Lopez Tops eNASCAR iRacing Road To Pro Opener

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Lopez Tops
Jordy Lopez (23) crosses the finish line to win Tuesday's eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro kickoff at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (Cisco Scaramuzza photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jordy Lopez came out on top of a wild last-lap scramble to win the top split of the opening event for the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro Tuesday night at the virtual Daytona Int’l Speedway.

After a huge crash with 42 to go put the lead pack on the razor’s edge with fuel, Lopez converted a gas-and-go pit stop inside of 30 laps left into a strategy that ultimately won him the 250-mile event.

Lopez was able to drive all-out after stopping for gas, racing his way from nearly 30 seconds back to take the lead from Brad Mahar on the 82nd lap and defending his stake at the front of the field from there.

The Horizon Racing driver paced all but two of the final 19 circuits and held off a furious final-gasp charge from Andrew Faryniarz to capture the victory at the World Center of Racing.

Lopez led 18 laps on the night and took the checkered flag in front of runner-up Cody Byus, who pushed him to the finish line on the bottom lane of the 2.5-mile oval, by .063 seconds.

“I needed a caution in the second half, and thankfully, we got one,” Lopez said in victory lane. “Early on, I couldn’t see my pit sign, so I completely missed it and ended up losing the lead pack. I was praying for a caution to save my race, or I was going to get lapped, and it came out at the perfect time for us.

“I never looked back after that; Malik Ray was amazing in the spotter’s stand at the end, and we made it happen,” he added. “The bottom lane worked for us on that final run and we knew we had to defend that on the last lap in order to win this one.”

Byus, who laid back at the tail of the field for much of the night and avoided the chaos that struck many of the front runners, stayed committed to Lopez once the pair got connected coming to the final lap.

He admitted afterward he was content to collect a strong points night rather than make a risky move for the win and potentially take both himself and Lopez out of contention in the process.

“Our whole race definitely didn’t go as planned,” Byus admitted. “Darik Bordeau and I were determined to stay in the back for the majority of the race, and we just lost too much time during pit stops. All in all, we lucked out with the timing of the yellows; that gave us an opportunity at the end, and then missing the last big wreck inside of 10 to go was huge … because there were only six or seven of us with a shot after that.

“I was determined to get as many points as I could, so when I was pushing Jordy … I thought if I could push him clear, I might could make a move, but we could just never both get clear so I decided to push him to the win and take the points we got.”

After edging ahead to lead at the white flag, Faryniarz completed the podium, followed by Bryan Blackford and Seth DeMerchant.

Donovan Strauss, Jarrett Liebert, Spencer E. Burns, Darik Bourdeau and Blake Bryant filled out the top 10.

Ryan Doucette, who dominated the first half of the event and led a race-high 47 laps, finished 12th after being shuffled out of contention on the last restart.

Two major, multi-car incidents – one at lap 59 and a second at lap 88 – decimated the contenders and eliminated names like Justin Lisonbee, Brandon Hauff, Devin Curl and Dillon Raffurty from having a shot down the stretch.

Tuesday’s top-split event featured 29 lead changes among 15 different drivers and a pair of cautions for a combined eight laps.

The average race pace was 169.699 mph and the strength of field was 7,169 – believed to be a record mark for the top split of competition in eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro history.

Other split winners Tuesday night included Adam Gilliland (second split), Garrett Konrath (third split), Hunter O. Johnson (fourth split), Brandon Pipgrass (fifth split), Alex W. Bell (sixth split), Shawn M. Butler (seventh split), Steven Steffen (eighth split), Ty E. Bass (ninth split) and Matt Forkapa (10th split).

In all, 24 splits of competition were held, with Thomas G. McBride (11th split), Noah Rangel (12th split), Duane Hunt (13th split), Andrew Townsend (14th split), Maxime Theriault (15th split), Travis Elliott (16th split), Gary Champion (17th split), Jack Anthony Durham (18th split), Mitchell Clark (19th split), Kristy Linehan (20th split), Zachary A. Mertes (21st split), Jason Bottoms (22nd split), Bryan Wang (23rd split) and David Johnson (24th split) also collecting victories in their respective races Tuesday night.

The eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro season continues March 24 at the virtual Rockingham Speedway.

The finish:

Jordy Lopez Jr., Cody Byus, Andrew Faryniarz, Bryan Blackford, Seth DeMerchant, Donovan Strauss, Jarrett Liebert, Spencer E. Burns, Darik Bourdeau, Blake Bryant, Braden Boulos, Ryan Doucette, Garrett Manes, Ryan Kuhn, Jake Matheson, Dylan C. Jones, Jacob Hall, Brad Mahar, Carson Hocevar, Briar LaPradd, Max Cookson, Blake Near, Parker Retzlaff, Treyten Lapcevich, Derek Justis, James Mihlbachler, Nicholas Morse, Dillon Raffurty, Devin Curl, Matt M. Adams, Brandon Hauff, Justin Lisonbee, Daniel Roeper, Patrick Mallet.

Lead Changes: 29 among 15 drivers

Lap Leader(s): Ryan Doucette 1-7, Nicholas Morse 8, Ryan Doucette 9-11, Nicholas Morse 12, Ryan Doucette 13-23, Nicholas Morse 24, Ryan Doucette 25-27, Nicholas Morse 28, Ryan Doucette 29-32, Jarrett Liebert 33, Seth DeMerchant 34, Daniel Roeper 35, Ryan Doucette 36-45, Brandon Hauff 46-47, Briar LaPradd 48-49, Justin Lisonbee 50, Jake Matheson 51-53, Seth DeMerchant 54-64, Jordy Lopez Jr. 65, Blake Bryant 66, Parker Retzlaff 67-69, Ryan Doucette 70-71, Bryan Blackford 72, Ryan Doucette 73-79, Brad Mahar 80-81, Jordy Lopez Jr. 82-94, Seth DeMerchant 95, Jordy Lopez Jr. 96-98, Andrew Faryniarz 99, Jordy Lopez Jr. 100.

Laps Led: Ryan Doucette 47, Jordy Lopez Jr. 18, Seth DeMerchant 13, Nicholas Morse 4, Jake Matheson 3, Parker Retzlaff 3, Brandon Hauff 2, Briar LaPradd 2, Brad Mahar 2, Jarrett Liebert 1, Daniel Roeper 1, Justin Lisonbee 1, Blake Bryant 1, Bryan Blackford 1, Andrew Faryniarz 1.

Caution Flags: Two for eight laps

Average Speed: 169.699 mph

Strength of Field: 7,169