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eNASCAR Coca-Cola: Graham Bowlin dominates at WWT Raceway

eNASCAR Coca-Cola: Graham Bowlin dominates at WWT Raceway

Graham A. Bowlin became the seventh different winner of the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season on Tuesday night (31st May) at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It wasn’t a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’ Graham A. Bowlin would find victory lane in the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season.

The answer came on Tuesday night (31st May) when the Charlotte Phoenix driver dominated at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, leading 97 laps en route to his first win of the 2022 season and the second of his career.

Bowlin took control of the race on lap 22 when he passed Casey Kirwan (XSET) for the lead. Zack Novak (Rise Esports) took the lead when Bowlin pitted, but the caution flew just right where Bowlin reclaimed the lead. From there, Bowlin held off Novak and the rest of the field to win his first career oval event.

Bowlin joins six other drivers as winners on the season in nine races completed so far. Only five races remain after this to set the final three spots in the 2022 playoffs.

Last year, the series had more winners than spots available. Mathematically, that is still a possibility, especially with two road courses in the future.

TIMELY, UNTIMELY CAUTION

The only caution of the night came right smack dab in the middle of the 120 lap event. On lap 60, Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports) locked up the brakes underneath the car of Garrett Manes (Elliott Sadler Esports). The resulting contact led to a spin and the yellow flag flying in the middle of green flag pit stops.

A good chunk of the field had already pitted before halfway, and most wound up trapped a lap down. Bowlin decided to pit right on that lap, and made it on to pit road while the light was still green. It wasn’t three seconds later that the lights went red, signifying the closure of pit road, which handed down penalties to anyone who entered pit road after that moment.

There were three drivers who were bit the hardest during the caution were Vicente Salas (Williams Esports), Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports) and Ryan Luza (XSET). As the caution flew and the pit entrance closed, the trio continued into the pits. Per the game coding, all three drivers were handed a pitting while pits were closed penalty and were forced to start end of the longest line.

For Novak and a handful of drivers who had stayed out until that point, it turned into a great moment for their race as they were able to pit, get new tires, and stay ahead of most of those who attempted an undercut and had to take the wave around. Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports), Kirwan, and Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) were among those who had to wave around and fight back through the field.

SIDES OF BEEF

While there was only a single caution during the race, there were plenty of moments that had competitors jawing at one another that didn’t slow down the event. Beef, as it’s referred to, was ever present throughout the night, even in a relatively clean virtual event.

On the opening lap, Ray Alfalla (Joe Gibbs Racing) got loose off of Turn 2 and slid into the path of Michael Guest (Jim Beaver Esports). Guest got on the mic and asked “what are we doing back here?” in Alfalla’s direction. The nose damage ultimately kept Guest behind for the entirety of the event. Later in the running, the two found each other again, and Alfalla quipped back with the same question to Guest.

POST RACE FIREWORKS

The most vocal argument of the evening came between Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) and Manes. On the fourth lap, the pair went three-wide for a moment with Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing). Manes first made contact with Olatunbosun, then slid into Conti, and then they straightened it out. Both were upset with the moves they made on each other in the moment.

They continued to disagree after the race as well, and Luza, who was bit by the actual caution that Manes was involved in with Mullis, also got in on the disagreement in favor of Conti.

Another incident that the race would continue green afterward included Blake Reynolds (Jim Beaver Esports) and Darik Bourdeau (eRacr). The two made contact out of Turn 4 and slammed the inside wall. The contact was enough to end Bourdeau’s race and severely handicap Reynolds’ race.

While not as vocal over the comms, Duval wound up upset with the way Vicente Salas ran him during the race, and before he took the lead, James Pike reported from virtual pit road that Bowlin was frustrated while running behind the pole sitter on the evening, Cody Byus (Mode Motorsports).

STEWART-HAAS ESPORTS BARELY BACK ON TOP

Despite the off night from Steven Wilson and a lower-than-anticipated finish from a fast Duval, Stewart-Haas Esports is back on top of the Team Points, albeit barely. The gap is only five points back to Rise Esports, who moves into second. Former leaders Team Dillon Esports are only seven points behind Stewart-Haas, and the leaders entering WWT Raceway, Jim Beaver Esports, are now down in fourth.

Duval led the Stewart-Haas stables with a 12th place finish while Wilson struggled through the entire night. Failing to put down a qualifying lap meant starting 33rd. Fighting from the back meant trying an alternate strategy and for Wilson, that meant an undercut. The caution ruined the possibility of gaining from that. For the rest of the race, he was on a tire disadvantage, eventually coming in 25th.

While Wilson lost the points lead in the resulting finishes to Mode Motorsports’ Matt Bussa, his 25th together with Duval’s 12th was enough to put them back on top for now.

On the flip side, the curse continued for the team point leading team once again. As explained above, both Guest and Reynolds struggled with damage throughout the event. Reynolds led the team with a 36th place finish while Guest wound up lapped in 38th. Both positions only awarded a single point, and they were jumped by Stewart-Haas, Rise and Team Dillon.

Rise is on the rise, after finding themselves in eighth two races ago, now the Novak/Mullis combination sit second overall following Novak’s runner-up and Mullis’s recovery to 17th. Their LockDown teammates at Team Dillon also had split results. Corey Vincent managed a Top 10 finish, but Taylor Hurst never did recover from his early pit stop, ultimately finishing in 33rd.

NEXT UP: SUMMER BREAK

Leaving WWT Raceway at Gateway, the series enters its longest break of the 2022 season. The virtual racing will be off for the next three weeks as iRacing enters 2022 Season 3 and the next build goes through the normal release and subsequent patches.

eNCCiS: Jimmy Mullis makes money moves for All-Star victory

When the racing does return, it will be at Nashville Superspeedway for another inaugural racing event. Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on 21st June to see it all unfold. Things 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 #9 – WWT RACEWAY AT GATEWAY – TOP 10 RESULTS

FINSTACAR #DRIVERTEAMINTERVALLEDPOINTS
1448Graham A. BowlinCharlotte Phoenix120 LAPS9740
2195Zack NovakRise Esports+2.837 sec235
3697Logan ClampittWilliam Byron Esports+6.179 sec034
4307Malik RayiRacing Motorsports+6.641 sec033
5234Ryan LuzaXSET+6.850 sec032
63975Matt BussaMode Motorsports+9.067 sec031
71121Garrett LoweWood Brothers Racing+9.739 sec030
8519Vicente SalasWilliams Esports+9.873 sec029
9925Nick OttingerWilliam Byron Esports+10.311 sec028
10273Corey VincentTeam Dillon Esports+11.299 sec027

PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER RACE #9 – WWT RACEWAY AT GATEWAY

POSCAR #DRIVERTEAMWINSPOINTST5’sT10’s
125Nick OttingerWilliam Byron Esports224556
28Michael ContiJR Motorsports218633
375Matt BussaMode Motorsports125026
410Steven WilsonStewart-Haas Esports124145
579Femi OlatunbosunClint Bowyer Racing122034
648Graham A. BowlinCharlotte Phoenix121344
721Garrett LoweWood Brothers Racing119314
895Casey KirwanXSET0220 (+27)25
93Corey VincentTeam Dillon Esports0208 (+15)25
105Zack NovakRise Esports0200 (+7)34
#9 Michael Guest – 11th (-7 points from Top 10)

TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE #9 – WWT RACEWAY AT GATEWAY

POSCAR #’sTEAMPOINTS
110 | 41Stewart-Haas Esports386 (—)
25 | 46Rise eSports381 (-5)
33 | 33Team Dillon Esports379 (-7)
49 | 15Jim Beaver Esports367 (-19)
54 | 95XSET356 (-30)
624 | 75Mode Motorsports346 (-40)
725 | 97William Byron Esports338 (-48)
823 | 4523XI Racing334 (-52)
943 | 48Charlotte Phoenix333 (-53)
1018 | 51Joe Gibbs Racing326 (-60)

RACE #9 – WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY RACEWAY AT GATEWAY – BOX SCORE:

  • One caution for four laps
  • Four lead changes among four drivers
    Byus (1-2), Kirwan (3-21), Bowlin (22-59), Novak (60-61), Bowlin (62-120)
  • Most laps led: No. 48 Graham A. Bowlin (97)
  • Fastest lap: No. 23 Mitchell deJong (Lap 57, 34.323 secs)
  • Rookie of the race: No. 6 Parker Retzlaff (15th place)

2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE

DateRace #TrackLaps
01-Feb-22~Clash~LA Coliseum25/50/120
15-Feb-221Daytona Int’l Speedway80
01-Mar-222Las Vegas Motor Speedway100
15-Mar-223Atlanta Motor Speedway100
29-Mar-224Richmond Raceway130
12-Apr-225Bristol Motor Speedway DIRT25/120
26-Apr-226Dover Motor Speedway120
10-May-227Kansas Speedway100
24-May-228Charlotte Motor Speedway100
31-May-229World Wide Technology Raceway120
21-Jun-2210Nashville Superspeedway100
05-Jul-2211Road America25
19-Jul-2212Pocono Raceway60
16-Aug-2213Watkins Glen Int’l35
30-Aug-2214Darlington Raceway120
13-Sep-22PO1 | 15Bristol Motor Speedway175
27-Sep-22PO2 | 16Talladega Superspeedway70
11-Oct-22PO3 | 17Homestead-Miami Speedway100
25-Oct-22C4F | 18Phoenix Raceway110
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