DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Audio and recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Slip Angle Motorsports photo —
The champion is back on his game — and for the rest of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze field, that could be a very scary thing.
Ray Alfalla took a dominant car to the high lane in the late stages of Tuesday night’s NPAS season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and ultimately became the first ever repeat winner at the World Center of Racing in NASCAR’s top-level online racing series.
The victory didn’t come without a little controversy, however.
Alfalla was pushing the No. 51 Monster Energy entry of Tyler Laughlin to the lead coming d0wn the backstretch and as the tandem cleared the lead cars on the inside, Laughlin started to move down the track and appeared to be turned ever so slightly in the right rear by Alfalla’s No. 2 Snowcone Productions Ford. The incident sent Laughlin flipping wildly down into turn three and Alfalla on to victory lane.
“It was a weird finish,” Alfalla said of the final laps. “The whole bumper hook with Tyler — I was just going down the backstretch pushing him and we both managed to clear the leader, and I was following him down and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen, where the front car gets turned like that. Normally it’s the rear car that gets turned.”
“For once in a long time it was something that went my way at Daytona — I just hate that it was at the expense of Tyler,” Alfalla lamented. “I was just just trying to stay in the top ten there at the end, but there were only 15 cars or so that could keep up. It was pretty crazy.”
The win was Alfalla’s 14th career NPAS victory, extending his all-time series wins record, as well as his second career Daytona 250 victory (after winning the season-opener in 2011).
“You can’t necessarily win a championship at Daytona, but you can certainly lose one here — or at least hurt your chances a lot,” Alfalla added. “I won this race back in 2011, but other than that I’ve had two speeding penalties and two wrecks, so it’s nice to finally come out of here with some positive momentum for once. We’ll see if we can’t carry that to Las Vegas and just see how things fall from there.”
Despite coming so close to his first career NPAS checkered flag, Laughlin harbored no ill will towards Alfalla for the crash and called it a “honest mistake”.
“I was told after the race that I blinked out and came back in there, so obviously we had some internet issues, and I believe Ray did too,” Laughlin said exclusively to Race Chaser Online following the incident. “He gave me a shot down the back and I knew right then there was a problem. We just hooked bumpers. We were hauling down the back, we both cleared the leaders on the outside — which none of us could do up front, so I knew something was up.”
“I tried getting low because I knew if I didn’t Ray would duck underneath me and when I did, we just hooked there and I went right into the wall — didn’t really have any control over it at that point to save it. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll come back from it and see what we can do next time out. ”
With the caution freezing the field, series rookies Patrick Crabtree, Nathan Wise, and Tyler Hill finished second through fourth, respectively — all career-best marks for the former NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series competitors. Byron Daley rounded out the top five at the checkered flag despite suffering some minor crash damage late in Tuesday night’s event.
The 250-mile race was rife with mayhem, including three field-altering incidents that took out several top contenders.
The first “Big One” of the night struck on lap 33 and saw the No. 77 of Andrew Fayash III warp into a spin in turn three and collect a host of big names in the chaos, including Thomas Lewandowski, polesitter Nick Ottinger, Benjamin Burmeister and Brad Davies.
Defending series champion Michael Conti was the dominant car for most of the event, leading 45 laps overall, but was collected in a lap 62 crash following a round of green-flag pit stops that started when Adam Gilliland spun in the pack in turn four. Conti would battle a damaged race car for the remainder of the night and finished 31st, two laps down.
On the ensuing restart, another quick caution broke when the No. 74 of Taylor Hurst, who led during the middle stages of the event following the green-flag pit cycle, looped around with help from P.J. Stergios and collected Trey Eidson, Matt Bussa and Brian Schoenburg when he came across the track and into the infield.
From there, Crabtree assumed the top spot and was the man to beat for the majority of the closing laps, enduring two more yellow flags over the final quarter of the race before Alfalla and Laughlin began their push to the front with six laps to go.
The lead swapped between Laughlin and Crabtree twice in two laps and looked set to change hands a third time coming to two laps to go when the push gone wrong sent Laughlin up into the outside wall and ended the race.
With Daytona in the history books and several drivers looking to dig out of an early hole, the NPAS field is chasing two-time champion Alfalla heading to the first of six mile-and-a-half tracks on the 2015 schedule, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Will the champ further his early-season push for a crown by going two in a row, or will names like Conti, Ottinger and defending winner Jake Stergios rise to the occasion and begin their hunts for $10,000?
Find out in two weeks time as the Sin City 250 goes green at 9 p.m. Eastern time on iRacing Live and FansChoice.tv, with additional post-race coverage right here on Race Chaser Online!
Audio with race winner Ray Alfalla:
Audio post-crash with Tyler Laughlin:
RESULTS: NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series; Daytona 250; Daytona International Speedway; Feb. 24, 2015
- Ray Alfalla
- Patrick Crabtree
- Nathan Wise
- Tyler Hill
- Byron Daley
- P.J. Stergios
- Alex Warren
- Alex Scribner
- Adam Gilliland
- Landon Harrison
- Chris Overland
- Matt Bussa
- Tyler Hudson
- Kenny Humpe
- Chad Laughton
- Justin Bolton
- Cody Byus
- Tyler Laughlin
- Brandon Schmidt
- Sascha Wesler
- Corey Vincent
- Bryan Blackford
- Kevin King
- Rob Ackley
- Trey Eidson
- Steven Gilbert
- Taylor Hurst
- Brian Day
- Teemu Iivonen
- Danny Hansen
- Michael Conti
- Jake Stergios
- Casey Tucker
- Andrew Fayash
- Michael Johnson
- Brian Schoenburg
- Brad Mahar
- Allen Boes
- David Rattler
- Benjamin Burmeister
- Nick Ottinger
- Brad Davies
- Thomas Lewandowski