HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Audio and recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — JScho Motorsports photo — Kenny Humpe had the fastest car on Tuesday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he used it to win the battle, but there was no one who could stop 17-year-old Michael Conti from winning the war.
Humpe bookended his maiden NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series (NPAS) powered by iRacing.com season with the win in Tuesday’s iRacing.com 250 from Homestead (after winning the season-opener at Daytona), driving away from Chad Laughton on a one-lap shootout to claim his second career series victory and second win of the 2014 season.
“What a night; I was shocked at how well this car ran tonight,” Humpe said in Gatorade Victory Lane. “Congrats to Conti, he had a heck of a season, but tonight I felt like we had the car to beat. It took us a few laps to get it wound up on each run, but once we started rolling there was no one who could stop us. That last caution worried me though; I really didn’t want to have to deal with that one lap dash but we held on and here we are. We won at Homestead, we won at Daytona; it was nice to close out the rookie season just like we started it. Gives us something to build on headed into next year.”
Behind Humpe, however, Conti finished third after starting on the pole, setting the fastest lap of the race and leading 43 laps, holding off his championship rival Ray Alfalla to claim his first series championship and becoming the youngest NASCAR-sanctioned champion in the 65-year history of the sanctioning body.
The title came in Conti’s third full-time season of NPAS competition and his 1000th iRacing oval track start.
“Man, I’m just glad it’s over,” a relieved Conti said during the post race celebrations. “We had a pretty good car there till the end when the caution came out — and I was really worried about people pitting or staying out and trying to play the strategy card. My car wasn’t as fast as Humpe’ tonight; he was really fast. I felt like I had some decent short run speed, but it was enough tonight. We had to see Ray tonight and in the end we held him off. I can’t believe it, it feels truly amazing. We did it, we did it, we did it.”
Humpe took the lead for the first time at lap 10 from Conti and dominated large chunks of the event, leading a total 124 of the 167 laps and weathering four total caution periods. The first yellow flew at lap 37 when Slip Angle Motorsports driver Bryan Blackford was turned around in turn three after a bump from Danny Hansen, setting up a green flag run to halfway and the beginnings of a pit stop cycle just before trouble at lap 86 brought the rest of the leaders down pit road and another restart.
Conti won the race off of the pit lane and reclaimed the lead until lap 111, when Humpe came back calling and took the lead for good. The rookie driver held on despite three cautions in the final 60 laps — one at lap 119 for Brandon Hauff’s spin off turn two, a caution with 11 laps to go involving Tyler Hudson and Steven Gilbert going into turn three and the final, race-defining caution with five laps to go when Hauff again lost it off of turn two and slammed the wall, bunching up the field for the final mile-and-a-half dash to the checkered flag.
As Humpe took the win, series veteran Chad Laughton chased him to the line for a runner-up result and a top five finish in the championship standings. Alfalla crossed the line fourth and missed out on his record-extending third NPAS title by a final margin of 15 points.
“First off, congrats to Michael. He grabbed a well deserved title tonight. Even if I had won, he would have had to finish outside the top ten and that’s something that he just hasn’t done this season. The race itself was mostly uneventful, but it was interesting to finish the season on a one-lap dash on old tires. It made it exciting for sure.”
Alfalla’s team, Slip Angle Motorsports, finished the year with a runner-up result in the standings in their first season of competition, a statistic that Alfalla was proud of despite the bittersweet outcome.
“For a first-year team, we may have been one spot short but we’re still proud of our effort after a slow start,” the two-time champion emphasized. “Hopefully we can make it one spot better next time around.”
Kevin King, who won earlier in the season at Texas, rounded out the top five. Cody Byus, Justin Bolton, championship contender Nick Ottinger, Brad Mahar and Chris Overland were the rest of the top ten finishers on the season’s final night.
With the 2014 season in the books, the focus now turns to the championship celebration in Homestead for Conti and preparation for both the NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series and the 2015 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series season. Who will be the players to lock themselves into the field for Daytona in February, and who will step up to challenge for the 2015 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series crown?
Find out in four months time when the new virtual season kicks off at Daytona International Speedway with exclusive coverage on iRacing Live and it’s affiliates, as well as behind-the-scenes content on Race Chaser Online!
Audio with race winner Kenny Humpe:
Audio with 3rd-place and series champion Michael Conti: