Luza’s Pro Series performance has surely got the attention of the series front-runners and three-time champion Ray Alfalla will have to be at his very best if he hopes to win an unprecedented fourth title. Will Luza and Alfalla battle for the title as many expect, or will a new face, or veteran of the series, emerge as a serious threat? Find out as iRacing Live brings you live coverage of each and every NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series race in 2017!