HAMPTON, Ga. — Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Evan Posocco/iRacing.com photo —
Jake Stergios is starting to have an affinity for the number two in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series powered by iRacing.
For the second time in three years, the driver of the No. 41 ineX Racing/Last Row Motorsports Chevrolet found victory lane in the second race of the NPAS season, conserving his equipment during a 63-lap race-ending green flag run and then using fresher tires late in the Peach State 250 to run down and pass two-time series champion Ray Alfalla for the victory.
Stergios led the final nine laps for his third win in the series but his first at a track other than Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he won in both 2012 and 2014.
“We knew that splitting (the last green flag run) up halfway is usually the fastest way to have success overall at Atlanta, but a lot of things can happen,” Stergios said of the strategy his team employed. “If you pit early and the caution comes out, it’s typically an advantage because if you pit later you don’t really make up the ground until late in the race. I was praying it would stay green and it did, thankfully.”
“When those guys gapped me by six seconds or so after the last round of stops I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to make it up, honestly, but I saved my tires and it all worked out perfectly for us.”
Cody Byus started from the pole and quickly shot away from the pack as he led the first five laps, but Gale Force Racing’s Brad Mahar came calling off turn two on the sixth time around and grabbed the point early on in Atlanta. Mahar would lead through the first caution flag of the night at lap 15, when a crash between Brad Davies and Ryan Borges slowed the pace and sent the leaders down pit road for service.
Mahar would again be the man with a plan when the field resumed under the green flag at lap 20, but he would be quickly overhauled by first Justin Bolton on lap 22 and then Michael Conti a lap later — who found the race lead at lap 23 after starting 15th on the grid in an impressive performance. Conti would handle the challenges behind him to perfection until lap 38, when Byus would return to the top of the leaderboard ahead of a furious four car scrap for the lead that also involved Bolton and two-time series champion Ray Alfalla.
Bolton would re-pass his teammate on lap 47 before the second caution of the night emerged a lap later for Nicholas Johnston’s spin exiting turn two. It would not shuffle the frontrunners much, however, as the No. 36 would lead the field to another restart and reclaim command, despite Dylan Duval beating him to the restart line to lead lap 52.
Bolton would largely hold command as a long green flag run broke out and ultimately saw Patrick Crabtree’s Ford come to life, finally wresting the top spot away at lap 70 as the Blue Ovals moved to the front two positions. Alfalla flew past Bolton as well to move to second, and would not be content to just ride. He would used lapped traffic as a pick to assume the point on lap 80 before he came down for green flag service, but moments after he led the leaders down pit lane, a spin by Casey Tucker with help from the No. 47 of Chris Overland shuffled the entire deck and meant that the halfway point was served under caution.
Following reorganization of the field, Josh Berry led the pack back to a restart on lap 87 but would cede the position over to Jake Stergios’ machine two laps after the run began. A spin by Adam Gilliland that collected Tyler Hill, however, would spark the fourth yellow of the night and continue a string of ever-changing pit strategy for the leaders.
Split pit strategy would shuffle the deck for the first time as Bolton returned to the front of the pack for a lap 103 restart, but fresh tires would propel Crabtree back to the lead on lap 110 and see an all-new battle for the point shake out as Stergios and Overland worked their ways to positions one and two at lap 125. Pit stops would follow under the green flag shortly after, and by the time the field cycled out with 30 laps to go, it was 18-year-old Wisconsin young gun Shane Dougherty who found himself leading on old tires — trying to use the strategy call to put himself in victory lane for the first time.
The gamble would not work out, though, as Alfalla would overhaul Dougherty with 22 laps left and attempt to set sail before Stergios had a chance to run him down. The latter did just that, however — taking 13 laps to catch and dispatch the AlfallaTech Ford on his way to Gatorade Victory Lane.
While it wasn’t the trophy he was hoping to come away with, Alfalla was still content with the effort out of his run as he moved to third in points with the runner-up result — all of that despite the Casey Tucker spin just prior to halfway that trapped him a lap down and forced him into a wave-around position inside of 80 laps to go.
“I just failed on the pit strategy,” Alfalla admitted after the race. “I was supposed to pit five laps later than I did (on the final run), but I didn’t do that and Jake had way fresher tires than I did there when he got around me. Overall, though, it’s a great effort by the AlfallaTech team — when we got caught on pit road by that yellow and were 35th I thought there was no way we could get back through the field. It was crazy racing back in the pack and somehow we survived. It’s still hard to believe we finished second; I’m still speechless but again, it’s a great effort for us and a huge start to our season.”
Overland soldiered home to a podium result in third, with Josh Berry and P.J. Stergios rounding out the top five.
Duval, Kevin King, Daytona winner Allen Boes, Bolton (who led the most laps with 33) and Andrew Fayash III were the balance of the top 10. Polesitter Byus faded to 15th at the checkered flag.
Following an off week to debut the new low-downforce package to iRacing as part of a new build, the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series powered by iRacing will return to action on Tuesday, March 15 at Phoenix International Raceway for the Duel in the Desert — the first of only two short track races on the series’ 16-race 2016 schedule.
For more information on the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series, visit wcs.iracing.com.
RESULTS: NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series powered by iRacing; Peach State 250; Atlanta Motor Speedway; March 1, 2016
- Jake Stergios
- Ray Alfalla
- Chris Overland
- Josh Berry
- P.J. Stergios
- Dylan Duval
- Kevin King
- Allen Boes
- Justin Bolton
- Andrew Fayash III
- Brad Mahar
- Nicholas Johnston
- Brandon Schmidt
- David Rattler
- Cody Byus
- Greg McKinney
- Nick Ottinger
- Matt Bussa
- Timmy Hill
- Byron Daley
- Casey Tucker
- Thomas Davis
- Tyler Hudson
- Corey Vincent
- Taylor Hurst
- Nathan Wise
- Dillon Raffurty
- Nick Furler
- Michael Conti
- Patrick Crabtree
- Tyler Laughlin
- Tyler Hill
- Michael Johnson
- Adam Gilliland
- Bryan Blackford
- Shane Dougherty
- Trey Eidson
- Kenny Humpe
- Ryan Lowe
- Alex Warrem
- Mitchell Hunt
- Ryan Borges
- Brad Davies
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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