April 9, 2014 — Audio and story by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Race Chaser Online — iRacing.com photo — FORT WORTH, TX — Right place. Right time.
Those four words described Kevin King’s night perfectly at Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday night during the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series (NPAS) powered by iRacing.com. After signing brand-new sponsorship from Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) the day before the event, King managed to cut through a crash between race leaders Chad Laughton and Ray Alfalla coming off of Turn Two, sneaking through the carnage and holding off a determined Michael Conti as a multi-car crash erupted behind him with four laps to go.
The crash would force the race to end under caution, handing King his first series victory since the Homestead-Miami season finale in 2012, a span of 21 races and nearly 17 months.
“Wow, I don’t know how we just did that,” a speechless King said in victory lane following the event. “I feel like I stole one tonight. We took a chance and stayed out when some of those late cautions started flying to get some track position; I knew we weren’t going to win on speed alone. I was a little slower than Conti, obviously, but I had enough grip on exit to be able to stay up front.”
“We missed out on a few of these last year; this time I happened to be able to be in the right space while they wrecked in front of me. I knew I had it when I looked at how many laps were left. Just a great night, this has been a long time coming. Last year was a tough year on me, but this was fun tonight, and we got it done!”
Laughton managed to get his car righted and came to the caution third behind King and Conti when Brian Day and Bryan Blackford, who had made it through the disaster in Turn Two, came together while fighting back to the caution for third and crashed in Turn Three. Trey Eidson finished fourth after leading his first career series laps late in the going, and Adam Gilliland rebounded to complete the top five after narrowly escaping a multi-car crash earlier on in the event.
Alfalla crossed the line 16th after the Turn Two incident, using every shot he could muster to try and unseat Laughton for the win but admitting post-race that he had crossed the line.
“I tried too hard to win the race,” Alfalla admitted after the finish. “I apologize to Chad and anyone else involved in the aftermath. It was my fault, plain and simple.”
Joey Brown, making his return to the series after winning twice in 2013, started the night from the pole position after setting a fast lap of 27.778 seconds (194.398 mph) in qualifying. Brown would lead the early laps in the event after three quick cautions slowed the field for twelve of the first 18 laps, sidelining Kwame Adjei and damaging several cars early in the going, including the Progeek Consulting #32 of season-long contender Danny Hansen.
Once the field took the green flag at lap 19, they were finally able to settle into a green flag rhythm, with Brown grabbing the top spot again over two-time series champion Alfalla. However, it was the Obutto Gaming Cockpits #5 of Conti who would be making big gains early, surging from eighth to second by the time the field completed Lap 20 with a car that looked very capable of contending for the win.
And contending is exactly what the New Jersey native did, surging to the inside of Brown in Turn 1 on Lap 27 to take the lead away for the first time all season after scoring two wins and finishing fourth in the championship in 2013.
Conti would proceed to pull away slightly and start logging laps as polesitter Brown began to fall through the field, first losing second to Alfalla at Lap 40 and then losing third to Daytona winner Kenny Humpe, also a part of the new BKR operation, at Lap 49 before stabilizing his car in the top five.
Near disaster struck at Lap 54 when former series winner Brad Davies got dead sideways off Turn 2, managing to save his #11 machine but bottlenecking the field up behind him and setting the stage for the race’s fourth caution just four laps later.
That yellow would fly at Lap 58 when a four-car crash erupted on the frontstretch and collected the likes of Michael Johnson, Brandon Hauff, and Brandon Buie in the melee, ending their nights and chances at the win.
The caution would draw all of the leaders to pit road on Lap 60 and allowed Humpe to win the race off pit road over Conti and Alfalla with lightning-fast pit work.
On the ensuing restart, Humpe would grab the lead on the inside, but the race would be stalled again on Lap 71 by one of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series’ newest budding rivalries, Tyler Hudson and Nick Ottinger.
At Lap 71 the two would make contact at the end of the back straightaway while fighting for position, sending Ottinger around and hard into the Turn Three wall and ending his hopes at a Texas repeat. When the leaders hit pit road under the yellow, Conti would be the gambler and take two tires, winning the race off pit road ahead of Humpe and reassuming the lead.
The worn rubber on his left side would do Conti no favors, however, as he lead at the Lap 76 restart but was overhauled two laps later by the BKR #58 Chevrolet of Humpe, who made the pass in Turn One on Lap 78 and proceeded to begin pulling away from the field over the course of another long green flag run.
Conti, on the older left side tires, would drop back to third on Lap 81 but still continued to set some of the fastest laps of any car on the track even on only two fresh tires. His proof that the two tire theory might just work was proven even further on Lap 88, when he powered back around Ray Alfalla to reclaim the second spot.
Again, disaster nearly struck on Lap 98 as Tyler Laughlin got a tap from the #93 of Byron Daley and nearly went around, but he managed to save the car and continue a green flag run that would lead all the way into a cycle of green flag pit stops.
Conti began the pit cycle at Lap 115, hitting pit road a few laps before the rest of the leaders and trying to make the most of four fresh Goodyear Eagles in an effort to make up some track position. Five laps later, leader Kenny Humpe brought his Chevrolet to pit road along with several of the top contenders including Chris Overland, who had run in the top five most of the night.
Meanwhile, Ray Alfalla and Joey Brown stayed out on the racetrack in a last-ditch effort to try and pin some of their closest competition a lap down with a well-timed caution, and at Lap 132, just as they were preparing to make the dive onto pit lane, they got the break they had been waiting on. The yellow flag flew after Josh Laughton got loose coming onto the frontstretch and was sideswiped by the #3 of Brandon Schmidt, dropping debris and slowing the pace for the fifth time on the night.
Kenny Humpe had just managed to slip around the race leader and get his lap back just before the caution came out, but most of the rest of the field was not as lucky, and with only six cars on the lead lap at the yellow, nearly 30 cars took the wave-around just before the ensuing restart in an effort to return to contention.
On the Lap 137 restart, Ray Alfalla and Trey Eidson led the field to the green flag, with Alfalla looking for his third career Texas triumph and first win of the season, but as Humpe battled Eidson for second, a caution in Turn Three at Lap 141 again involving the #05 of Nick Ottinger and the #01 of Tyler Hudson slowed the pace for the sixth time and led to a few words being exchanged between the two teams after the incident. Ottinger would rebound to finish thirteenth but both parties would have their opinions after the second skirmish between them.
“I was just running my race,” Hudson said following the conclusion of the event. “He did it to himself there.”
“We finished,” Ottinger said simply after climbing from his car. “Somehow, we ran 13th. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t even know. The positive side is, we still moved up in points and still rebounded very, very strong to finish 13th. Very proud of the effort by my team tonight.”
During the round of pit stops that took place under that caution, Trey Eidson would gamble on staying out to assume the lead, his first-ever laps led, and fight for his first career NPAS victory after running Legends cars in the Carolinas last season with Farbo Motorsports.
On the restart, Eidson would get a solid jump while Humpe, Conti and Alfalla charged past all of the drivers ahead of them on much older tires, climbing from outside the tp five to second, third and fourth by the time the caution flew at Lap 146 for the “Big One”.
That same lap, a multi-car crash on the backstretch which got ugly after a spinning Byron Daley was piledriven by Ashley Miller and smashed up the field, collecting a dozen cars with at least some form of damage including Brad Davies, Alex Warren, Joey Brown, Chris Overland, Tyler Hudson, Josh Berry, Richard Dusett, the third BKR machine, Chad Laughton, Kevin King and Matt Bussa.
The “Good Hands Move of the Race” though had to go to Adam Gilliland after he somehow managed to keep his foot on the gas and make it through the crash, salvaging a good moment in what has been a dismal season for the #8 team.
An immediate yellow on the ensuing restart would change the entire complexion of the race, however, when on Lap 151, Kenny Humpe snapped loose coming off of Turn Two while running 2nd, spinning into traffic on the backstretch and collecting Brown, Dusett, Thomas Lewandowski, Justin Trombley, Brandon Kettelle and more as nearly half of the Top 15 was wiped out just 15 laps from the finish. Humpe’s race ended after leading a race-high 55 laps on the night, and the points leader coming into the race would leave with his first DNF of the 2014 season.
That crash would set up the final restart on Lap 156, when Eidson led the field to the green flag but was passed by a hard-charging Ray Alfalla with just six laps to go. Alfalla would then be overtaken by Chad Laughton on the next lap, setting the stage for his last gasp effort and the subsequent melee that ensued.
With the victory and the troubles by many of the top contenders, King and Conti both made massive gains in the points standings. King moved up 11 spots to third in points behind Kenny Humpe, who retains his championship lead by 10 markers over Brandon Kettelle. Conti picked up 10 spots to move within a race of the championship leaders after four of the season’s 17 events.
The NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series returns in two weeks’ time to the Richmond International Raceway for the first short-track race of the young season. Will we see the momentum continue for Kevin King en route to his second straight win, or will we see Ray Alfalla or Tyler Hudson rebound from their tough nights to make it five different winners in five races? Find out Tuesday, April 22nd at 9 PM Eastern with exclusive content and coverage on iRacing.com, PSRTV, the Motor Racing Network and Race Chaser Online!
Audio with race winner Kevin King:
Audio with 2nd-place Michael Conti:
Audio with 3rd-place Chad Laughton:
Audio with 4th-place Trey Eidson:
Audio with Ray Alfalla post-race: