(Photo: NASCAR)

Justin Brooks, Josh Parker Take Heat Pro League Victories at Road America

The eNASCAR Heat Pro League took the Xfinity Series cars to virtual Road America Thursday night (July 16). In the end, Justin Brooks and Josh Parker survived the mayhem to win the penultimate regular season races.

Xbox One

In the Xbox One event, Brooks beat and banged on Sam Morris’ car in the final two laps, but couldn’t make the pass until the final turn. Morris went wide in the corner, which allowed Brooks to sneak past Morris and take his fifth win of the season.

“I knew I had a faster car, but I was just trying to run him clean and set up a pass,” Morris said after the race. “I had a little bit of front end damage from where me and [Morris] barely made contact on that first initial restart there with two or three laps to go, whatever it was. I was just, like I said, trying to set up the perfect pass. I was looking in my mirror, gauging how fast the guys behind me were catching me, and was just trying to find the perfect spot. I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll put the pressure on him, maybe he’ll slip up.’ He didn’t slip up until that last corner and as soon as he did I threw it into second gear, gassed it and got by him and brought home the checkered flag today.”

Morris held on to second over Roush Fenway Gaming’s Nick Walker, Matthew Heale was fourth and Brian Tedeschi rounded out the top five.

Polesitter Daniel Buttafuoco led for eight laps, but was sent off track on a restart with five laps to go and couldn’t make his way back to the front. Buttafuoco finished mid-pack in seventh place. After the race, Buttafuoco shared his feelings of dejection.

Three cautions came out for incidents during the 14-lap event. The first yellow flag waved on lap three when Walker spun while fighting for positions. After drivers made their pit stops, Brooks moved up to second behind Buttafuoco, and the race was restarted with nine laps remaining. Everyone fought for every spot behind Buttafuoco and Brooks, even going four-wide in one of the corners.

This kind of competition doesn’t usually end well, and such was the case with eight laps to go. Walker ended up turning hard right on one of the straightaways and slammed into Diego Alvarado, who hit the wall and collected Heale on the rebound.

Then, with five laps left Matthew Selby punted Buttafuoco out of the way on the restart. Selby’s aggressiveness bit him back, though, as he was sent off hard into the wall. As he attempted to fight his way back to the front, Luis Zaiter hit him. Selby then bounced off the wall back into Zaiter, who collided with Jose Ruiz, bringing out the final caution.

It all came down to the final two laps, and it appeared that Morris would win his first race of the year. However, he made a small mistake on the last turn that allowed Brooks to speed by and win the race.

PlayStation 4

On the PS4 side, Parker found himself on the front row on the third green-white-checkered. Once he found clean air, he maintained the lead as Maxwell Castro spun off track. Castro was still able to finish third, though, behind Mike Braas. Polesitter Kyle Arnold was fourth and Joey Stone, who contended for the lead early on, rounded out the top five.

This was Parker’s second win in a row, as he won last week at Auto Club Speedway.

“I think my confidence has always been high,” Parker said after the race. “I come in here with the most experience, but learning, coming from an iRacing Series to this NASCAR Heat Series, it’s like learning a whole new sim racing all over again. The confidence has already been there, I just had bad luck to start the year. That’s why I showed a lot of emotion last week because I felt like I was been through a tough year and I felt like we broke through to a win.

“Today I just went in to get a good points battle, and I got lucky. The cars just felt right, you know how racing is in real life, it’s just like in the virtual world. Just put yourself in position and anything can happen.”

The race started out relatively clean, though Joe Gornick got off track on the first lap. Still, they remained under green and even started pitting with 10 laps to go.

However, shortly after the first round of pit stops Gornick ran into Castro, who had shifter problems all throughout the event. Castro was in the middle of the straightaway and turned left right into Gornick’s path, sending them both into the wall.

On the next restart with five laps remaining, Josh Harbin shot out first but Stone and Parker battled for the position. Parker ended up going too wide in a corner, which allowed Arnold to go back up to first. Then a second caution came for an unknown incident, which set off a series of green-white-checkered flags.

Castro and Gornick ran into the wall again (in separate incidents), bringing out the caution before the white flag waved. Then, on the ensuing restart Brandyn Gritton took Stone and Arnold three-wide for first place. Unfortunately, both Arnold and Gritton were sent off track into the wall, and the final caution period came.

Some drivers pitted during this caution, and Parker once again saw himself at the front alongside TJ McGowan. McGowan ended up dropping all the way back, while Parker kept the lead over Castro and Braas. Parker was surely hoping the race would stay green, and indeed it did, even after Castro spun off track. The Gibbs Gaming No. 18 driver took home his second victory in a row and boosted his points lead going into the final regular season race.

The eNASCAR Heat Pro League heads to virtual Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Wednesday, July 22. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on eNASCAR.com/live and NASCAR Heat’s social media channels.

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