eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Race Preview: Race 8- Darlington

Justin Melillo
The eighth points paying race of the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season will take place at Darlington Raceway on 16th May.
2021 enascar darlington throwback

It’s time to throwback, virtual style as the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series takes on Darlington Raceway on Tuesday night (16th May), the eighth race on the 2023 schedule. Known in the real-world as Throwback Weekend in the top three divisions of NASCAR, the 40 best oval racers will also participate in the trend again this season.

Darlington Raceway returns for the 14th-straight season in series history, one of the few that have made their appearance on every schedule since the inaugural season of 2010. Last year, the event was won by Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) when it was the final race of the Regular Season.

Halfway into the 2023 Regular Season, this year, Darlington marks the start to the playoff push instead of the end. This is where the top drivers will try to keep themselves in, the middle drivers will try to work their way in, and the drivers at the bottom will try to turn their seasons around to avoid the dreaded relegation line.

TWO WEEKS AGO AT LAS VEGAS

conti leads las vegas

For those trying to make a playoff appearance on points this season, it was a delight to see eDriver 8 Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) score his second win of the season two weeks ago. The #ItsBeenGr8 tour claimed another one after winning at Milwaukee back in February.

This time around was also back-to-back in terms of the same winner as last season at this track with Conti. While Jordy Lopez (Team Dillon Esports) had the early speed and Malik Ray (Jim Beaver Esports) had the late strategy, Conti held on to enough gas at the line to win it.

Conti defeated his Team Conti teammates Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) who finished second and Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports) who finished fourth behind Lopez in third. Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) started on the pole, but wound up finishing in 12th.

RACE 7 AT LAS VEGAS – TOP 10 RESULTS

FINSTACAR #DRIVERTEAMINTERVALLEDPTS
188Michael ContiJR Motorsports100 LAPS6940
2425Nick OttingerWilliam Byron Esports-0.842035
323Jordy Lopez JrTeam Dillon Esports-0.9372334
41046Jimmy MullisRise Esports-0.977033
52133Tucker MinterTeam Dillon Esports-2.313032
63412Garrett ManesFGR Accel eRacing-2.562031
72538Michael Cosey JrFront Row Motorsports-3.823030
8337Malik RayJim Beaver Esports-4.176829
91415Garrett LoweJim Beaver Esports-4.633028
103148Graham A. BowlinCharlotte Phoenix-6.377027

DARLINGTON HISTORY

eNASCAR Coca-Cola: Steven Wilson wins Darlington, Playoff field set

You might hear Darlington Raceway called a “driver’s track”, where a driver’s ability with a decent setup is more valuable than a lesser driver with a better setup. I’m not sure that still rings completely true, but with the 40 best drivers constantly going at it, this list of winners from previous seasons is chock full of some of the best ever.

Josh Berry, who now drives in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the real-world JR Motorsports, won the inaugural Darlington race in series history back in 2010. The next year went to former series competitor Brad Wright.

Ray Alfalla got his first of three wins at the venue in 2012, following up with wins in 2014 and 2017. Nick Ottinger scored the win in 2013 and an infamous 2015 event saw one Landon Harrison score the victory. Current Series Competition Director, Tyler D. Hudson, scored a win in 2016, and in 2018, it was Michael Conti.

Perhaps one of the only outliers was the rookie Ashton Crowder taking an unsuspected victory in 2019, but in 2020, things got back to usual as Keegan Leahy took the win. Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) was victorious in 2021 while Steven Wilson was the most recent winner at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval in 2022.

WHO TO WATCH FOR

eNCCiS Preview: 2021 Playoffs begin at Darlington Raceway

It’s hard to bet against Michael Conti, Nick Ottinger and the Team Conti crew with how strong they’ve been in recent weeks, but I think this will be the week we see Keegan Leahy break back into victory lane to cement his place in the 2023 playoffs.

In the last two seasons and the season before his 2020 victory, Leahy has been a force to be reckoned with, leading often and often finding trouble. Keeg has a bone to pick with The Lady in Black, and I think after some close calls already in the 2023 season, his sights are set on a victory this evening.

What about Deadzone Racing? Well, they’ve been pretty dormant up until this point, scoring those two wins at the superspeedways at Atlanta with Steven Wilson and Talladega with Casey Kirway (XSET). Their intermediate package has been somewhat lacking, but Darlington would be a great place to turn that around.

Graham Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), Kirwan and Wilson would all be their best shots at the virtual track Too Tough To Tame, but don’t overlook their veterans such as Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports) or Allen Boes (Front Row Motorsports).

PLAYOFF SEEDING AFTER RACE 7 AT LAS VEGAS

POS#DRIVERTEAMPTSBEHWINST5T10
18Michael ContiJR Motorsports210WIN233
218Bobby ZalenskiJoe Gibbs Racing160WIN223
333Tucker Minter [R]Team Dillon Esports179WIN133
495Casey KirwanXSET176WIN134
510Steven WilsonStewart-Haas Esports131WIN112
625Nick OttingerWilliam Byron Esports195+35034
73Jordy Lopez Jr [R]Team Dillon Esports179+19022
838Michael Cosey Jr [R]Front Row Motorsports178+18024
848Graham A. BowlinCharlotte Phoenix178+18025
107Malik RayJim Beaver Esports167+7034
1123Keegan Leahy23XI Racing160-7022
1241Dylan DuvalStewart-Haas Esports147-20003

WHERE TO WATCH

eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series Darlington NEXT GEN Preview

The Countdown to Green, now sponsored by Wendy’s, starts at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. BST to bring you up to speed on everything you need to know going into the event. The racing will go green shortly after 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST for the 120-lap event at Darlington.

The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing social channels.

2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE

RACEDATETRACKLAPS
CLASH31-JaneNASCAR Clash at the LA Coliseum | Winner: CASEY KIRWAN20/40/70
114-FebDaytona International Speedway | Winner: TUCKER MINTER80
228-FebThe Milwaukee Mile | Winner: MICHAEL CONTI100
314-MarAtlanta Motor Speedway | Winner: STEVEN WILSON100
428-MarRichmond Raceway | Winner: BOBBY ZALENSKI130
511-AprAutodromo Nazionale Monza | Winner: BOBBY ZALENSKI30
618-AprTalladega Superspeedway | Winner: CASEY KIRWAN70
72-MayLas Vegas Motor Speedway100
816-MayDarlington Raceway120
930-MayCharlotte Motor Speedway100
1013-JunWorld Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway120
1127-JunWatkins Glen International45
1211-JulNashville Superspeedway100
1325-JulNew Hampshire Motor Speedway101
141-AugPocono Raceway60
15 – PO115-AugMichigan International Speedway60
16 – PO229-AugDover Motor Speedway120
17 – PO312-SepPhoenix Raceway120
18 – C426-SepHomestead-Miami Speedway100
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