Tyler Hudson made his first visit to Victory Lane in the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series at Darlington Raceway Tuesday night, holding-off Taylor Hurst (Aero Precision Chassiswerks) and Brad Davies on the race's final run. Hudson, the 2013 series champion, had found limited success by his standards in 2016 with only a single top five to his name through the first 13 races.
Hudson took the lead for the final time on Lap 150 after completing of the final pit cycle of the race. He then ran steady, consistent lap times over the final 33 laps to earn his first trip to the winner’s circle in three years, pulling away from the rest of the field -- including PJ Stergios (ineX Racing) who looked dominant early in the race.
Stergios seemed to lack long-run speed and fell to fourth on the final run. He was followed across the finish line by brother Jake Stergios in fifth.
Championship contenders Ray Alfalla (Slip Angle Motorsports) and PJ Stergios shared the front row with Alfalla getting the jump from pole position at the green flag. Alfalla and Stergios quickly built a gap on the field only for a caution flag to wave on Lap 13 for a crash near the back of the field.
The caution drew the leaders to pit road for tires and fuel where Alfalla made an uncharacteristic mistake by stopping too short in his pit box. The error cost him seven positions, allowing Stergios through to the lead; Alfalla would not lead another lap in the race.
Stergios made the most of the situation by leading 83 of 183 laps, but Hurst also looked strong and reeled-in the ineX Ford Fusion before pitting on Lap 51. Stergios made his stop on Lap 57 which gave Hurst, thanks to his fresh tires, a 12-second gap on the former race leader once the two returned to the track.
Even with the tire disadvantage and a quickly closing Stergios, Hurst was able to hold the lead until his next pit stop on Lap 84. Stergios once again inherited the lead and before he could hit pit road again, a caution waved on Lap 94 for a crash involving Robin Williams and Bryan Blackford.
The biggest loser among the leaders was Alfalla, who pitted early in the cycle and was trapped a lap down when the caution flew. He took the wave around to regain the lap lost, albeit on older tires.
When the race went green again, Stergios led from Hudson and looked to capitalize on Alfalla's misfortune while Hurst was trying to regain the track position he lost as the result of pitting under green. As the run wore on, Stergios was unable to get away from the field as he had earlier in the race. Initially, Hudson and Hurst matched his lap times but, as the laps added up and the tires wore down, they began closing on the leader with Hudson's iAnalyze Racing Fusion passing Stergios for the lead on Lap 125.
Then, Hudson made the winning move in the pits, gaining valuable time on Stergios while also enjoying the advantage of clean air. Stergios could never find the speed he had earlier in the race and faded as Hudson asserted himself when it mattered most.
Not all was lost for Stergios, however. Alfalla’s troubles caused him to finish a disappointing fourteenth, all but erasing his points lead with two races remaining. Alfalla now leads Stergios by only four points, setting the stage for a thrilling battle in the weeks to come. Jake Stergios is third in the standings ahead of Chris Overland and Dylan Duval (The TEAM), who holds fifth by a single point over teammate Kenny Humpe.
With the championship picture tightening once again the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the penultimate race of 2016. The NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series has not visited New Hampshire since 2014, but both Stergios and Alfalla have had success on the Magic Mile in the past. Stergios finished fifth in 2014 while Alfalla finished second in 2012 and third in 2013.
Who can avoid trouble on the slow, flat corners of NHMS? Who will enter Homestead in the best position to win the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series title? Find out in two weeks on iRacingLive!