Every week, NESN Fuel partner iRacing, the world’s premier online racing simulation service, recaps a race from one of its top series. This week, iRacing recapped the sixth round of the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series, which determines the second half of the qualifiers for the 2017 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. Read more about iRacing here.
Another week, another win for Ryan Luza in the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series and once again the victory came in dominating fashion. Luza started second at Darlington Raceway, took the lead on Lap 10 and held it for all but four of the remaining laps as he led 121 of 134 circuits.
The race ended with a 25-lap sprint to the checkers and Luza absolutely dominated the final run, putting 2.6 seconds between himself and runner-up Darik Bourdeau. Trey Eidson and Zack Novak finished third and fourth, just off Bourdeau’s bumper while Garrett Lowe rounded out the top five.
Veteran sim racer John Gorlinsky earned a somewhat surprising pole position over Luza and looked strong on the initial start, holding Luza at bay during the opening laps. As the tires began to wear though, Luza was simply too strong and Gorlinsky let him go on Lap 10. Despite not having the strongest long-run car, Gorlinsky hung around the top ten for much of the evening and finished a strong eighth.
After passing Gorlinsky, Luza would pace the field until past halfway. Several cautions kept green flag stops from taking place during the first half of the race and made moving through the field difficult due to the challenge of passing on fresh tires.
While Luza did have the strongest car on long runs, he seemed at least somewhat vulnerable for a few laps after restarts. Brian Schoenburg joined Bourdeau, Eidson, and Colton Davis as they all took their best shots at passing Luza on numerous restarts but never could get by the No. 1 car. Clearly, they would need something unfortunate to happen to the race leader to have a realistic chance at winning.
With a long run finally materializing in the middle of the race, drivers saw this as an opportunity to get on a different pit strategy than Luza, in hopes of gaining track position. The first lead lap cars began pitting on Lap 90 but Luza did not pit until Lap 97, with Schoenburg waiting an additional lap to make his stop.
This single lap difference in pitting proved damaging to Schoenburg’s chances when a caution flew on Lap 100 before the pit cycle had completed. While Luza, Eidson, and most of the other front-runners had unlapped themselves before the yellow, Schoenburg found himself trapped a lap down and needed the wave-around to make up the lap. He would never recover his lost track position with so few laps remaining and came home tenth.
Back at the front, Luza cycled back to the lead when Chris Shearburn and Todd Garren made their pit stops under the caution to complete the pit cycle. Another quick caution set up the 25-lap run to the finish with Luza leading and Bourdeau giving chase. Eidson would join the two and made it a three-car race for a moment before Luza drove off and left the field to fight for second.
Luza’s fifth win of the season also has vaulted him into the points lead even though he has missed a race. He leads the standings by 29 points over Bobby Zalenski, who struggled to a 13th-place result. Bourdeau is third, 119 points behind Luza and 70 ahead of Schoenburg. Marcus Richardson is fifth, but only 20 points ahead of Eidson with three sim races remaining.
With the holiday break on the horizon, Luza is likely the only driver in the field not looking forward to the two weeks off. Meanwhile, the rest of the field can hope to find answers in their quest to topple Luza from the top of the podium. Will anyone find the speed to run with Luza late in a run, or can Luza bring home his sixth trophy in seven races? Find out when the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series returns to action in three weeks!
All photos via iRacing