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Byus survives late, crazy restart to capture Pocono victory

RELATED: 2017 iRacing

Cody Byus broke a long winless streak and won his first NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series race at Pocono Raceway on Tuesday night, surviving a green-white-checkered restart that wound up with over half the field, including championship frontrunner Ray Alfalla, crashed on the Long Pond straightaway.

Alex Bergeron navigated the wreck-filled conclusion to finish second after taking the white flag in seventh. Corey Vincent finished third, Logan Clampitt was fourth, and Zack Novak followed in fifth.

The finish was set up by a caution with 12 laps to go when Andrew Fayash and Kyle Putz crashed, erasing Byus’ large lead over Brian Schoenburg. Despite having 14 laps on his tires, Byus, along with eight others, did not pit, hoping their track position or another caution would help them maintain their spots at the front.

On the restart with seven laps to go the field only made it to Turn 3 when another crash collected about half a dozen cars, setting up a two-lap shootout. On the restart, Byus got the jump on Schoenburg, who was left to battle with Alfalla and Nick Ottinger for second. Ottinger got a run on Schoenburg off Turn 1 but when he got to Schoenburg’s bumper to help push him forward, the two cars were not lined up. The contact sent Schoenburg down the track into Alfalla which caused him to spin and crash into the inside wall. No caution was thrown and the race for second continued.

With Byus pulling away as he took the white flag, Ottinger and Alfalla continued to battle for second as the two headed to Turn 1. Alfalla got the better run off the corner, closed to Ottinger’s bumper, and made contact, sending Ottinger straight into the outside wall while Alfalla crashed hard into the inside wall. Ryan Luza, who was running fourth, clipped Ottinger and was disqualified for hitting the incident limit.

The trio’s hard luck left Alfalla in 26th, Ottinger in 28th, and Luza one stop farther behind in 30th.

Byus started on pole but fell to third after just one lap as Novak and Dylan Duval looked to have the cars to beat early on. A pit stop for tires and adjustments appeared to wake up Byus’ car, however, and on Lap 28 he took the lead from Duval who then blew his engine when he missed a shift entering Turn 3.

Byus continued to lead until another caution on Lap 46 erased his lead and cost him track position as some of the lead-lap cars had already pitted under green. Byus wasted little time regaining the ground he lost, and on Lap 64 he easily passed Schoenburg for the lead.

A similar chain of events happened again on Lap 71 when a caution again cost Byus the lead. This time only two drivers, David Rattler and Chris Shearburn, stayed out and Byus made quick work of both, taking the lead with 22 laps to go and leading the rest of the way.

For all the chaos that took place on the final laps, the championship battle remained close due to Alfalla and Luza both having trouble. Alfalla now leads Bobby Zalenski by eight points while Luza has fallen to 32 points behind. Clampitt’s top-five result closed him to within five points of Luza while Vincent rounds out the top five, 50 points behind Alfalla.

Next up for the NPAS is the inaugural visit to Sonoma Raceway. The series has run at Watkins Glen International the past three seasons, but Sonoma is a different beast. Ottinger and Alfalla have been strong on road courses in the past, but do not discount Michael Conti and the Stergios brothers, Jake and PJ. Can Luza or Alfalla bounce back from their poor results at Pocono, or will a surprise winner find Victory Lane at the treacherous 11-turn circuit? Be sure to follow the action live on iRacing Live to find out!