The 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season concludes at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway Monday night, Nov. 2. Williams Esports’ Ryan Luza is set to battle with Nick Ottinger, Bobby Zalenski and Michael Conti for the championship and $100,000 prize.
Luza started off the season strong, winning three in a row at Homestead, Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway. He endured some rough results after that, though he did place seventh at Darlington Raceway and led 39 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Once in the playoffs, the No. 53 Ford Mustang pilot had a couple of good finishes at Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and Kansas Speedway. However, a run-in with another car trying to get to pit road nearly ended his chances at Texas Motor Speedway. But, oh, how things change quickly. A last-lap crash helped him make the final four by just a few points.
No words can describe what happened tonight. I was heartbroken in the middle of the race near tears at my own mistake that I knew cost me my spot in the championship 4.
Then I was actually brought to tears when somehow we made it in due to the last lap carnage.
— Ryan Luza (@RyanLuza) October 28, 2020
While his competitors won their way in to the Championship 4, Luza was the only one to make it in on points. That doesn’t matter to him, though: “I’m just happy to be in,” Luza told Frontstretch.
“This race is gonna be nothing like the other three that we’ve had in the playoffs. The fact that I pointed my way in, I don’t care at all, I don’t think the other three drivers care or look into that. I know we’re gonna show up fast. I’m sure we’re gonna contend for it, but if we do miss it, we miss it. I’m not feeling any differently, pointing myself in versus the other three drivers who won. If anything, they got their good luck out of the way and I’m still waiting on my win.”
Luza knows his competition is tough, and feels the William Byron Esports driver will be the one to beat Monday.
”Ottinger’s gonna be very, very fast. I don’t think he’s been in a championship fight in a while so I know he’s gonna be really hungry for it, and he’s extremely, extremely fast. So I’d probably put my money on Nick to be the biggest competitor.
”I think we’ve actually had a little bit of speed on them. I haven’t been able to show it these past couple of races, but I would say Nick for sure.”
This isn’t the first bout for Luza, as he took the title in 2017, his rookie season. While that win carried a lot of meaning, taking home the championship this season has more significance.
”I think this will mean a lot more just because of all the attention that we’ve had. Obviously the money is 10 times what I won in 2017, so if we could win that, it would mean a lot more, monetary wise.”
He hopes that this would propel him into more “real-life opportunities… that’s the main goal.”
“I’ve raced in real-life since I was five and kind of had to give it up a couple years ago because everything’s so expensive. I just ran out of money.
”So it’d mean a ton to win the championship, and it would mean a lot more if there were some interviews that could come from that as well.”
Though it is a larger prize, he’ll keep the same approach as other races. “I think most of us are going to try to stay on the same cycle as each other and not get off cycle,” Luza said. “Because if we get a weird caution or something like that, it’ll just throw the entire race off with us having tire sets and stuff like that.”
The champion has won the final race the last few seasons, so Luza will likely need to go to victory lane to win this year’s title.
”Obviously gonna have to win to guarantee anything, the only way to do it is to go out and win. I’m sure we’re gonna run 1, 2, 3, 4 at some point in the race. Just gonna have to be the best of the four and just play the strategy right, play the race right and cross the line first. That’s the only way to do it, so that’s the goal.”
With this much pressure — not only this week, but also since the Charlotte ROVAL — physical and mental preparation is needed to perform at a high level.
”I’ve put in so many laps,” Luza commented. “With us racing every single week now in the playoffs, we’ve had to turn so many laps and we have absolutely no break. I’ve probably turned like 3 or 4000 laps at Texas, and I’ve been turning upwards of 500 a day here at Homestead. My hand is starting to hurt, I’m starting to get a couple of blisters. So that’s not what we want going into Homestead, but just trying to deal with that because we have to prepare and have to make sure the effort is put in.
”Mentally, there’s just a lot of stress. Hopefully I sleep well Sunday night but I don’t think that’ll happen.”
His thoughts were similar to a championship contender in the Cup Series:
I’m writing this today because Last night I could not sleep and this morning I woke up super early and hungry. It became crystal clear in my mind how great a chance my team has at winning the 2020 championship.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) October 30, 2020
“Just trying to stay composed and not make any mistakes on Monday, that’s really the biggest thing,” Luza continued. “As long as I don’t shoot myself in the foot, I’ll be happy regardless. Just try to come with a car that’s fast and can win.”
The championship race airs on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on eNASCAR.com/live.
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