eNASCAR NOTES: Novak Keeping Points In Mind

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eNASCAR Notes: Novak
Zack Novak (90) battles Jake Nichols Tuesday night at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. (iRacing photo)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Only three races into the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, defending champion Zack Novak is already thinking about points.

Novak finished 13th in Tuesday night’s 200-mile event at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, but after the race was frustrated with not being able to pick up another position.

The New Englander crossed the line in a dead heat with Jake Nichols, but the Mode Motorsports driver got 12th place over Novak by less than a thousandth of a second.

That led Novak to explain his frustration to SPEED SPORT after the event. He noted that, even in March, his mind is already on what he has to do in order to make the playoffs – limited to the top eight drivers in series points following the 16-race regular season.

“Man, it’s only race three, but every point matters,” Novak stressed. “At this point, you need every one you can get, which is also the reason we stayed out so long on the first run to lead a lap. You have to get points when you can, and I’m a little annoyed with myself that I gave up a potential two or three points there in the last 10 laps or so.

“I had an incident that happened right in front of me, and because there wasn’t a caution, I lost a lot of ground and had to cook my tires to get back up there,” he continued. “I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did, but we just lost a little bit at the end there.”

Leaving Homestead, Novak is mired in 26th in points, 31 markers back of the playoff cut line.

However, the Richmond Raceway eSports driver knows there’s still a lot of season left.

“It’s not time to panic yet,” he said. “There’s still a lot of good tracks coming for us.”

– Keegan Leahy is two-for-three in the qualifying department this season, having won back-to-back poles in eNASCAR iRacing competition, but he hasn’t been able to translate that prowess into race wins.

In both of the last two races, Leahy has started from the point, but hasn’t been able to seal the deal like he did at Daytona Int’l Speedway in the season opener last month.

Leahy led the first 42 laps Tuesday night at Homestead, but once he lost track position struggled to make it back up again and had to claw his way to a third-place finish.

“That was the toughest top five I’ve ever had in iRacing,” Leahy noted on social media after the race. “It was an up and down race, but I’m very happy with third there. Ryan Luza deserved that win.”

– Wood Brothers Gaming’s Garrett Lowe has quietly put himself in impressive position early in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, with two top fives in the first three races.

That has Lowe slotted fourth in points, just 19 back of the top spot.

Lowe is one of four drivers with multiple top-five finishes so far this year in eNASCAR iRacing action, joining Logan Clampitt, Bobby Zalenski and Leahy in that category.

– Speaking of Zalenski, the Californian has assumed the championship lead after three races, sitting on 112 points and ranking three markers clear of Ashton Crowder despite the fact that he’s yet to win a race in 2020.

Zalenski does, however, boast an average finish of fifth across the three races run at Daytona, Auto Club Speedway and Homestead – a mark that is best among all drivers.

– Showing the struggle that finishing well in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series truly is, the tour’s three active past champions – Ray Alfalla, Michael Conti and Novak – are all outside the provisional playoff grid after three races.

Alfalla is the best in that group right now, ninth in points and just one marker shy of the cut line, while Conti sits 22nd in the standings and Novak is 26th, as previously mentioned.

– In a similar vein, the bottom two in the 40-driver standings leaving Homestead are two longtime veterans of professional eNASCAR and iRacing competition – Steve Sheehan and Brian Schoenburg.

Both Sheehan and Schoenburg have been plagued by bad luck through the first three rounds of the year, with both averaging a finish outside the top 30 to date.

– The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season continues March 31 with its first short-track visit of the year, a trip to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Casey Kirwan won the series’ trip to Bristol last fall, marking his maiden eNiCS victory.