April 24th, 2019 by Jason Lofing
JTG Daugherty Racing’s Nick Ottinger broke into the win column in the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series, narrowly beating series points leader Ryan Luza of Flipsid3 Tactics in a three-lap dash and capping off a thrilling event at Talladega Superspeedway.
A late-race caution set up the sprint to the checkers, with veteran Brad Davies and his JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the lead and Luza on the outside. Ottinger and Mode Motorsports’ Cody Byus occupied row two as the race looked to be decided by who would receive the bigger push. The tandems stayed side-by-side until the last lap, when Davies surged ahead entering Turn 3. As the leaders exited Turn 4, Ottinger also cleared Luza, giving him the chance to challenge Davies.
Ottinger seized the opportunity, sweeping to the outside of Davies as the field entered the tri-oval. Davies moved up to block, giving Garrett Lowe room to make it three wide on the bottom, and Luza squeezed between Davies and Ottinger making it four abreast. Contact sent Davies spinning across the line, but Ottinger had just enough momentum to take the win by 0.029 of second, denying Luza his third straight win.
“I was on the verge of blowing the engine up,” admitted Ottinger, as he described how aggressively he was pushing Davies during the closing laps.
Lowe finished third followed by Davies, who managed a fourth-place finish despite sliding sideways across the line. Byus completed the top five.
The shootout was set up by a caution including four-time series champion Ray Alfalla, who continues to struggle in 2019. Alfalla had rebounded from a fueling issue during his first pit stop to lead laps, but another poor result leaves him sixteenth in the standings as the halfway point of the regular season approaches.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bobby Zalenski started on the pole and swapped the lead with Luza and Chris Overland early. Overland ended up taking control for much of the first fuel run but was shuffled back during pit stops. Luza and Keegan Leahy executed best on pit road and began their own battle for the lead until things got a bit too racy up front, leading to contact between Leahy and Eric Smith on Lap 49. Luza suffered some minor damage in the incident, but continued on.
During the yellow, Ottinger took advantage of a stellar pit stop to take over the lead. The eventual winner battled with Alfalla until the final pit stops on Laps 82 and 83, which saw Davies take over the lead shortly before the final caution flew for Alfalla’s incident.
Luza’s runner-up finish help bolster his championship lead, which grew to 48 points over Leahy. Jimmy Mullis is third, an additional 12 points back, followed by Michael Conti, who limped home twenty-ninth after sustaining damage during the Leahy and Smith crash. Zalenski holds fifth, a single point ahead of Daytona winner Zack Novak of Roush Fenway Racing.
With the final superspeedway race of 2019 behind them, the drivers of the eNASCAR Peak Antifreeze iRacing Series will shift their focus shifts to a pair of 1.5-mile tracks. Next up on May 7 is Kansas Speedway, which features a dominant outside groove. It will be interesting to see if the 2019 aero package leads to multi-groove racing, or if track position and pit strategy will be the name of the game. Be sure to catch the action on the iRacing eSports Network on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook as the battle for the playoffs heats up!