Series rookie Eric J. Smith won his first career eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series race at Auto Club Speedway Tuesday night in dramatic fashion. Smith came from sixth to first on the last lap to claim the victory.
With the leaders side-by-side on the last lap coming off Turn 2, 20-year-old Illinois native Smith decided to take the high line. JTG Daugherty Motorsports’ Nick Ottinger went three wide with Flipsid3 Tactics’ Ryan Luza and Renegades’ Corey Vincent. Luza and Vincent made slight contact, ending with Vincent spinning down into Ottinger, taking them both out of the fight.
Luza emerged from the scuffle with a mostly clean car but the contact had robbed him of vital momentum. Smith used the opportunity to surge ahead on the outside down the backstretch with G2 Esports driver Keegan Leahy splitting Luza three wide on the bottom. Smith and Leahy entered Turn 3 wheel to wheel.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Smith. “The package was nuts, everyone was super aggressive.”
Luza slipped to third, nipping the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Bobby Zalenski by two-thousandths of a second. Matt Bussa from Williams Esports completed the top five.
The debut of the 2019 aero package made for tight, intense racing throughout the field. The changes kept the field tightly bunched and increased parity, with no driver leading more than 32 of 100 laps.
Novak and Luza are tied for the championship lead after three weeks with both drivers yet again running at or near the front for much of the evening. Leahy is five points back in third and is the only driver to score top-five results in all races thus far. Zalenski finds himself 14 points adrift followed by Jimmy Mullis in fifth, 17 points behind. Defending series champion Ray Alfalla had hoped to bring Wood Brothers Racing better results thus far, but bad luck and lackluster speed have him back in 17-place in the standings after three races.
With the first race on the 2019 package in the books, the series heads back to a 1.5-mile track as Texas Motor Speedway. Catch the race March 26th at 9pm ET on eNASCAR.com.