PJ Stergios (ineX Racing Team) became the first multiple-race winner in the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing by passing Slip Angle Motorsports' Ray Alfalla for the lead with 15 laps to go at Texas Motor Speedway. The two were clearly the class of the field, leading a combined 148 of 167 laps, but Stergios got the best of Alfalla on the long run to the checkers.
The battle for third came down to the wire with Nicholas Johnston (HPM) holding-off Jake Stergios by less than two-tenths of a second. Logan Clampitt, making his series debut, finished an impressive fifth.
Stergios trailed Alfalla by around half a second after the two made their final pit stops under green but quickly closed to the leader's bumper in only a handful of laps. Stergios hounded the former series champion for nearly 20 laps, waiting for a rare mistake. His chance finally materialized when a lapped car on fresher tires passed Alfalla on the outside entering Turn Three. The pass forced Alfalla to compromise his entry, enabling Stergios to draw alongside down the front straightaway. The pair battled side-by-side for a couple of laps before Stergios cleared Alfalla and began pulling away.
"The last stint was pretty crazy with guys on all sorts of different strategies, so well done by everyone for keeping it going for so long despite some very close moments," Stergios said.
Alfalla took control of the race early on, needing just six laps to assume the lead from his outside pole grid position. However, the race was not without incident for Alfalla. On Lap 82 he brought his car to pit road for routine service and, since he pitted early in the window, found himself in heavy traffic after returning to the track.
Not even a lap later, Dylan Duval got loose and slammed the wall off Turn 4, forcing Alfalla to dive to the grass in avoidance. Fortunately for Alfalla the off-road excursion did not damage his car, but a caution for another crash four laps later robbed him of valuable track position.
While Alfalla had unlapped himself after his green-flag stop, having fresh tires was so critical he pitted again under the caution and restarted eleventh on Lap 92. Alfalla had little trouble with traffic and by Lap 126 he was already back in the runner-up spot behind Stergios. Knowing passing Stergios on track would prove difficult, Alfalla chose to pit a lap earlier than his rival. While that enabled Alfalla to take the lead, in the end he could not hold it.
Stergios' win broke the tie with Alfalla atop the championship standings. Stergios now leads by three points over Alfalla as the two have begun distancing themselves from the rest of the field. Jake Stergios is third, 21 points back of his brother. He is followed closely by Allen Boes, who is only a single point back in fourth after an eighth place effort at Texas. Chris Overland still holds fifth despite finishing 37th in the Lone Star state, but he is now 58 points behind and just two in front of Andrew Fayash III, who is in the running for "biggest surprise" of the sim racing season thus far.
Next up on the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series schedule are the tight confines of Richmond International Raceway. The .75-mile short track is the only venue on the schedule less than a mile in length and will force teams to build a much different setup than the last two races.
With the 2016 season quickly turning into the PJ Stergios vs. Alfalla show at the front, can any other sim racers challenge their dominance? The uniqueness of Richmond may play into the field's hands but Stergios and Alfalla will be bringing their A-games to the virtual Virginia track -- as usual. Who will find their way to Victory Lane? Find out in two weeks on iRacingLive!