Buttafuoco wins eNASCAR Heat Pro League championship
Daniel Buttafuoco rubbed fenders with Justin Brooks and came out victorious in a thrilling end to the 2020 eNASCAR Heat Pro League season.
Buttafuoco brought home the win, the championship and a $30,000 payday after late-race contact with Brooks.
"It's an unreal feeling. I'm humbled and honored to be the champion," he said post-race.
"A lot of emotion, as you can see, I worked very hard to get to this level. Just so many hours and a lot of hard work. There was so much stress leading up to these races. I put so much pressure on myself because I want to win, I want to be the best."
He went on to thank his sponsors, team, family, God and later touched on the incident with Brooks. The Germain Gaming driver is known to race clean and admitted that he was conflicted about it and feels he may "regret it in the future."
Race 1 - Michigan
Justin Brooks led the field to the green flag at Michigan and remained in control early in the 35-lap race. Maxwell Castro was able to move up to second and remained there for some time, riding just behind the race leader.
Brooks and Castro led a contingent down pit road for green-flag pit stops with 23 laps to go. Daniel Buttafuoco pitted two laps later, but disaster struck and he lost all his track position, cycling to the rear of the field and facing possible elimination.
Up front, it was smooth sailing for Brooks and Castro until a backstretch melee forced the first caution flag of the race with just eight laps to go. The yellow was a life-saver for Buttafuoco as he moved up inside the top-ten.
Corey Rothgeb was the race leader at the restart, but Brooks quickly found a way by. Soon after, Luis Zaiter took control of the top spot.
There was a crash at the white flag, but the race remained green and the field battled it out to the checkereds. Zaiter held on for his first career win while Brooks settled for second, advancing into the second round of the evening.
Rothgeb ended up third, Buttafuoco fourth and Matthew Heale fifth. Castro was the next title contender in seventh, Brandyn Gritton 12th, Slade Gravitt 14th and Josh Harbin 15th.
Team Penske eSports’ Brian Tedeschi (26th) and Gibbs Gaming’s Josh Parker (27th) were the two drivers eliminated from the championship finals at Michigan.
Race 2 - Phoenix
Brooks and Buttafuoco led the way at the start of the 45-lapper at Phoenix, and remained in control through an ensuing restart after an early caution.
At one point during the first run, six of the top-seven runners were championship contenders.
Yellow flag flew once more with 24 laps to go due to an incident in the back. It was quickly followed by another caution with cars coming together towards the rear of the field.
The restart came with 15 laps to go. Gritton was able to sneak by Buttafuoco for second while Brooks continued on in the lead.
The fourth caution flag of the race flew with just ten laps to go due to yet another crash at the back. It did not last long, as a crash ensued mid-pack.
The next restart would be the last as Brooks captured the checkered flag ahead of fellow title contenders Gritton and Buttafuoco.
But the battle for the fourth and final transfer spot in the championship was on as Josh Harbin and Slade Gravitt went at it. Harbin defended low on the white flag lap, forcing Gravitt high. He was unable to get the edge coming to the line and just missed out as Harbin locked himself into the finale with a fifth-place finish.
Gravitt brought the Wood Brothers Gaming machine home in seventh and was eliminated. Chip Ganassi Gaming’S Maxwell Castro was the other driver knocked out of the title hunt, finishing back in 19th.
Race 3 - Bristol
Finally, it was time to crown a champion. The league ended their season at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway for 80 laps of white-knuckle action.
Zaiter led the way at the start with Buttafuoco the top-running championship contender, but he touched the wall, allowing Brooks to skate past him.
Brooks, Gritton and Buttafuoco were all able to file by Zaiter as they ran the high lane. After another caution, Gritton was able to take control of the race.
He was hounded by Buttafuoco and they both pulled away until the caution flag flew with 52 laps to go, closing the field back up.
With 40 laps to go, Harbin made his way closer to the front and the top-four runners, at the time, were all four championship finalists.
Brooks was able to work the bottom and clear Gritton for the race lead with 33 laps remaining. Once he got clean air on the nose, he drove away. However, a caution brought the entire field back to his rear bumper.
Gritton made a mistake on the restart, falling down to fourth as both Buttafuoco and Harbin moved by.
The battle for the win was between Buttafuoco and Brooks. He tried to work the inside, but Brooks did his best to hold him down. Eventually, he got alongside and the two slammed doors. He later apologized for the move and talked about his respect for Brooks, who was furious following the contact. But he never got a chance for payback as Buttafuoco skipped away, capturing the checkered flag, the championship, and $30,000.
Brooks was forced to settle for second-best with Gritton third and Harbin fourth.
$70,000 on the line in eNASCAR Heat Pro League finale
NASCAR HEAT 5’s second Content Pack available from August 27