It was a tale of two races Wednesday night (May 6) when the eNASCAR Heat Pro League tackled the Monster Mile. When the evening came to an end, Justin Brooks and Kyle Arnold grabbed their Xbox One and PlayStation 4 victories at Dover International Speedway.
JTG Daugherty Throttlers’ Justin Brooks led for much of the first event, only giving up the lead during green flag pit stops. He began the race on the pole alongside Nick Walker, who faded to third prior to the first pit stop. Who passed him? None other than last week’s Watkins Glen International winner Daniel Buttafuoco. In fact, Germain Gaming’s team was fast in both formats, as Buttafuoco’s PS4 teammate Kyle Arnold won his event.
In this race, though, Brooks and Buttafuoco were the class of the field throughout many of the 70 laps. Brooks paced himself enough to hold off Buttafuoco, and with the help of lapped car Jose Ruiz, took the checkered flag to win his second Heat Pro League event of 2020.
“Biggest thing last season I focused way too much on staying out front, not fuel mileage and stuff,” Brooks said after the race. “It cost me a lot of races, I led 300-something laps but only had three wins to show for it. I had to pit from the lead probably three or four races with five laps to go because I wasn’t saving enough gas and guys were running around at a slower pace just to make it. Tonight the whole race I was saving gas because if not we were going to be two laps short.”
Ruiz fought to stay in line behind Brooks in the closing laps and kept Buttafuoco from closing in and battling for first.
“‘Please don’t run over me.’ That’s all I could think,” Brooks recalled of the closing laps. “I was like, ‘(Ruiz has) got fresh tires, he’s obviously wanting to get his lap back,’ and I was just like ‘please don’t send it off into a corner and knock me off the track and allow Daniel to get past me.’ Thankfully he raced me with a lot of respect, he didn’t try to force the issue too much and let us race it out pretty much there at the end.”
Buttafuoco placed second and Walker wound up in third. Luis Zaiter and Tyler Dohar rounded out the top five.
Early on, Team Penske eSports driver Brian Tedeschi had technical issues and did not finish the race.
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) May 7, 2020
As has been the case in previous weeks, the PS4 side was much more exciting, with most of the field close together throughout the race. Wood Brothers Gaming’s Cody Giles began the race on the pole and led up until after the first round of pit stops. Arnold was in second but bobbled a bit and Joey Stone took advantage of his mistake. Then with about 33 laps to go, Stone grabbed the lead when Giles missed his mark. Arnold followed Stone into second, and Giles took third.
However, Brandyn Gritton moved Giles up the racetrack with about 28 laps remaining. It appeared that the two fastest cars were those of Stone and Gritton as they battled closely until the final green flag pit stops.
Unfortunately, Stone and Gritton were caught speeding on pit lane and had to serve their penalties. This put them deep in the field and out of contention for the lead.
Arnold, Giles and Jason Mitchell took advantage of that and fought for position in the final 20 laps. Giles ended up getting shuffled back a few spots, though, and Josh Harbin was able to get in the mix. In the end, Arnold came back from last week’s run-in with Maxwell Castro to win his first race of the season. Mitchell took second and Harbin finished third. Giles and Corey Rothgeb rounded out the top five.
The win placed Arnold in a tie for first place atop the standings with Castro, who was seventh at Dover.
Arnold was given some advice from one of his peers: “run your own race. It don’t matter what everybody else is doing. Run your race, run it clean, and that is when you’re there at the end.”
A strange moment happened for Arnold during his first pit stop; when he slowed down, he was caught on the outside and hit the pit road barrels. However, since he already maintained pit road speed, his place on the timing and scoring remained the same and he returned to the track in second.
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) May 7, 2020
Next week the series heads to virtual New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Wednesday, May 13. Coverage will begin at 8 p.m. ET on NASCARHeat.com/live.
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