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Ryan Luza takes control and wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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Ryan Luza celebrates victory at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Ryan Luza became the latest winner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2020, as he was able to cruise to victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Tuesday evening.

Luza passed Virtual Racing School’s Bobby Zalenski with 30 laps to go, and held the gap after late charges from Logan Clampitt from Burton Kligerman eSports and the pole sitter, Keegan Leahy, from Denny Hamlin Racing.

Luza took control of the race and winning strategy during the first round of green flag pit stops, as he undercut Leahy by just a lap, and it was enough to gain the advantage for the remainder of the race.

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Ryan Luza (53) passes Keegan Leahy (32) during green flag pit stops at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

“The fact that I was able to maintain that gap with Keegan (Leahy) and actually pull him in just a little bit, I was really confident that we had the better car,” Luza said to Jacob Seelman from SPEED SPORT during post-race. “But even then, I really couldn’t run him down in the first run.

“I knew if I could short pit him by a lap, I didn’t want to over do it… we picked the right lap to pit, beat him out of the stall, had the fresh air, so I was pretty confident I would have been able to stay in front of him even with the one lap disadvantage on tires.”

A duo of cautions slowed the event in the middle, but Luza, driving for Williams eSports in 2020, stayed true to the strategy, and it paid off in the end.

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Ryan Luza (53) leads Keegan Leahy (32) at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

“I didn’t want to stay out, I knew it would be safer to, but we made the right call, came and got the tires. Had hell passing Bobby (Zalenski), that was so hard to pass him, especially with him having the fresh air. Once I got by him, the car was absolutely perfect.”

Luza claimed his 13th career victory in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, and is now only one shy of tying for second place all-time with William Byron eSports’ Nick Ottinger.

***

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Keegan Leahy (32) leads the field at the start of the event at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

The race started off clean, with pole sitter Leahy pulling Ray Alfalla, the other half of the Virtual Racing School team, and the rest of the field around the 1.5 mile oval.

Alfalla soon started to slip through the field, as Luza began his march to the front.

The first round of pit stops changed the complexion of the race, as Luza pitted on lap 42, one lap before the leader, Leahy, came down the pits on lap 43.

Chris Shearburn, driving for LETARTE eSports, as with as a few other drivers, opted to turn the race into a one-stop strategy, and held on to lead for a good bit, but Luza eventually caught and passed him, with Leahy following suit.

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Nathan Lyon lost a tire and spun to bring out the first yellow at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

The first caution flag flew on lap 64 when Nathan Lyon, in the No. 6 for Roush Fenway Racing, cut down a virtual tire and spun in the corner.

The strategy paid off for Shearburn, as he was able to get on sequence with the rest of the leaders, as the whole field made their way down the pits under the caution period.

The second caution flag flew almost immediately, as Roush Fenway Racing’s other driver, Kollin Keister, wiggled mid-pack, and Caine Cook from the Renegades reacted and spun. Thankfully for the drivers, the damage was minimal to all involved.

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Bobby Zalenski (83) leads Ryan Luza (53) and Garrett Lowe (21) at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

The pit strategy split from there, as nine drivers opted to stay out, that charge led by Zalenski.

Zalenski held on for about as long as he could, but Luza would not be denied, even though he had to use as much patience as possible in eventually making the move.

With 30 laps to go, Luza pulled it off, gapped Zalenski’s No. 83, and never looked back.

***

The race was slowed twice for eight laps.

Steve Sheehan, from Kyle Larson eSports, finished last after a mishap with the pit entrance barrels. Casey Kirwan from Denny Hamlin eSports was also involved, but the incident didn’t force a caution.

Zalenski takes the points lead by three points over Ashton Crowder, driver of the No. 77 for Burton Kligerman eSports.

The next race for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will take place at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 31st at 9:00 pm ET on eNASCAR.com/live.

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Ryan Luza at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17th, 2020. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

***

It was announced during the pre-race by Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Development, that there will be a series via iRacing, starting on Sunday at 1:30 pm ET at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, involving drivers and former drivers such as Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and more.

The mini-series is expected to be televised through one of NASCAR’s broadcast partners, although that was not announced quite yet, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced NASCAR, along with many other sanctioning bodies across the globe, to suspend operations for the time being.

***

 

SOURCES:
eNASCAR
iRacing
Jacob Seelman, SPEED SPORT


RACE RESULTS:

  1. 53 – Ryan Michael Luza – Williams eSports
  2. 99 – Logan Clampitt – Burton Kligerman eSports
  3. 32 – Keegan Leahy – Denny Hamlin Racing
  4. 21 – Garrett Lowe – Wood Brothers Racing
  5. 36 – Chris Shearburn – Letarte eSports
  6. 46 – Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway eSports
  7. 5 – Matt Bussa – Williams eSports
  8. 83 – Bobby Zalenski – Virtual Racing School
  9. 47 – Jeremy R Allen – JTG Daugherty Racing
  10. 77 – Ashton Crowder – Burton Kligerman eSports
  11. 8 – Michael Conti – JR Motorsports
  12. 24 – Jake Nichols – Mode Motorsports
  13. 90 – Zack Novak – Richmond Raceway eSports
  14. 37 – Christian Challiner – JTG Daugherty Racing
  15. 41 – Dylan Duval – Stewart-Haas eSports
  16. 25 – Nick Ottinger – Williams Byron eSports
  17. 10 – Justin Bolton – Stewart-Haas eSports
  18. 88 – Brad Davies – JR Motorsports
  19. 33 – Michael Guest – Team Dillon eSports
  20. 42 – Bob Bryant – KLR eSports
  21. 16 – Chris Overland – Wood Brothers Racing
  22. 3 – Blake Reynolds – Team Dillon eSports
  23. 18 – Graham A. Bowlin – Joe Gibbs Racing
  24. 2 – Ray Alfalla – Virtual Racing School
  25. 9 – Eric J. Smith – Jim Beaver eSports
  26. 97 – John Gorlinsky – William Byron eSports
  27. 17 – Kollin Keister – Roush Fenway Racing
  28. 51 – Malik Ray – Joe Gibbs Racing
  29. 6 – Nathan Lyon – Roush Fenway Racing
  30. 27 – Corey Vincent – Renegades
  31. 14 – Brandon Hayse Kettelle – Clint Bowyer Racing
  32. 15 – Michael Guariglia – Jim Beaver eSports
  33. 75 – Philip Diaz – Mode Motorsports
  34. 66 – Jarl Teien – G2 eSports
  35. 54 – Alex McCollum – G2 eSports
  36. 55 – Caine Cook – Renegades
  37. 79 – Brian Schoenburg – Clint Bowyer Racing
  38. 4 – Santiago Tirres – Letarte eSports
  39. 23 – Casey Kirwan – Denny Hamlin Racing
  40. 1 – Steve Sheehan – KLR eSports

Check out the TReSports Photo Gallery from Race #3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway! All Photos by Justin Melillo via iRacing.com.

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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