Only once has Ryan Luza lost at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since joining the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2017.
That fact stayed true on Tuesday night when Luza brought his XSET Gaming Ford into victory lane for the first time in 2021, and for the fourth time in five attempts at the 1.5 mile d-shaped oval.
It didn’t come easy for Luza. Not only did he have to defend the lead position from his technical teammate Steven Wilson (Roush Fenway Gaming), but he also had to choose the correct pit strategy to keep the lead through the final run of 64 straight green flag laps, barring no cautions would mess that strategy up.
Another technical teammate from Deadzone, Malik Ray (Spacestation Gaming) attempted to make it the entire final run without a pit stop. With seven laps to go, Ray lost the lead to Jake Matheson (Williams Esports), who then lost the lead on the next lap to Blade Whitt (Clint Bowyer Racing), and with five laps to go, as Whitt made his way into the pits, Luza made his way back to the front for the final time, cruising to virtual victory lane.
“I was just sitting there, praying for no yellow because we were pretty confident that no one could make it,” Luza told James Pike post-race on the iRacing eSports Network. “I was hoping Steven (Wilson) would stall out once our tires evened out, and they did… We’ve been missing speed, but we were pretty quick here tonight.”
The rookie of the race, Wilson, scored his best-career finish in only three attempts, a runner up finish after it was all said and done.
“Nothing to hang my head over,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of pace as a team, and the same setup finished first through sixth today. We had good pace, and we led some laps.”
Leaving Las Vegas, three drivers have now punched their tickets to the eNASCAR playoffs should they stay in the Top 20 in the standings, and the total number of winners stays under 10. Luza joins Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) and Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) in the win column heading into the next race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in two weeks.
THE CAUTION FLAG DOES EXIST
It was caution-free in the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series season coming into Tuesday night’s race. That was true until lap 5 struck at Las Vegas.
Mitchell deJong (23XI Racing) had a mechanical failure while racing inside the Top 10 on lap 5, which collected Stewart-Haas eSports teammates Dylan Duval and Graham A. Bowlin.
That event set off a chain of cautions that included top drivers such as Ray Alfalla (Gibbs Gaming), Garrett Lowe (Wood Brothers Gaming), and even the pole sitter on the night, Jimmy Mullis (Richmond Raceway eSports).
All of the cautions seemed to congregate towards the beginning half of the night, making up for lost time in the previous two caution-free events.
The final caution flew on lap 77 when Alfalla wiggled into Isaac Gann (Kligerman Sport) down the backstretch, making both of their nights worse than it already was.
Only three drivers (Luza, Wilson, and Jake Nichols) were able to leave Las Vegas without an incident point. 24 drivers finished on the lead lap, and four drivers failed to finish.
Overall, the race saw six caution flags for 23 laps, 15 lead changes among nine drivers, and the race concluded in just under 90 minutes.
XSET GAMING ON TOP OF THE STANDINGS
Luza may have carried the banner for the new XSET Gaming team on Tuesday night, but his teammate, Casey Kirwan, was not far behind. Kirwan didn’t get to lead at any point, but he kept in close proximity to Luza for a majority of the race, ultimately scoring a third-place finish. The result also placed Kirwan atop the points standings after three races, and fourth on the current playoff grid.
The combined effort allowed XSET Gaming to catapult from sixth to first in the Team Standings, the lead previously held by last week’s winners, 23XI Racing.
XSET Gaming is one of four new teams in the fold in the 2021 season, along with McLaren Shadow, Elliott Sadler eSports, and Spacestation Gaming. After three races, XSET is proving more than the rest that they are here to win, as they now lead the standings by 26 points over Team Dillon eSports.
Roush Fenway Gaming also had a fantastic race week, with both of their drivers (Wilson and Nathan Lyon) placing in the Top 5. Roush Fenway jumps up to ninth overall from 14th.
TWO WEEKS UNTIL ATLANTA
As is usual, the series will take a two-week break until it’s next event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ray Alfalla, the Four-Time Champion who is currently tied for last in the driver’s standings, hopes to rebound and find victory lane for the second year in a row at the Atlanta oval. Alfalla not only won his last time out in the Coke Series but also took victory when he was relegated to the Pro Series in 2019.
Other winners from previous seasons that will be in the field include the 2018 winner Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports) and the 2011 and 2012 winner John Gorlinsky (Wood Brothers Gaming).
LAS VEGAS TOP 10 RESULTS
- 4 Ryan Michael Luza XSET Gaming 134 LAPS
- 17 Steven Wilson Roush Fenway Gaming +1.644
- 38 Casey Kirwan XSET Gaming +4.801
- 15 Caine Cook Jim Beaver eSports +6.431
- 6 Nathan Lyon Roush Fenway Gaming +6.553
- 18 Femi Olat Gibbs Gaming +10.258
- 24 Jake Nichols Mode Motorsports +10.350
- 97 Logan Clampitt William Byron eSports +11.788
- 47 Brian Schoenburg JTG Daugherty Racing +11.956
- 33 Taylor Hurst Team Dillon eSports +12.565
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER LAS VEGAS
- 32 Keegan Leahy 1 win
- 4 Ryan Luza 1 win
- 8 Michael Conti 1 win
- 38 Casey Kirwan 88
- 36 Chris Shearburn 76
- 3 Corey Vincent 76
- 24 Jake Nichols 75
- 18 Femi Olat* 74
- 9 Michael Guest 73
- 97 Logan Clampitt 68
TEAM STANDINGS – TOP 5
- XSET Gaming (4, 38) 164
- Team Dillon eSports (3, 33) 138
- LETARTE eSports (36, 83) 136
- 23XI Racing (23,32) 133
- Mode Motorsports 129