Ryan Luza will face Bobby Zalenski, Michael Conti, and Nick Ottinger in the Championship 4 round at Homestead-Miami Speedway
(VIRTUAL) HOMESTEAD-MIAMI, Fla. – The biggest prize yet is on the line for four drivers; $100,000 goes to the winner of the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship, the best finisher among the four contenders at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On Friday, I spoke with each driver competing for the 2020 title. Part three of four in the TReSports Championship 4 ePreview Series is Ryan Luza, driver of the No. 53 Williams Esports/Chillblast Ford for Williams Esports.
Luza’s 2020 season started out on a hot streak, winning three of the first five races, including three-in-a-row at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Richmond Raceway. After that, the season started to fall apart, but still, Luza was able to collect enough points to advance to the eNASCAR Playoffs.
“Somehow, we got in. I don’t know the odds of whatever happened, happening, but that was beyond anything I could imagine. I’m just thankful to be in the final four.”Ryan Luza
With six Top 10 finishes and 10 Top 10’s in 19 races, Luza enters the Championship 4 battle with the advantage that nobody else has – winning in an elimination style playoff format, having done so in 2017 when he became the World Champion in his rookie season. Last year was the first time that Luza failed to advance to the title round in his career, but more than ever, he’s relieved to be back contending for a title on Monday night.
Luza told me about his emotions and mindset following his rollercoaster ride to make the Championship 4.
ON THE “ROLLERCOASTER” FEELING AT TEXAS, AND TO HAVE MADE THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4 – “Oh man, I was beyond devastated (after the caution that caused damage to his car). I just could not believe it. It was such a bad mistake, for one, it was a terrible position to be in. I just could not believe that it happened. It’s hard to even look back and think about it. Such a big mistake. I never heard Ray (Alfalla) key up. I had no idea he was pitting. I think Jarl (Teien) was on the outside lane on old tires too, so I was kind of blocked in. It’s not really panic, but I had nowhere to go.
“I shouldn’t have been in that rush that I was in. I should have just been sitting there, because I had that three or four positions on Jimmy (Mullis) that I needed, and (Michael) Conti wasn’t even leading at that point. I knew we had such a good car. Man, that car was good. I was just completely devastated and heartbroken. I’m like, ‘man, this is it,’ in my mind, like ‘there is no way we’re getting in,’ I said on the interview. That’s the night, that car had about a minute-and-a-half of damage, a lot of motor damage. I was already planning my depression for the next couple of weeks.
“Somehow, we got in. I don’t know the odds of whatever happened, happening, but that was beyond anything I could imagine. I’m just thankful to be in the final four. It was nothing I did, but I guess we made the right calls in getting our lap back, and just staying out of the trouble. I was actually out (of the Top 4 in points) when we went green with two to go. I went back in, taking the white flag, and then I got hooked by Casey (Kirwan) who got hit by (Matt) Bussa, and that lost me like three or four spots, and I almost wrecked. I went out in that wreck, and then when Keegan (Leahy) got caught up coming to the checkered, I went back in because of that.
No words can describe what happened tonight. I was heartbroken in the middle of the race near tears at my own mistake that I knew cost me my spot in the championship 4.— Ryan Luza (@RyanLuza) October 28, 2020
Then I was actually brought to tears when somehow we made it in due to the last lap carnage.
“That was just a huge rollercoaster. There was a lot of screaming and screeching on the TeamSpeak when we realized I got in, I’m pretty sure I was brought to tears… Just, wow. Just crazy. Anything that happens now at Homestead, I’m definitely not going to be upset with. I’m just super, super, super thankful to have made it to the final four.”
THE COMPETITION – “I do feel really strong at Homestead. I think it’s one of my best tracks. I think (Nick) Ottinger is going to be the one to beat. I think he’s shown a little bit of speed over (Michael) Conti, and they’re going to be on the same set, being teammates. I would throw Nick out there, I think he’s going to be very, very tough to beat. I think we are going to show up with a very good car, and obviously, any of the final four can win. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ran 1-2-3-4, like we’ve seen in a lot of these past playoff rounds… at least fighting for 1-2 for sure.
“I think the racing is a lot different now than what we’ve had the past couple of years, and the big thing, I feel, is the tire sets. That throws a big wrench in the random cautions. I think the big thing is just staying on a safe cycle with everyone, making sure not to do anything too drastic. If we go 10 laps, I don’t think we’re going to come get tires. Some of the field might, and that will be a big difference because the fall off here is huge, from what I’ve noticed. I don’t know. It’s going to be tough.
“The biggest thing for me are the tire sets, I think that will be the biggest wrench, if there is a wrench, along with late race cautions. I’m very, very confident. We’ve had speed these last two weeks, we’ve just haven’t really been able to show it. I know we’ve had a winning car these last two races. It’s the perfect time to have the speed we’ve been looking for, since like, week six. We finally got fast again, and it’s at the right time.”
THE PRESSURE OF THE 2020 SEASON AND PLAYOFF FORMAT – “This has been the most stressful couple of weeks of my life, I feel like. There’s been a ton of pressure, a ton of stress. I’d like to say we capitalized on it, but I don’t really know if that’s the case. We’re here, and that’s what matters. Without those wins, I wouldn’t be in, so those wins came in extremely clutch, that we ran that well earlier in the year. It means a lot to be in now, there are so many more eyes on it, so much more appreciation for what we’re actually doing out there, the skill that it takes. To be in the final four is really important for me, and winning a championship would mean a ton. $10,000 that I won in 2017 versus $100,000 plus is just… insane to think about. It’s crazy, the growth that we’ve seen.”
LEADING UP TO THE FINALE ON MONDAY NIGHT – “I’m off from work just to prepare. I’m lucky that I have an opportunity to be. I’ve already turned upwards of, like, 500 laps a day for Homestead. With the amount of laps I turned at Texas, which was probably 2500 to 3000, the other night, I was finishing up a run at around two or three in the morning, and I was like ‘man, my hand is really hurting’. I look at my hand, and I’ve got a blister on my pinky, and my hand is like completely red, and I’m like ‘that’s not good’. I started wearing some gloves, and grabbed an ice pack after every run just to make sure that I’m not in pain come Monday. We have to practice, we have to try and find more speed. I’ll be spending all my time testing. We’re going to come prepared, and if we miss it, we miss it, but it’s not going to be from a lack of effort.”
ON POSSIBLY WINNING THE $100,000 CHAMPIONSHIP PRIZE – “I don’t know. That’s a lot of money. I’m definitely going to save a lot. I’d like to get into my own apartment finally, that’d be very nice. I just don’t know what I would do, though. It’s so much… I would definitely take some vacations, I love to travel. That would probably be the biggest thing… I mean, after COVID, we’ve all been locked in for so long, I’d love to take a couple of really nice vacations. Just see some things. Maybe… maybe get in a car? That’s a possibility. We’re running the Snowflake in December at Five Flags, I’m really excited for that… Just pursue any options or opportunities that I have for next year.”
Homestead-Miami Speedway has been good to Luza in his career. In four career starts at the Southern Florida race track, Luza has never finished outside the Top 5, and has two career victories, including a win earlier this season.
Tune in for a special Monday night broadcast of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series where the champion will be decided after 134 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The action starts at 8:00 pm ET on eNASCAR.com/live.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com