Ryan Luza won his series-leading fourth NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series race of the season at Dover International Raceway after overtaking Zack Novak with less than three laps to go. Novak needed the win to advance to the championship round of the playoffs but fell one position short after dominating the race, leading 152 of 200 laps.
The turning point of the race wound up being the final pit stop with 30 laps to go. Novak, who was leading at the time, took two right side tires while Luza took four tires. Luza had to restart ninth, but the call paid off for as it took Luza just four laps to move from ninth to second on the restart.
On the final restart with only six laps to go, Luza restarted second and although Novak got the jump at the green flag Luza quickly closed to the leader’s back bumper. Luza made his move with four laps to go, drawing alongside Novak entering Turn 1. The pair ran side-by-side for a lap before Novak slipped off Turn 2 and slapped the outside wall. The contact hurt his momentum and allowed Luza to take the lead and win by nearly sixth-tenths of a second.
Polesitter Logan Clampitt finished third and Michael Conti drove from 24th on the grid to fourth. Cody Byus rounded out the top five.
For much of the race, Novak was unchallenged at the front of the field. It was smooth sailing until Lap 146 when a caution flew in the middle of a round of green-flag stops. Chandler Krizek and Timmy Hill had not pitted and with the rest of the lead-lap cars following them down pit road under the yellow, Novak found himself third on the restart.
Despite the minor setback, Novak need little more than one lap to re-assume the lead, with Luza following into second. The rest of the race was full of crashes as five cautions waved in the last 45 laps. Cool temperatures and overcast skies made for lightning-fast speeds and tight racing, but tiny mistakes at Dover often lead to big wrecks and this race was no exception.
The leaders’ positions held steady until the fateful pit stop with 30 to go. Novak looked somewhat safe up front, but Luza’s ability to slice through the field so quickly doomed Novak’s chances to beat him without a fortunate caution.
With one race remaining in the 2017 season, the final four is set to run for the championship. Luza and Ray Alfalla each transferred automatically by scoring a win in the first round of the playoffs. They are joined by the two drivers out of the remaining six who scored the most points in the last three events: Clampitt and Bobby Zalenski. Corey Vincent missed transferring by five points.
Homestead-Miami Speedway plays host to the finale and the top four will have their points reset for the winner-take-all culmination to the 2017 season. The eventual champion will also likely have to win the race considering Luza, Alfalla, and Zalenski have combined to win nine of 15 events thus far.
Can Alfalla capture his fourth NPAS crown, or will Luza, Clampitt, or Zalenski beat the veteran to score their first title in iRacing’s premier oval series? Find out in two weeks on iRacing Live as the 2017 NPAS season concludes!