Alex Warren took home his first career NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing.com victory in a chaotic race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The finish, which will go down as one of the closest and most exciting in series history, saved the race from a complete mess after several championship contenders finding trouble.
Warren crossed the line sideways in a cloud of smoke after Matt Bussa's last-ditch effort to steal the win in the final turn came up just short. With 11 laps to go, Warren looked to have the race in the bag barring a caution, but Bussa steadily cut into his lead until he was right on the lead car's bumper when the two took the white flag. Bussa tried the low side into Turn One, not the preferred line, and made it stick, enabling him to come off Turn Two beside Warren as the two drag-raced down the backstretch. Bussa drove hard into Turn Three but Warren hung tough on the outside and as the two battled off of Turn Four, Warren inched ahead heading for the checkers. Bussa tried giving Warren a rub to break his momentum which sent Warren sideways. Both drivers crossed the line in a shower of smoke and sparks, with Warren edging Bussa by three hundredths of a second.
While Warren was thrilled as expected, Bussa had no regrets on how he raced the last lap. "(I) got there on the final lap and got under him in Turn One. I could have washed him up in Three but my instincts are way too clean to do that," he said. "Wanted to race him respectfully and glad I did."
With an attitude like that and fast cars at his disposal, Bussa has a good chance at being the next first-time winner in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series.
Nick Ottinger finished third and gained some serious ground in the championship standings as every other driver who entered NHMS in the top five found trouble at least once. Brian Schoenburg came home fourth, hoping a top five will turn his disappointing season around, and Granite State resident PJ Stergios rounded-out the top five.
Warren's win was not without a touch of controversy. On Lap 130 the eventual race winner got into Joey Brown, who was leading at the time, had dominated much of the race and appeared to be heading to his second straight win in the series. The contact sent Brown into a half-spin that cost him several spots and damaged his car. Brown would never recover the lost track position and wound- up twentieth at the finish after getting involved in more incidents back in the pack.
On a track where track position means everything, one could conclude the lead would be a safe place to be. That was not the case. Kenny Humpe was also spun out of the lead off the bumper of, ironically, Brown. Michael Conti was involved in the aftermath, ruining a solid race up to that point and costing him ground on Ottinger in the championship.
The one-groove racing surface led to 11 cautions and there were few cars that avoided the carnage. Ottinger was one of them and now leads the championship over Conti, who is eight points behind. Chad Laughton entered New Hampshire with the points lead, but his race quickly soured as he caused a crash on a restart early in the going. Laughton wasn't done with trouble as he was involved in another crash that resulted in more damage than the first. He now sits 14 points back of the lead in third after finishing twenty-ninth.
Tied with Laughton on points is Ray Alfalla, who looked on his way to a top five before he too met his demise on a restart when Jake Stergios missed a shift. Alfalla sustained heavy damage to his front end but rallied for fifteenth after getting the damage fixed under the many yellows, while Jake Stergios bookends the top five in the standings.
Most of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series competitors leave New Hampshire with equal measures of disappointment and damaged racecars as the series heads to the hallowed ground of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While the banking at The Brickyard is close to that of The Magic Mile, the similarities between the two end there. Sim racing at Indy normally gets fairly spread out, leading to long green flag runs. A new build from iRacing will also be coming which could throw a wrench into the setup-making process and further spread the field. Look for one driver or team to hit it right, though who that ends up being is anyone's guess. Be sure to tune into iRacing Live to catch all the action!
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