The lesson is simple: never count out Ryan Luza.
The Texas native, who hadn’t won in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series since last year’s race at Richmond Raceway, returned to Victory Lane after 343 days – his longest-career winless drought – Tuesday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 18, 2020
It looked like a Keegan Leahy sort of evening at the start of the night as the Denny Hamlin Racing driver won the pole for the second consecutive event and led nearly the entire first half of the race.
Kyle Larson Racing’s Steve Sheehan was the first racer to run into trouble, botching a bit entry and collecting Leahy’s teammate Casey Kirwan during a round of green-flag pit stops. Sheehan ended up retiring from the event and finishing last, while Kirwan’s lengthy repairs knocked him out of contention.
Ryan Luza took over the top spot from Keegan Leahy after the first round of pit stops, holding the lead through a caution period for Nathan Lyon’s car that blew a tire – a rarity for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series – on lap 64.
Once the green flag flew again, Bobby Zalenski briefly challenged Luza for the top spot, but Luza’s speed bested Zalenski’s Team VRS entry in the long run; Luza claimed the lead for good with 30 laps to go.
Unchallenged and with no on-track incidents to bunch the field with the late-race caution some expected, Ryan Luza raced to Victory Lane for the first time in nearly a year – since Richmond last April – stretching his margin of victory to a four-second advantage over Burton Kligerman Esports driver Logan Clampitt in the end.
Luza’s win marked the first-ever victory for Williams Esports, the second-year team he joined this season, replacing Brian Schoenburg. With his win – the 13th of Luza’s career – he’s now just one away from tying Nick Ottinger for second-most all time; plus, he’s now the second driver to win multiple races at Homestead, joining four-time champ Ray Alfalla.
Absolutely stellar @WilliamsEsports Mustang tonight, awesome to put them in victory lane! ?
— Ryan Luza (@RyanLuza) March 18, 2020
Had a great battle with @RyanLuza. Did my best on the old tires! After the battle I was surprised to find out I had to save a lap and half of fuel. Didn't take account of clean air = more fuel burn. We had to save a ton and ended up P8. Points leader!@iracing @nascar #eNASCAR pic.twitter.com/hvj4NGX92J
— Bobby Zalenski (@bobbyzalenski) March 18, 2020
Logan Clampitt, who contended all evening, finished second. Leahy rallied to finish third, while Garrett Lowe posted his second-consecutive top-five finish, ending up third. Chris Shearburn finished fifth after attempting an unusual pit strategy in the first half of the race.
Woohoo!! P2! Best finish since 2018! It's feeling like 2017 all over again. We've ran upfront every race so far this season. Phenomenal car thanks to the Team Conti guys @NickOttinger @MikeConti5 @mbussa5. Can't wait to see what we have for Bristol in a couple weeks. pic.twitter.com/HXsGs5cRjr
— Logan Clampitt (@lclampitt44) March 18, 2020
A familiar place for @RyanLuza ?
The @WilliamsEsports driver gets it done in Homestead-Miami to capture his first victory of the season in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series!@lclampitt44 and @KeeganLeahy complete the top 3! pic.twitter.com/29jtMBJUz7
— iRacing.com (@iRacing) March 18, 2020
Wow, that was the toughest top 5 I've ever had in @iRacing. Up and down race but I'm very happy with 3rd there. @RyanLuza deserved that win. I had my @realVRS Direct Force Pro wheel turned up way too high and my arms feel like spaghetti. pic.twitter.com/uya9qznBe6
— Keegan Leahy (@KeeganLeahy) March 18, 2020
Hey – preparation pays off.
Turned near 1000 laps at @HomesteadMiami yesterday; a blister on my thumb, a completely numb finger, and a really fast car is what I have to show for it.
— Ryan Luza (@RyanLuza) March 17, 2020
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series heads to the first short track of the season – Bristol Motor Speedway – March 31, for 250 laps of action. Casey Kirwan is the defending race winner.