Special by Jacob Seelman for The Racing Experts
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ryan Luza held off Garrett Lowe in NASCAR Overtime on Tuesday night at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway to go back-to-back in eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series competition.
Though he started 10th and took more than half the race to claw his way to the front, once Luza’s No. 53 Williams eSports Ford Mustang got out in front there was no stopping the Cypress, Texas native.
Luza, who found himself fourth during a long green-flag run mid-race, turned on the jets as the lead trio of Brad Davies, Michael Conti and Keegan Leahy got hung up in heavy traffic inside of 100 laps to go.
He disposed of Leahy on lap 153 as the JR Motorsports teammates, Davies and Conti, tried to open up a gap out front. However, neither could get away and Luza ran them down within four circuits.
As Conti attempted to work past a slower car, Luza ducked low to make it three wide coming onto the frontstretch and he and Conti made contact in the race for second – nearly ending both drivers’ nights.
However, they were able to continue on and no caution was necessary, affording Luza the runner-up spot in the process.
After that, Luza chased down Davies and made what turned out to be the winning pass on lap 165, with an inside power move off the banking in the fourth corner giving him a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
Luza then held on through seven cautions – and subsequent restarts – to notch the victory, including a final overtime restart after Santi Tirres spun on the backstretch coming to four to go in regulation.
Despite all the chances the field had at him down the stretch, Luza stayed cool under pressure en route to his 14th career eNCiS victory, second of the season and second in a row.
“We just had an amazing long-run car,” Luza said. “I had a pit stop malfunction on the first pit stop after we got to third on the first run. I was pretty upset. But we got another long run and we came flying through the field after about 30 laps.
“Garrett was pretty fast as well, but I think we had the field covered on the long run there,” Luza added. “That really showed and it’s a good feeling to get the job done in this one.”
Tuesday night marked the fifth time in Luza’s eNCiS career that he’s won in back-to-back events, as well as the fourth time in as many years that he’s won two of the first four races during the season.
It’s a dominant record, but Luza knows there’s plenty of work still to be done if he wants to win a second championship when the late summer and early fall months roll around.
“We just wanted to hold onto our track position,” Luza admitted. “That’s all that tonight was about. That was the safest thing, because there’s a ton of carnage at Bristol. I just wanted to stay up front and be safe,” Luza noted. “We did that, got ourselves another win and now it’s on to Richmond.
“We don’t want to let up here … we’ve still got a lot more racing left to do before the playoffs.”
As Luza celebrated victory, Garrett Lowe was the star of the show, marching from 30th on the grid to contend against the former series champion in the closing laps at The Last Great Coliseum.
Lowe got past Davies for the runner-up spot on a restart with 37 laps left, but simply couldn’t match the forward drive that Luza had during Tuesday’s sequence of late-race restarts.
He finished second, .163 seconds adrift, after posting his personal-best lap time on the final lap of the race in the No. 21 SPIN Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing.
Defending series champion Zack Novak fought his way to third during the overtime restart, with Conti crossing the line fourth after starting from the pole and leading the first 40 laps on Tuesday.
Point leader Bobby Zalenski completed the top five.
Davies faded to sixth after leading a race-high 118 laps, followed by Alex McCollum, Michael Guest, Caine Cook and Justin Bolton.
Rookie Graham Bowlin appeared to have the fastest car early on, taking the point from Conti on lap 41, but was caught up in a multi-car crash on the backstretch on the 47th lap that left him with heavy damage and handed Davies the race lead.
Bowlin was never a factor from that point on and finished 17th.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series continues on April 14 at Richmond Raceway, where defending event winner Luza will pursue his third-straight series win – which would tie the all-time series record held by Ottinger.