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Ryan Luza, XSET cash in at Las Vegas

Everybody knows you need a little luck when you go to Las Vegas, but sometimes it pays to simply be good. Ryan Luza solidified his place as the top dog at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Tuesday night, winning in the desert for the fourth time in five years.

Defending race winner Jimmy Mullis — the only driver to ever beat Luza at Vegas — rolled off on pole position in his Richmond Raceway eSports Toyota, picking up where he left off in 2020. The caution-free trend of the 2021 season came to an abrupt end on Lap 5 when Mitchell deJong’s 23XI Racing machine went up in smoke near the front of the pack, setting up for a flurry of early cautions while Mullis and Corey Vincent swapped the lead.

Some drivers — including Mullis and Vincent — opted to take an aggressive approach to pit strategy, coming to pit road early to try to minimize the number of green-flag stops later in the race. The call backfired, however; Mullis found himself in a hornet’s nest of cars deep in the pack after the early stop, tangling with series veteran Brad Davies to knock the polesitter out of contention for defending his win.

Roush Fenway Racing rookie Steven Wilson impressed throughout the evening, leading 40 laps and contending for the victory, racing hard with Luza, Chris Shearburn and other heavy hitters at the front of the pack.

The 40 fastest sim racers finally settled into a green-flag rhythm after six cautions in the first half of the race, which set up for a run to the finish just outside the usual fuel window for most cars.

What’s Vegas without a gamble? Malik Ray opted not to pit with most of the field with 35 laps to go, inheriting the lead with hopes of catching a caution — or somehow squeezing a few extra drops out of the virtual fuel tank. Ray didn’t get his wish, however, and dropped out of the lead with under 10 laps to go.

Luza took over the top spot with five laps to go as fellow fuel-gamblers Jake Matheson and Blade Whitt folded. The 2017 Coca-Cola iRacing Series champ never looked back, charging to the checkered flag by 1.6 seconds over Wilson.

The victory for Luza was his fourth at Las Vegas in his five starts at the track, and the first ever for XSET, an esports organization new to the Coca-Cola iRacing Series for 2021. Fellow XSET driver Casey Kirwan finished third and snagged the points lead after another solid performance. Caine Cook came home fourth, while Wilson’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate Nathan Lyon crossed the finish line in fifth.

Luza’s victory essentially locks him into the playoffs, where 10 drivers will compete for the $100,000 first-place prize late in the summer. The win ties him — again — for second on the all-time series wins list with defending series champion Nick Ottinger at 16 victories.

Luck will only get you so far in Las Vegas. If you’re Luza, you probably don’t need much of it.

The Coca-Cola iRacing Series heads next to Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 16.

 

Race Results

Las Vegas Race Results Coca Cola Series 2021