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iRacing: Lewandowski edges Alfalla at the Monster Mile

August 31, 2011, By Jason Lofing, Special to NASCAR.COM,

iRacing: Lewandowski edges Alfalla at the Monster Mile

Everyone who drives in the NASCAR iRacing Series World Championship will tell you Thomas Lewandowski (Buffalo, N.Y.) knows how to find his way to Victory Lane. In fact, he had visited the winner's circle 167 times on the iRacing ovals before Tuesday night's online race at Dover International Speedway. Still, while Lewandowski has run well and even finished third in the 2010 points race, none of those 167 wins had ever come in NASCAR iRacing Series World Championship competition.

But win No. 168 proved to be a classic. Lewandowski held off both championship leader Ray Alfalla (Cape Coral, Fla.) and John Gorlinsky (Manasquan, N.J.) over the final 54 laps of a rough and tumble race, to take the checkered flag by just 0.135 of a second. In a race filled with 11 cautions and constantly changing pit strategies, Lewandowski stayed out of trouble and made all the right calls. Most importantly, he gained valuable track position when it mattered most by taking two tires on the final pit stop. It proved to be the winning move.

"All I had to do was get lucky with some cautions and hold off Ray at the end of the race," Lewandowski said. "I would like to thank Ray for racing me clean at the end even though I threw a couple blocks in at the end of the race and also like to say thanks to my sponsors Wrangler, Whiskey River, TaxSlayer, and to all my teammates at JRM."

While Alfalla held off Gorlinsky for the runner-up spot, most of the other top points contenders weren't so lucky. Josh Parker (Cranston, R.I.) started on the pole ahead of teammates Brad Davies (Wauchula, Fla.) and Steve Sheehan (Schenectady, N.Y.) and all three looked poised to capture victory. Parker started the race strong, leading the first 65 laps before giving up the top spot on a pit stop. Parker never regained the track position he lost in the pits and with 51 laps to go got caught up in a big crash on the front straightaway, ending any hopes he had for a victory.

Davies looked as good, if not better, than Parker and ran in the top three most of the race. It was looking like a typical Davies race until a technical problem with less than 40 laps remaining put him six laps down and out of the running. Davies ended with a disappointing 28th in what might have been the fastest car at Dover.

Sheehan looked to be on his way to a good day, as well, staying in the top five most of the race. By the time it was over, though, the Monster Mile had bitten him, as well. Sheehan spun off Turn 2 on Lap 155 and smacked the inside wall before coming up into the groove again and collecting Jesse Atchison (Prince Frederick, Md.) and Jameson Spies (Quartz Hill, Calif.), both of who were having great runs up until that point.

Spies' wreck was quite spectacular as his No. 97 Chevy turned upside down and slid on its roof from the backstraight all the way to the pit entry. His take on the wreck was spiced with his usual humor.

"I was trying to crack the top 10," Spies said, "when I saw Sheehan spinning across the track. I hesitated for a split second, then the next thing I know my oil pan was pointed sunny-side up."

Thomas Hazard (Rochester, Minn.), Brad Wright (High Point, N.C.), Derek Wood (Lincoln, Neb.) and Brian Schoenburg (Moorpark, Calif.) also found trouble at Dover and although they all managed to remain in the top 10 in points, all lost ground on Alfalla.

Hazard looked to be finished after an early crash, but his crew never stopped working on the car and by the end of the race he was competitive again, coming home a strong seventh. Wood also got spun early and rallied back for 10th. Wright and Schoenburg were not so lucky. Wright got caught up in the wreck that eliminated Parker while Schoenburg got turned around by Lewandowski when the eventual winner had to check up after getting into Chris Main (Germantown, Md.).

The points got shaken up a bit in all the action, but the man at the top of the heap remains the same: Alfalla. His strong run moved him still closer to the 2011 championship, as he now finds himself 41 points ahead of Hazard. Wright sits 23 points back of Hazard in third but now is only one point ahead of Gorlinsky, who rallied from his 38th-place starting spot. Davies remained in fifth despite his poor finish but will have to rebound in order to stay there.

Jameson Spies (far left) unwittingly puts the old racing maxim,

With only three races to go, Alfalla looks to be in pretty good shape if he can keep the fenders on his car the rest of the season. The battle now may be for second and with Texas Motor Speedway next on the schedule, it is anyone's guess as to what might happen. The last 1.5 mile track saw the JRM cars dominate. Will it be more of the same, or will another new face find Victory Lane?