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iRacing: Chicago win inches Alfalla closer to title

September 19, 2012, By Jason Lofing, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Ray Alfalla (2) scored his fifth win despite the best efforts of Jason Karlavige. (iRacing.com)

With the 2012 NASCAR iRacing.com Series World Championship title in the balance, Ray Alfalla (Cape Coral, Fla.) came up big at Chicagoland Speedway, passing Jason Karlavige (Scranton, Pa.) on the final green-flag run to take his series-leading fifth victory. Alfalla's win, coupled with a third-place finish by rival Michael Conti (Woodland Park, N.J.), puts him in great position to win his second consecutive NiSWC championship.

The win did not come easily for Alfalla due to a series of slow pit stops. "The pit crew was once again slower than snails on molasses," he said, "so I had to make my way to the front after every pit stop. Luckily, we went green for a while to end the race, and I had enough time to get to the lead. Jason put lots of pressure on me, and made me work hard for the W."

With 43 laps remaining, Alfalla found himself third behind Karlavige and Patrick Baldwin (Torrington, Conn.) after a bad pit stop. He quickly moved around Baldwin for second and slowly started to reel in Karlavige for the lead. Over the next nine laps, Alfalla closed from half a second to less than a car length behind the leader, and Karlavige offered little resistance when Alfalla looked to the inside.

However, there was no quit in Karlavige. He stuck right to Alfalla's bumper with Conti hot on his heels in third. The pressure on Alfalla was relentless but he never put a wheel wrong over the final 34 laps, showing why he is closing in on his second consecutive NiSWC crown.

Karlavige nearly had his second victory of the season, but came up some three-tenths of a second short. "Gave it all I had," said the NASCAR iRacing.com Pro Series driver. "Ray didn't make a mistake though. ... Car was stout on the long runs, and fast overall."

Kevin King (San Diego) started from the pole and looked to have a very strong car early, but found himself back in traffic after some drivers took two tires during the first yellow-flag pit stops. King subsequently bounced his car off the wall twice, damaging the aerodynamics, but still managed to bring home a seventh-place finish.

Alfalla's win moves him 31 points ahead of Conti with the "drop week" factored into the standings, and leaves both drivers with clear objectives if they are to claim the 2012 series title (and the accompanying $10,500 prize) in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks. Conti needs to score the maximum points available (48) by winning and leading the most laps, while Alfalla clinches his second championship with a 27th-place finish. So while the defending champion can afford to play it safe, Conti must go for broke.

Meanwhile, King sits 25 points back of Conti and 40 ahead of Baldwin, and is likely to stay in third barring the unexpected. Not so for the battle for fourth through sixth. Baldwin sits fourth, 17 points up on Brian Schoenburg (Moorpark, Calif.), while Nick Ottinger (Claremont, N.C.) is a single point behind Schoenburg. With $1,000 up for grabs for fourth and $500 for fifth, these three drivers will be ones to watch.

Also on the line at Homestead are the final spots in the top 25 and guaranteed berths in the 2013 NiSWC. Thomas Hazard (Rochester, Minn.) is only six points ahead of Josh Connors (elwood, Ind.) for the final transfer spot. Despite making just nine starts this season, Karlavige is within striking distance of the top 25, as well.

The season finale at Homestead promises to be action-packed. (iRacing.com)

With battles up and down the point standings, there will be hard online racing throughout the pack at Homestead. Be sure to tune into iRacing Live to catch the exciting conclusion to the 2012 NiSWC and the crowning of the series champion.