Alex Warren made it the second straight week an underdog has found his way to victory lane in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing, winning last night’s long, drawn-out race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Warren did not have a car that could win on outright speed but his gutsy pit call under caution with 18 laps remaining put him in the lead and the flurry of yellow flags that followed gave him all he needed to pick up his first win of the season.
The race came down to a three lap dash to the finish with Warren and Tyler Hill on the front row. Cody Byus and Kenny Humpe, the dominant cars of the night, occupied Row Two and looked to capitalize on the fact their fresher tires. However, the lead twosome got superb restarts and Warren pulled out to a car length lead over Hill as the field thundered down the backstretch. Further back, an intense battle for the remainder of the top five spots resulted in Humpe getting squeezed into the wall coming to the penultimate lap, leaving Byus and Nick Ottinger in position to challenge for the lead.
However, the two would not get the opportunity as contact between them entering Turn Three sent Byus into the wall. Deeper in the field, a similar incident saw Chad Laughton get turned into the outside wall and so the caution flew for the tenth and final time of the night, giving Warren the victory. Hill finished second and Ottinger took third ahead of championship leader Humpe and Rob Ackley.
Despite the high number of cautions the online race was one of the most competitive of the season with 15 drivers swapping the lead 25 times. Corey Vincent started from the pole, showing the speed he often displayed last winter in the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series. Vincent’s time at the front was short-lived as Byus charged from his third place grid position. Byus took the lead on Lap 11 and went on to lead a race-high 86 of 200 laps.
Byus held the lead until Lap 54 when Humpe took the top spot away during the first round of green flag stops. Humpe pitted a lap before Byus and used his fresh tires – combined with a blistering pit stop – to pull out a nearly two second gap on the former leader. The two stayed locked in their positions until a caution on Lap 115 bunched the field and gave drivers a chance to duck into the pits for tires, fuel, and adjustments.
Humpe won the battle off pit road but on the ensuing restart Ray Alfalla made a move to the lead, taking the point on Lap 124. Alfalla lost the lead briefly by going off-sequence with the rest of the leaders in the pits during a yellow flag but he regained the lead on Lap 147 after another yellow brought the leaders to the pits. While all the leaders who stayed out on the Lap 127 caution took four tires, Alfalla took just two and emerged with the lead.
After the restart, Byus was on the charge once again and passed Alfalla on Lap 156, just as the yellow flew for a crash in the back of the field. The caution was not what Alfalla wanted to see as his two tires would likely put him at a disadvantage on the next restart; that proved to be the case as the two-time champion dropped to sixth.
Things got even worse for Alfalla after he chose to pit with most of the leaders on Lap 181. A few laps after the race went green, Ryan Lowe got loose off of Turn Two and Alfalla plowed into him, sparking an accident that also involved Kevin King. Alfalla would wind up twenty-seventh after suffering heavy damage.
Alfalla also took a hit in the points, as he now trails Humpe by 58 markers: a huge margin after just seven races. Laughton also held steady in third despite his late race wreck but finds himself 70 points back. Patrick Crabtree and Chris Overland round-out the top five and are the only other sim racers within 100 points of Humpe.
In two weeks, the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series drivers have another 200 lap affair, this time at Dover International Raceway. Alfalla and Laughton desperately need a win to keep up with Humpe’s blistering pace, while the championship leader will look to take his fourth win of the season. Will a third surprise winner follow Warren and Allen Boes, or will one of the championship frontrunners return to victory lane on the Monster Mile? Catch all the action on iRacingLive!