It felt like shades of the finish to the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 on Tuesday night (19th July 2022) as Casey Kirwan (XSET) barely edged Zack Novak (Rise Esports) at the line to win by 0.006 seconds at Pocono Raceway.
After a natural Green-White-Checkered turned into three rounds of eNASCAR Overtime, fans got their money’s worth as the race was extended from 60 to 72 laps. Before the last restart, Novak managed to take control of the lead.
Before that, Kirwan had been leading and it looked to be his to lose. The cautions kept coming though, one even falling after he had crossed the line, the game slightly delayed in showing the caution lights.
Kirwan said that at that moment, he would do whatever it took to win. With the race going the distance green until the end, he didn’t disappoint as he laid into Novak’s door towards the line.
The pair bounced off of one another, as well as the wall, until just before the checkered flag. For a brief moment, it looked as though Novak would get it. Kirwan would not be denied as he crossed the line just barely ahead.
Both Kirwan and Novak came into Tuesday’s event winless thus far in their 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series campaigns. With only two spots left to claim in the 2022 playoff field, a win by one of them would put the other on the hot seat.
Kirwan is now locked in, as he also leads the points standings. Novak, meanwhile, has a 16 point lead over Blake Reynolds (Jim Beaver Esports) for the final spot. Watkins Glen (16th August 2022) and Darlington Raceway (30th August 2022) are scheduled to conclude the 2022 Regular Season.
CLEAN FIRST HALF, UNTIL…
Pocono Raceway always seems to have a dual-edged feeling whenever the virtual or even the real-world competitors take to the triangle.
For the first half of the event on Tuesday night, fans were treated to the more calm, strategic look that Pocono can bring to the table.
Taylor Hurst (Team Dillon Esports) won the pole for the evening, starting alongside rookie contender Donovan Strauss (Williams Esports).
There were a couple of casualties in the early going, such as Kaden Honeycutt (RFK Racing) who broke a toe-link and Kyle Peddle (SpaceStation Racing) who had internet issues. The racing would be unaffected and stayed green the entire first half.
Halfway was set at 30 laps, with drivers able to go just about 35-40 laps on a full tank of virtual fuel. Some drivers opted to pit early, others opted to split it in half, and then some opted to stay out as long as possible.
The field was able to fully cycle, but on lap 39, the first caution flew for a spin involving Liam Brotherton (Elliott Sadler Esports).
TRIPLE ENASCAR OVERTIME
With the split up strategies, the field was completely left jumbled as they took the restart with 18 laps to go in regulation.
Collin Bowden (eRacr) had managed to take control of the race with Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports), Ray Alfalla (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Derek Justis (iRacing Motorsports) all staying out with him during the caution.
It didn’t take long, however, for those with tires to make their way back to the front. Kirwan and Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) looked to be the two favorites as things began to wind down.
Leahy went for a pass, but Kirwan would come down and slow him up with door contact. Darik Bourdeau (eRacr) took advantage and the trio went three-wide briefly before another caution flew with 12 to go.
From there, the cautions just kept coming and coming. Kirwan managed to take back the lead, but Novak made his claim as well, and the pair would restart side-by-side through all three eNASCAR Overtimes.
If a caution would have flown before taking the white, the field would be frozen and the race would go official. They did make it, and while there was carnage behind, it stayed green to allow the photo finish.
ONE, MAYBE TWO SEATS LEFT IN THE PLAYOFFS
Kirwan became the ninth different winner in 12 races on the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series calendar. The win also propelled him to the top of the points standings by seven points with two races left in the eNASCAR Playoffs.
Kirwan joins two-time winners in Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports), Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) and Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), as well as the five single race winners in Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports), Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing), Garrett Lowe (Wood Brothers Racing) and Alfalla.
For now, that leaves only one spot left in the playoffs for one driver to point their way in. Novak holds that spot by 16 points over Reynolds. However, the possibility exists that another points paying position or two could open up if winners currently in possibly fall below 20th in the standings.
LIVING ON THE EDGE
Right now, Alfalla is in danger of missing out as he rides in 20th overall, four points ahead of 21st place Hurst. With a road course up next in Watkins Glen, that could spell doom for Alfalla if he has a similar showing to his Road America result.
Alfalla could be in danger of missing regardless if two more drivers ahead of him in the points manage to win over the final two regular season races.
We know Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Mitchell deJong (23XI Racing) are both factors when it comes to road racing. Zalenski, deJong and Leahy are all part of the group that dominated at Darlington last season, the site of the Regular Season finale.
Watkins Glen is set to run four weeks from now and Darlington in six. Before both of those races, however, the eNASCAR oval kings will get practice on another course that takes them left and right, the Chicago Street Course where this season’s All-Star event will take place.
NEXT UP: HEY NOW, IT’S AN ALL STAR
It was announced on Tuesday that the real-world NASCAR Cup Series will get to take on a real-world adaptation of the Chicago Street Course on their 2023 schedule. The once-fictional venue was created by iRacing, NASCAR and the City of Chicago in time to be run in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series last year.
Sim will become reality on the 1st and 2nd of July in 2023 when NASCAR and IMSA take to the Chicago streets. In celebration of the momentous occasion, eNASCAR and iRacing officials have declared that this season’s virtual All-Star race will take place on the 2.2-mile street course.
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on 2nd August to see another preview at what street course racing in NASCAR might look like next season. The event will kick off with the Countdown to Green for a half-hour before the main cast starts at 9:00 p.m. ET. The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing Social Channels.
RACE #12 – POCONO RACEWAY – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||11||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||72 LAPS||19||40|
|2||28||5||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||+0.006 sec||5||35|
|3||15||45||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||+0.101 sec||0||34|
|4||2||20||Donovan Strauss||Williams Esports||+0.289 sec||0||33|
|5||20||42||Darik Bourdeau||eRacr||+0.372 sec||4||32|
|6||12||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+0.379 sec||0||31|
|7||16||7||Malik Ray||iRacing Motorsports||+0.476 sec||0||30|
|8||21||9||Michael Guest||Jim Beaver Esports||+0.561 sec||0||29|
|9||29||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||+1.084 sec||0||28|
|10||17||31||Garrett Manes||Elliott Sadler Esports||+1.314 sec||0||27|
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER RACE #12 – POCONO RACEWAY
|1||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||2||314||5||7|
|2||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||2||282||5||7|
|3||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||264||4||5|
|5||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||1||317||2||7|
|6||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||1||275||5||5|
|7||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||273||3||5|
|8||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||1||245||1||4|
|9||51||Ray Alfalla||Joe Gibbs Racing||1||204||2||2|
|10||5||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||0||284 (+16)||5||6|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE #12 – POCONO RACEWAY
|1||9 | 15||Jim Beaver Esports||522 (—)|
|2||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas Esports||515 (-7)|
|3||5 | 46||Rise eSports||511 (-11)|
|4||4 | 95||XSET||508 (-14)|
|5||18 | 51||Joe Gibbs Racing||461 (-61)|
|6||24 | 75||Mode Motorsports||457 (-65)|
|7||23 | 45||23XI Racing||453 (-69)|
|8||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||449 (-73)|
|9||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||443 (-79)|
|10||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||429 (-93)|
RACE #12 – POCONO RACEWAY – BOX SCORE:
- Six cautions for 18 laps (+12 laps eNASCAR Overtime)
- 12 lead changes among 10 drivers
- Most laps led: No. 95 Casey Kirwan (19)
- Fastest lap: No. 9 Michael Guest (Lap 72, 53.137 secs)
- Rookie of the race: No. 20 Donovan Strauss (4th place)
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|02-Aug-22||~All-Star~||Chicago Street Course||TBA|
|16-Aug-22||13||Watkins Glen Int’l||35|
|13-Sep-22||PO1 | 15||Bristol Motor Speedway||175|
|27-Sep-22||PO2 | 16||Talladega Superspeedway||70|
|11-Oct-22||PO3 | 17||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|
|25-Oct-22||C4F | 18||Phoenix Raceway||110|