While Steven Wilson, Casey Kirwan and Graham A. Bowlin celebrated moving on to the Championship 4 round together with Bobby Zalenski last night following the Round of 10 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, six drivers were left wondering what could have been, no longer in contention for the title.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will crown a new champion of the series for 2022 in two weeks, live from the NASCAR Hall of Fame, with all four title contenders on hand, racing live in front of a limited audience.
Matt Bussa, Femi Olatunbosun, Garrett Lowe, Nick Ottinger, Mitchell deJong and Michael Conti all had a shot to get there, but factoring in a late addition to the playoffs in the form of a drop race, on top of the regularly seen chaos that comes with these races, those six enter Phoenix racing for fifth instead of first.
All six eliminated drivers met briefly with the media core following the race and summed up their thoughts about the race, the playoffs, and their seasons in general.
Some drivers spoke on the way the race played out and ultimately cost them. Others relished in a successful season not fully realized with the elimination. Lowe, in particular, did not have many good things to say at all about the car and racing product at hand. Here’s what they all said.
MATT BUSSA – #75 MODE MOTORSPORTS FORD
Round of 10 result: 10th (-31 points)
“The season overall was really great, up until till the playoffs. We led the points for about a month, or just over a month. Pretty much in the top three in points the whole season, so statistically I believe that’s probably my best season to date, maybe 2018.
“And then, yeah, the playoffs… all the good luck we had in the regular season just unfolded, and just got slammed with bad luck in the playoffs. Bristol, I’m not sure if it was swept under the rug or not, but a glitch on iRacing, and a little bit of lack of race control, cost me multiple laps there. Couldn’t really do anything that race.
“Talladega is just a lottery, pretty much. Here at Homestead, I was in ninth coming out of Turn 4. And yeah, that massive wreck got us 34th. I just feel really, really bad for Michael Conti. Without a drop on the points, he would have made the Final Four, when I was the only one affected at the Bristol incident.
“The drop that was implemented now cost Conti a shot at a championship and $100,000. That is very unfortunate for him, but we’ll all just do our best at Phoenix and come back strong next year.”
FEMI OLATUNBOSUN – #79 CLINT BOWYER RACING FORD
Round of 10 result: 9th (-17 points)
“The night started off well. I think that’s the best start of the season, so I kind of had high hopes for the race. The early cautions came out at the the wrong time. I felt like I was in a really good position, just trying to look after the tires.
“I think it was a second caution of the night. There’s some mixed strategy there, so coming through, I lost a bunch of track position. Coming through the field, I used up the tires a lot. When I ended up getting back to sixth and was trying to keep pace with the guys in the Top 5, I just had no drive off the corners.
“That kind of ruins what could have been. I think if the strategy had gone a bit different, I could have been closer to the guys in the Top 5. Anything could have happened, especially with that late caution. Overall I think it was a solid night except coming to the line off of four on the last lap. All in all, it was good.”
GARRETT LOWE – #21 WOOD BROTHERS RACING FORD
Round of 10 result: 8th (-17 points)
“It’s just frustrating. Like, this whole season has kind of been. This whole car made for a crapshoot of just about every race. Tonight, it was pretty much in no different.
“I don’t know. This is not much fun to race this car at all. It’s just frustrating overall. I hate it for my team, sponsors and everybody at Wood Brothers and Legacy Esports just for not being able to get the job done the other day.”
NICK OTTINGER – #25 WILLIAM BYRON ESPORTS CHEVROLET
Round of 10 result: 7th (-12 points)
“We had a lot of highs with our Logitech G team. Your race ain’t defined just by one playoff race. Unfortunately we had a tough hand with running out of fuel in the Turn 3 entry tonight. Pretty indicative of a stellar season, I would say. We started off great, I think we had like three or four poles in a row.
“Our pace was there again tonight. We tried a different strategy because we knew we wouldn’t have the outright pace. Short run got a lot of guys, so we did what we could.
“We had to basically go win the race. We made some good pit stop adjustments. Unfortunately, we had two Green-White-Checkers. Just how the cookie crumbled there, just the way it rolls.”
MITCHELL DEJONG – #23 23XI RACING TOYOTA
Round of 10 result: 6th (-12 points)
“I’m certainly a little bit disappointed to not make the Championship 4. It was nice to kind of have a good race where we really fought for it there. I think we gave everything. We were close. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“When you’re in a situation where you need to make something happen, it’s hard to count on that. I can be happy with the race. I wish I was racing for a lot more money in a couple of weeks but yeah, that’s the way it is.”
MICHAEL CONTI – #8 JR MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET
Round of 10 result: 5th (-3 points)
“We didn’t qualify well, and that’s on me, I guess. Car just didn’t do what I expected it to do down in (turns) 1 and 2, and then it compounded itself in (turns) 3 and 4 and just put together a terrible lap. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. I mean this week I think alone we put in a 2,000 laps in 100 lap sprint races.
“It just goes to show the prep we put into tonight, knowing what was on the line, and that prep was seen throughout the year. That’s why every week, rain or shine, the No. 8 car was up there in some way.
“Disappointment would be an understatement. I just can’t believe it didn’t work out. It should have worked out. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s just things outside of your control that you can’t do anything about. I can only hope that next year is a little bit better for us.
“Hopefully we can get into the Final Four for JRM, for the No. 8 car. I don’t see myself anywhere but there. They’ve been nothing but great to me. I’ve had a lot of fun this year. We’ve had a lot of lot of highs and tonight stings a lot. This whole playoffs really stings, to be completely frank.
“I’ll leave it at that for now. I want to thank you guys for everything you do. I’m grateful to be in this series and looking forward to finishing out strong at Phoenix in two weeks.”