After a split-strategy decision during the final 66 lap green flag run to the finish, Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports) was able to both save enough gas and race his way into victory lane in the closing laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday night (24th May 2022).
The eighth race of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, the Coca-Cola 150, came down to the final moments as fuel mileage came into play. With five laps to go, Malik Ray (iRacing Motorsports) relinquished the lead as Bussa battled alongside Zack Novak (Rise Esports) for the top spot.
Bussa was able to prevail on the high side, and held on for his first win of the 2022 season, the third of his career. Novak wound up with his best finish of the season, second, while Ray wound up finishing 35th, three laps down.
“It feels amazing,” Bussa said post-race. “I’ll tell you, last year, we had five races in the bag, I thought, based on fuel mileage if a caution didn’t come out. Of course, all of those races, the yellow came out. This one, I had it in the back of my head that there could be a yellow and this would all be for nothing. Thankfully, it went green and here we are in victory lane at Charlotte.”
The win vaults Bussa into second in the points standings, ten points behind Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) for the Regular Season points lead. If he can maintain a spot in the Top 20, and there are no more than ten winners, Bussa will race for a title once again in 2022.
FUEL MILEAGE “LOTTERY”
Post-race, some drivers were ecstatic to have chosen the right strategy, while other lamented in having speed but no result to show for it. It was truly a split decision in the final run to the end as some drivers opted to pit, and other stayed out and hoped to make it.
Malik Ray didn’t play for the fuel saving strategy, but had Top 5 speed the entire race. He took control of the race with 21 laps to go and from the looks of it, his only play was to get a caution before he had to pit. Meanwhile, earlier in the run, Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) was plummeting through the field as he attempted to have enough fuel to make it to Lap 100.
As Vicente Salas (Williams Esports) and Ray fought to get by Leahy, the defending champion got on the radio and announced that he was just trying to save fuel in the moment. From there, the landscape of the race began to change.
Some of the drivers running decent races decided to start holding back a little. Virtual fuel tanks could go about 65 to 70 laps without needing a refuel. The caution where all of the drivers pitted was lap 25. It would be a coin flip decision throughout the field.
Bussa and Novak did it the best as they had enough to battle for the win amongst each other. As for those who pitted, Casey Kirwan (XSET) was the best finisher, coming home 16th.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY FOR CONTI
There was nobody more dominant that Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) on Tuesday night. In qualifying, Conti was the only driver to post a lap in the 29.4 second bracket. In the event itself, Conti had some heat from both Leahy and Wilson at certain points, but neither could get by.
When the first caution flew on Lap 25 for an incident involving Collin Bowden (eRacr), Logan Clampitt (William Byron Esports), Brian Mercurio (LETARTE Esports) and more, Conti led the entire field down the pits and maintained the lead.
The second and final caution flew immediately on the next restart when Dylan Ault (LETARTE Esports) got caught up in a bad check-up, as he was sent spinning into the wall head on off the bumper of Corey Vincent (Team Dillon Esports).
Now, if that second caution didn’t come out, I don’t know if anyone could have made it. Some drivers opted to come in a top off, but all of the leaders stayed out and maintained that status quo. Conti’s play was to take the second pit stop at Lap 70, running a few laps longer than some of his competitors.
The call wasn’t it, however, and the dominant performance from Conti was gone. Between pitting when he did and others not even pitting at all, 69 laps led meant nothing as he crossed the line in 23rd.
JIM BEAVER ESPORTS BACK TO TOP OF THE TEAMS
As is the norm this season, the team points have a different duo on top of things yet again. After a disappointing night from the former leaders at Team Dillon Esports, things turned in the favor of the Jim Beaver Esports teammates as they once again find themselves leading the 2022 Team Points.
Michael Guest was the leading factor behind the jump from second to first. Guest chose the long game strategy, and as some of his competitors ran out around him, he was able to coast it home to a third place finish. His teammate, Blake Reynolds, unfortunately chose the alternate strategy, and while he still managed a 24th place finish, he did lose a spot to Guest in the current Playoff Standings.
Stewart-Haas Esports moves back into second as Team Dillon falls to third. Wilson, the new points leaders of the Driver’s Standings, managed a sixth place run on fumes. Dylan Duval had some unfortunate pit road contact and faltered to finish 31st.
The biggest movers in the Team Rankings has to be the Rise Esports duo of Novak and Jimmy Mullis. While Novak was able to score second, Mullis backed that up with a fourth place effort. The combined results moves Rise up to fourth in the Team Standings, 39 points out of the top spot.
NEXT UP: INAUGURAL GATEWAY RACE EVENT
There’s only one week between now and the next race of the 2022 season, an inaugural date with World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. A brand new track to both the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series and the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022, Gateway could be a wild card with so many uncertainties.
The venue is an egg-shaped oval that measures 1.25-miles in length. It’s previously been utilized in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but 2022 will be the first time it reaches the top ranks of both NASCAR and eNASCAR.
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on 31st May 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 #8 – COCA-COLA 150 AT CHARLOTTE – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||28||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||100 LAPS||5||40|
|2||34||5||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||+0.370 sec||0||35|
|3||6||9||Michael Guest||Jim Beaver Esports||+0.863 sec||0||34|
|4||19||46||Jimmy Mullis||Rise Esports||+4.318 sec||0||33|
|5||33||51||Ray Alfalla||Joe Gibbs Racing||+4.495 sec||0||32|
|6||3||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||+5.043 sec||0||31|
|7||22||31||Garrett Manes||Elliott Sadler Esports||+6.118 sec||0||30|
|8||4||45||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||+6.334 sec||0||29|
|9||20||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+6.799 sec||0||28|
|10||32||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||+7.649 sec||0||27|
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER RACE #8 – CHARLOTTE
|1||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron eSports||2||217||5||5|
|2||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||157||3||3|
|3||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas eSports||1||229||4||5|
|4||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||1||219||2||5|
|5||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||214||3||4|
|6||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||1||136||1||3|
|7||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||0||199 (+22)||2||5|
|8||9||Michael Guest||Jim Beaver eSports||0||192 (+15)||3||5|
|9||15||Blake Reynolds||Jim Beaver eSports||0||182 (+5)||1||3|
|10||3||Corey Vincent||Team Dillon Esports||0||181 (+4)||2||4|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE #8 – CHARLOTTE
|1||9 | 15||Jim Beaver eSports||364 (—)|
|2||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas eSports||348 (-16)|
|3||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||347 (-17)|
|4||5 | 46||Rise eSports||325 (-39)|
|5||4 | 95||XSET||302 (-62)|
|5||2 | 31||Elliott Sadler Esports||302 (-62)|
|7||24 | 75||Mode Motorsports||301 (-63)|
|8||23 | 45||23XI Racing||289 (-75)|
|9||14 | 79||Clint Bowyer Racing||283 (-81)|
|9||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||283 (-81)|
RACE #8 – CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY – BOX SCORE:
- Two cautions for eight laps
- Three lead changes among four drivers
Conti (1-69), Kirwan (70-79), Ray (80-95), Bussa (96-100)
- Most laps led: No. 8 Michael Conti (69)
- Fastest lap: No. 10 Steven Wilson (Lap 37, 29.852 secs)
- Rookie of the race: No. 2 Liam Brotherton (12th place)
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|31-May-22||9||World Wide Technology Raceway||120|
|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|