RICHMOND, Va. — Recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — iRacing.com/Gale Force Racing photo — For the third time in five days, the story from Richmond International Raceway was simple: Total domination.
Nick Ottinger snatched the lead early and then regained the top spot after Danny Hansen ran out of fuel on lap 107, going on to take a dominating victory in Round 14 of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series (NPAS) powered by iRacing.com and making a sizable dent in his championship gap with just two races remaining in the season.
The win was Ottinger’s second victory of the 2014 campaign and his tenth career victory, making Ottinger just the second driver in series history to cross the double-digit threshold in the wins column.
“Tonight was a lot of hard work from the Gale Force Racing team,” Ottinger said in Gatorade Victory Lane. “It was nice to see four of our team cars finish in the top ten. We needed to rebound after Atlanta and having a really sub-par car and we’re back in (the championship fight) now. If we can carry this momentum over to Darlington and Homestead I think we have a really good chance to steal this thing.”
Adam Gilliland chased Ottinger for the second half of the race but had no answer for the Rheem Toyota and finished a season-best second. Two-time series champion Ray Alfalla finished third and shaved eight points off of his deficit in the championship, with Matt Bussa and P.J. Stergios each putting together impressive runs to round out the top five.
Chad Laughton, Rob Ackley, Cody Byus and Brandon Buie finished in positions six through nine. Michael Conti, the championship points leader, rounded out the top ten and holds a 17-point advantage going into the series’ penultimate race at Darlington Raceway, where Ottinger is the defending winner.
Alfalla started from the pole with a quick lap of 21.612 seconds (124.931 mph) and took the early lead at the drop of the green flag, and as fast as Alfalla was going forward, Conti was falling as he dropped back to a battle for 16th and 17th before settling in early. By the time Matt Bussa took the lead from Alfalla in turn 1 at lap 33, Conti had only managed to work his way back to where he started in 14th.
Ottinger took to the lead around his teammate Bussa for the first time at lap 41 and proceeded to check out from the field as an unusually-long green flag stint began to play out. The longer the laps went without a caution, the further away the Ottinger machine got, and by the time most of the leaders pitted at halfway, Ottinger had built up a six-second advantage over the rest of the field before coming down for his service.
Adam Gilliland stayed out to lead a lap at lap 100 when Ottinger came down the pit road, and then when Gilliland pitted, the SegPay No. 32 of Danny Hansen assumed the point before he ran out of fuel on lap 107, putting Ottinger back to the lead a lap later.
From there, it was no contest for Ottinger, despite two late race cautions; the first came out on lap 157 when Brandon Schmidt spun on the backstretch and ended a near two-race string of green-flag racing, and the second flew on the ensuing restart when Chris Overland missed a gear and dropped like a stone through the middle, ultimately causing the field to stack up and triggering a spin down the backstretch that swept up Brad Mahar and Steven Gilbert.
With just two races remaining in the quest to crown a champion, it has all but been whittled down to three drivers. Can Michael Conti re-extend his tenuous championship lead, or will Alfalla and Ottinger continue to charge in two weeks at Darlington and take the fight all the way to Homestead-Miami?
Find out as the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series takes to the track for the Too Tough to Tame 250 at Darlington Raceway in two weeks’ time, Tuesday, September 23rd, with exclusive coverage and content on PSRTV, the Motor Racing Network, iRacing.com and Race Chaser Online!