HAMPTON, Ga. – Ray Alfalla snapped a 25-race, 19-month winless drought in eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action on Friday night with a drive to victory that looked like it was from his glory days.
The four-time series champion and all-time wins leader charged from 26th to the lead in the first half of a 250-mile showdown at the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway, then rallied back through traffic in the closing stages to collect his milestone 25th career triumph – extending his record in that category.
Though it took 70 laps for Alfalla to pick his way through the field, once he got out front, his No. 2 Virtual Racing School Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had no equal.
The Florida veteran led a race-high 75 of the final 98 laps en route to victory lane, despite the fact that he was leapfrogged during a late round of green-flag pit stops by several drivers who short-pitted in an attempt to beat him. Alfalla’s final round of service came with 53 laps remaining of the scheduled 167.
The field’s alternate plans were ultimately unsuccessful, as Alfalla drove from 12th after the pit cycle concluded with 49 to go to take command for good just 19 circuits later.
A decisive pass of Michael Conti – who was among those on older tires in the closing laps – with 30 to go gave Alfalla the top spot for good, and he steadily extended his advantage over the field from there.
Alfalla took the checkered flag 1.976 seconds clear of runner-up finisher Garrett Lowe.
After composing his thoughts, Alfalla’s jubilation in his winner’s interview was clear, as he soaked in the emotions of being back on top following the longest drought in his 11-year Coca-Cola Series career.
“I guess I’m not washed up anymore,” joked Alfalla. “What an effort by everyone at Slip Angle Motorsports to get the Virtual Racing School Camaro up front. We’ve had a lot of good runs this season and just made little mistakes here and there strategy-wise. (At) Charlotte, we had a really good car and made a mistake on a lap-eight yellow … and then it went green the rest of the way.
“Everyone put in a lot of hard work this week, especially Eric Smith. I feel really bad about what happened to him early on. But he said ‘Ray, we have a winning car, so go win it.’ It’s been a long time.”
Lowe, who pitted even later than Alfalla did and had some of the freshest rubber in the field over the final laps, couldn’t cut down his deficit in the end and finished second for the fourth time this year.
Caine Cook, who was also among the last of the lead-lap drivers to pit under green, completed the podium finishers ahead of Chris Shearburn and Keegan Leahy.
Leahy’s fifth-place finish came despite two instances of contact earlier in the race that resulted in spins for other competitors. One coming together was with Brad Davies on lap 41, and the second involved rookie Graham Bowlin on lap 47.
Charlotte winner Kollin Keister, Casey Kirwan, Jake Nichols, Jimmy Mullis and Nathan Lyon were the balance of the top 10.
Reigning series champion Zack Novak continued to encounter bad luck for another week, sustaining damage in a crash before halfway and limping home to a 24th-place finish.
Novak currently sits well outside of the playoff cut line and may be in danger of missing the top 20 in points altogether to guarantee himself a spot on the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series roster.
The eighth round of the season marked the first-ever Friday night race for the series, which shifted its race back three days to accommodate a Tuesday event for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series from Charlotte Motor Speedway which was televised on FS1.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series competitors will now have a month-long break before the second half of the 16-race regular season kicks off on June 30 at the virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Next up for the 40 top oval drivers in iRacing is the annual All-Star Race, slated for June 16. Additional details about that event, including the venue for the non-points spectacular, will be confirmed soon.
1. 2-Ray Alfalla , 2. 21-Garrett Lowe , 3. 55-Caine Cook , 4. 36-Chris Shearburn , 5. 32-Keegan Leahy , 6. 17-Kollin Keister , 7. 23- Casey Kirwan , 8. 24-Jake Nichols , 9. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 10. 6-Nathan Lyon , 11. 8-Michael Conti , 12. 10-Justin Bolton , 13. 16-Chris Overland , 14. 41-Dylan Duval , 15. 99-Logan Clampitt , 16. 27-Corey Vincent , 17. 25-Nick Ottinger , 18. 75-Phillip Diaz , 19. 77-Ashton Crowder , 20. 42-Bob Bryant , 21. 14-Brandon Kettelle , 22. 5-Matt Bussa , 23. 66-Jarl Teien , 24. 90-Zack Novak , 25. 83-Bobby Zalenski , 26. 79-Brian Schoenburg , 27. 33-Michael Guest , 28. 3-Blake Reynolds , 29. 97-John Gorlinsky , 30. 88-Brad Davies , 31. 15-Michael Guariglia , 32. 54-Alex McCollum , 33. 9-Eric J. Smith , 34. 53-Ryan Luza , 35. 37-Christian Challiner , 36. 47-Jeremy R Allen , 37. 4-Santiago Tirres , 38. 51-Malik Ray , 39. 18-Graham Bowlin , 40. 1-Steve Sheehan .
Lead Changes: 12 among 10 different drivers
Lap Leaders: Corey Vincent 1, Kollin Keister 2-38, Jimmy Mullis 39-44, Kollin Keister 45-57, Jarl Teien 58-61, Kollin Keister 62-64, Nick Ottinger 65-69, Ray Alfalla 70-114, Michael Guariglia 115-116, Brian Schoenburg 117-118, Keegan Leahy 119-132, Michael Conti 133-137, Ray Alfalla 138-167.
Laps Led: Ray Alfalla 75, Kollin Keister 53, Keegan Leahy 14, Jimmy Mullis 6, Nick Ottinger 5, Michael Conti 5, Jarl Teien 4, Michael Guariglia 2, Brian Schoenburg 2, Corey Vincent 1.
Caution Flags: Four for 14 laps
Margin of Victory: 1.967 seconds
Time of Race: One hour, 37 minutes, 38.980 seconds
Average Speed: 158.022 mph
Pole Position: 27-Corey Vincent, 28.685 seconds (193.272 mph)
Fastest Lap: 46-Jimmy Mullis, 29.232 seconds (189.655 mph) at lap 117
Strength of Field: 6,862 average iRating