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Zack Novak parlayed a gusty strategy call into a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his first career NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series win. With 12 laps to go and his tires worn, Novak decided to stay out under caution and keep the lead, forgoing fresh rubber despite high tire falloff. The call worked perfectly, as 16 other drivers stayed out and two more wrecks slowed the progress of the drivers who pitted.
The race would be decided on a four-lap shootout, though Novak only had to hold the lead for two corners before the caution waved for David Rattler’s spin. The yellow flag ended the race and allowed Novak to coast to the checkered flag behind the pace car with Ryan Luza behind in second. Ryan Lowe came from a thirty-ninth-place starting spot to finish third, followed by Chris Overland who started forty-first. Taylor Hurst rounded out the top five.
Novak started from the pole and paced the field for much of the race, leading 65 of 100 laps. Although Novak would wind up leading more than half the laps, Ray Alfalla had the best car early and on Lap 11 he moved past Novak and into the race lead. His lead was short-lived however, as a caution brought the field to pit road and Novak’s number one pit selection paid off as he regained the top spot.
On the next run Novak’s car held on a bit longer but Alfalla was once again the best long-run car, regaining the lead on Lap 37. Another crash slowed the pace and kept Alfalla from getting too big of an advantage and he lost positions in the pits again, this time do to a driver error as he overshot his pit stall. Novak won the race off pit road but he would only restart fifth as four cars had already pitted under green and stayed out, hoping their slightly older tires would hold up.
Michael Johnson and the others had no chance at holding Novak at bay as it took him just over four laps to pass all of them and recapture the lead. Of course, a caution right on cue let Alfalla get the jump on a Lap 68 restart and he went to the front for the third time. In what was becoming a bit of a broken record, neither driver could keep the lead as Alfalla slid through his box again on Lap 75.
This time the error proved costly to Alfalla as it mired him back in traffic and he was involved in a wreck on Lap 92 when he was trying to push Blake Reynolds down the backstretch. The damage relegated Alfalla to twenty-eighth at the finish, hurting his quest to win the regular season points title.
Meanwhile, Novak had fared much better on the late restarts at the front, holding off the challenge of Luza with some help from the cautions.
Bobby Zalenski had a rather quiet fifteenth-place effort at Indy, but extended his points lead after Alfalla found trouble. He leads Alfalla by 31 points with one race to go in the regular season. Luza is third followed by Corey Vincent in fourth. Novak climbed to fifth with his win. Marcus Richardson, Christian Challiner, and Logan Clampitt complete the top eight and hold the final three playoff positions.
The NPAS will head to Michigan International Speedway for the regular season finale in what has potential to be one of the tightest races of the season. The wide-open spaces at MIS promote three and four wide racing and with drivers desperate to advance into the playoffs risks will likely be taken. Who will qualify for the first ever NPAS playoffs? Find out in two weeks on iRacing Live as the NPAS regular season reaches its conclusion!