April 26th, 2017 by Jason Lofing
Rookie NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series driver Bobby Zalenski scored his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway Tuesday night, holding off Ray Alfalla and Ryan Luza on two late-race restarts. Zalenski took the lead on a restart with ten laps to go when leader Andrew Fayash missed a shift. Logan Clampitt, who was restarting second, also moved alongside Fayash as the three raced door-to-door into Turn One. Zalenski had such a sharp angle into the corner he could not keep his car on the bottom which led him to hit Clampitt, spinning the erstwhile series leader out of contention.
Zalenski escaped with minimal damage and had the race lead, but he would need to execute on one more restart with the two strongest drivers in 2017 thus far right behind him. The green flew with five laps left but before Alfalla and Luza could challenge for the win, Michael Conti spun Fayash entering Turn One leading to a race-ending caution.
Alfalla finished runner-up, right in front of Luza as both rebounded from their problems at Texas. Dylan Duval finished fourth and Zack Novak was fifth, the first time either driver has finished in the top-five this season.
Matt Bussa started on pole and led the race to the green flag, building a comfortable lead on Luza during the opening laps. Bussa led the entirety of the first run, only relinquishing the lead to pit for tires and fuel on Lap 53. However, Bussa would not return to the front after the stops as several sim racers short-pitted including Michael Conti, who assumed the lead.
A caution on Lap 59 brought nearly all the lead lap cars back into the pits for tires with Conti leading the pack off pit road. Conti would restart third but only took one lap to pass Adam Gilliland and Marcus Richardson to retake the lead.
Unlike the first run when Luza kept in touch with Bussa, nobody came close to matching Conti’s speed on the long run as the #5 drove off and left the field. Like Bussa, Conti led until pitting for routine service on Lap 106 and just like the first round of stops, a caution interrupted the pit cycle before it was complete, costing Conti and other front-runners some track position.
The final 40 laps were quite the wreckfest as drivers tried to gain positions after restarts. Chris Overland held the lead briefly but Fayash got by shortly after the restart. Despite not showing speed early in the race, Fayash looked quite strong out front and led until his unfortunate missed shift and subsequent crash one restart later.
Luza is back on top of the standings thanks to his third-place effort and Clampitt’s troubles. He leads Zalenski by five points while Clampitt slips to third, seven points adrift. Alfalla sits fourth, but is within striking distance as he is only 13 points out of the lead. Darik Bourdeau rounds out the top five, 32 points back.
Next up is a date with Richmond International Raceway, the second-consecutive short track on the schedule. Look for many of the same faces to be up front as Luza, Alfalla, Clampitt, and Zalenski look to break away from the field. With 2017 looking like one of the most competitive NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series seasons ever, can anyone break away and become the favorite for the sim racing title? Find out in two weeks on iRacingLive!