For the third instalment of the Winter Heat Series on NASCAR Heat 5, the PlayStation and Xbox competitors headed to the unique Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on Sunday, 24th January 2021 for the New Year Resolution 70.
The newest track to be added to NASCAR Heat 5, this marked the first official esport competition on the 2.439-mile course layout. To no surprise, two of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League’s best road course racers rose to the occasion and scored dominant victories.
Chip Ganassi Gaming driver Maxwell Castro earned his second Winter Heat Series victory by leading each of the 18 laps on the PlayStation side. Defending eNHPL series champion Daniel Buttafuoco was in a league of his own in the Xbox event, beating second-place finisher Elijah White to the checkered flag by nearly 17 seconds.
While Castro and Buttafuoco were out for a Sunday drive, the action behind them was intense around the tight-cornered and unforgiving road course. Throughout the event, drivers had to not only battle one another but avoid hitting penalty areas that would bring their car to a halt for cutting the course or running on parts of the track considered out of bounds.
PS4: Castro Earns Easy $2K; Gornick, Salzano and Brown Advance
Castro easily proved once again that is one of the toughest road course racers on NASCAR Heat 5, dominating the event from the outset. Also in a class of his own was open driver Isaac Smallwood. Securely in second, Smallwood was unable to catch Castro built a strong buffer between himself and the battle for third, where open driver Grant Salzano faced off against JR Motorsports driver Joe Gornick.
ENHPL veteran Joey Stone saw his chances at victory go out the window during green flag pit stops as he hit a penalty area before running out of gas and being forced to coast around the final sections of the track.
As those green flag pit stops cycled through, Castro continued to extend his lead while Gornick and Salzano inched closer to one another over the final laps. The pair battled hard lap after lap, swapping positions multiple times around the tight infield course.
When Castro took the checkered flag and celebrated his victory, Smallwood was second, while Gornick, Salzano and open driver Scott Brown rounded out the top five. With Castro and Smallwood already locked into the finale, Gornick, Salzano and Brown punched their ticket to the Winter Heat Series championship finale.
Xbox: Buttafuoco Sails to Victory; Last-Lap Chaos for Transfer Spot
While the PlayStation events saw clean, hard racing throughout, the Xbox drivers took a more aggressive approach to their 18-lap event. From the initial start, it was clear that wrecking and off-track excursions would be the norm.
Buttafuoco jumped out to the early lead but the caution flew before the field could complete the first lap. The cautions would keep coming as drivers pushed and shoved their way around the tight infield road course.
As the laps wound down, it looked as if open driver Tim Moore was trying a different strategy to stretch the fuel to the end however with three laps remaining he was forced to come down pit road for fuel and gave the lead back to Buttafuoco.
While the defending eNHPL champion stretched his lead by over 15 seconds, the drama was ramping up behind him. Open driver Elijah White had solidified himself in second place, with fellow open driver Jordan Bane running third as Gibbs Gaming’s Matthew Heale and Ganassi Gaming’s Luis Zaiter chased them down in fourth and fifth.
On the final lap, the battle for the final transfer position boiled over as eNHPL Season 2 veteran Matthew Selby tried to get by open driver Brad Herman. After Herman had made a clean pass to take the sixth position, Selby ran both cars off the track and into a penalty area. The move dropped both drivers down the running order and allowed open driver Justin Anasogak to sneak by and steal the final transfer position.
Buttafuoco scored his second-consecutive Winter Heat Series victory, followed by White, Bane, Zaiter and Heale.