MIAMI, Fla. — Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — LSRTV audio — Jacob Seelman/iRacing.com photo —
Jeff Ward couldn’t have asked for a better way to end his championship season in the =RSR= Asphalt Assault XFINITY Series.
Ward, who locked up the title simply by taking the green flag in Wednesday night’s South Florida Shootout at Homestead-Miami Speedway, used a fast race car and luck on a late strategy call to lead 61 of the race’s 125 laps en route to his third series win of the season.
The victory iced the title for Ward by 44 points over Scott Simley. Jose Gonzalez, who entered the final race second in the championship standings, did not enter the race.
“I don’t know what to say,” Ward said on the championship stage. “It’s unbelievable. To get the championship and also get the win — I planned to ride and just get a top five, but when Jose didn’t show up I figured we could go for broke.”
Ward short-pitted just inside of 40 laps to go, and had just enough fuel to go the distance, despite having the most dominant race car all night.
“I only had 0.8 gallons left at the finish, and I got a little nervous watching it there at the tail end,” the Steel Horse Racing veteran added. “I’m glad we were able to hang on.”
Ward’s biggest competition all night was Dwayne Vincent, who started from the pole and led the opening 18 laps, despite a lap 14 caution for J. Randall Watkins, but after Vincent got loose on the restart and handed the point to Ward at lap 19, he never made it back to the front again outside of pit cycles for the rest of the night.
A late race committment line violation ended any hope Vincent had of going to victory lane, and left Ward able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“If Dwayne hadn’t had trouble, it would have come down to the wire and we might not have made it to the end, but thankfully it all paid off and we got a double down here at Homestead tonight,” Ward smiled. “This is exactly what I was hoping to do [in the XFINITY car] and we made it happen. I’m so proud of Steel Horse Racing, and to bring it home means the world. Hopefully now, we can carry this momentum over to the Full Throttle Cup Series side and get the ball rolling again on Monday nights as well.”
After Ward took the lead at lap 19, he paced the field until a second yellow for a Jimmie North spin led to pit stops at lap 25 and a strategy call by J.D. Laird, who stayed out to assume the point.
Laird held the point through the third caution at lap 33, also for North, before his tires began to give up and Ward reclaimed the lead at lap 42. The fourth caution of the race would follow that pass at lap 54, when Christopher Hurlow lost the handle on his No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro in turn two, socked the outside wall and then was tagged in the rear end by Scott Simley to end his night with heavy damage.
Once the race resumed, Ward would remain as the leader until his final pit stop at lap 88, handing the point to Vincent — who would try to stay out in hopes of grabbing a caution and trapping Ward a lap down. When the caution never came, Vincent came in hot to pit lane and drew his race-changing commitment violation when he crossed the access road grass at lap 98 — both taking him out of contention for the win and passing the torch to Anthony DeBaro, who moved to the front on a fuel-saving strategy in a last-ditch effort to try and steal the victory.
DeBaro’s fuel cell would run dry with nine laps to go, however, and Ward would cruise by and take a 10.703 second victory over Chad Coleman, who snuck by several cars on the late race round of pit stops to finish second.
Coleman said after the race that his three-way battle with Laird and Thomas George during the first half of the race was the most fun he had all race long — despite the fact that it nearly ended in disaster on several occasions.
“We got close a couple times in the corners, but going into one it was like playing with fire,” Coleman admitted. “It was tough to pass on that end of the race track.”
Coleman also added that the 10 seconds that he was behind at the end of the race was not indicative of how good his No. 20 really was.
“If I could’ve gotten caught back up late in the race, I think we could have put on a pretty good show,” the We Dem Boyz veteran said. “I didn’t lose much until I realized I was short on fuel — I only had a hundredth of a gallon in the tank at the checkered — but I’d have taken four tires and seen if we could have given it a final go.”
Laird, who came home third to round out the podium, also raved about the mid-race battle.
“It sucked [to race that hard] because we were having a blast, but Dwayne and Jeff were running away with it,” Laird laughed. “This race was too much fun tonight. Tires were the way to go late and track position was key. It was difficult to hold onto a pass after you set it up because of how loose the cars were — if we had a late-race caution, I probably would have taken tires and ended up in the catchfence to be honest, that’s how hard I was racing tonight.”
George and Anthony Palombo rounded out the top five.
All told, the event saw four caution flags for 16 laps and six lead changes between four different drivers.
With both the Outlaw Truck Series and Asphalt Assault Series in the books for 2015, Real Sim Racing returns to action on Monday, June 29 for the Toyota/Save Mart Grand Prix of Sonoma at the Sonoma Raceway, the first road course race of the 2015 season.
For more information on Real Sim Racing, visit www.realsimracing.com.
Audio with race winner and series champion Jeff Ward:
Audio with runner-up Chad Coleman:
Audio with third-place J.D. Laird:
RESULTS: =RSR= Asphalt Assault XFINITY Series; South Florida Shootout; Homestead-Miami Speedway; June 24, 2015
- Jeff Ward
- Chad Coleman
- J.D. Laird
- Thomas George
- Anthony Palombo
- Scott Simley
- Gregg Omo
- Doug Roth
- Matt LaCross
- Anthony DeBaro
- Jared Comeau
- Dwayne Vincent
- Wyatt Wolfe
- Thomas Lattimore
- Christopher Hurlow
- William Kempf
- Jimmie North
- J. Randall Watkins
- Kris Hohn (DNS)