Last season, NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron scored the opening victory at the inaugural virtual Bristol Dirt Race in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series. Nearly a year later, his William Byron eSports driver, the 2020 season series champion Nick Ottinger, was able to score the inaugural victory for the Bristol Dirt Race in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
With 50 laps to go, Ottinger made his way around Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix) for the lead spot as the field worked their longest green flag run of the night. Bowlin stayed within reach as the duo took on lapped traffic. As the laps wound down, Ottinger was able to pull away as Bowlin faded. Bowlin wound up finishing third behind Ottinger and Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas eSports).
The victory is Ottinger’s first of the 2022 season, and the 18th of his storied career. Ottinger sits second all-time, now eight wins behind the four-time champion of the series Ray Alfalla, who holds 26 career victories. The victory all but locks Ottinger into the 2022 playoffs alongside Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing) and Wilson.
DUAL HEAT RACES TO SET THE GRID
Being the first dirt race in eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series history, the format was slightly altered from the usual schedule. Heat races are usually a big part of dirt racing, usually setting a lineup for a main event while also sometimes eliminating drivers and awarding points. The latter two were not in play on Tuesday night, as the pair of 25 lap heats would set the inside and outside rows respectively.
All of the drivers who qualified in an odd position took on the first heat. Bowlin scored the fast lap in qualifying and was near untouchable in the heat. As Bowlin pulled away, Wilson was able to work his way through the pack. Wilson moved up from fifth to finish runner-up, which meant a third place starting spot in the feature.
The second heat would set the outside row, and Corey Vincent (Team Dillon Esports) led the field to the green. Logan Clampitt (William Byron eSports) and Garrett Manes (Elliott Sadler Esports) kept in touch through the quick event. Manes was able to get the advantage and take the lead from Vincent with just laps to go. Clampitt also got around Vincent and made a last attempt on the white, but came up short.
Bowlin and Manes would lead the field to the start in the feature, both showing the most speed in their respective duels. As it turned out, neither would be victorious in the feature by the end of the night.
A ROUGH, DIRTY START TO THE BRISTOL DIRT EVENT
Coming into the event, there were a lot of unknowns. 40 cars on a dirt track sounds like a bad idea, and for the first half, maybe it was. For the first 25 laps of the 120 lap event, the race saw four cautions with more caution laps on the board than green flag laps.
There was almost a wreck immediately, and despite Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) being completely sideway, the race stayed green. The actual first caution came when Vicente Salas (Williams Esports) and Kyle Peddle (Spacestation Racing) collided in the corner. It didn’t stop there.
Caution two took place after Clampitt caught the wall and the resulting contact led to a pair of JR Motorsports cars spinning to the right, collecting many others. The third yellow involved another partial track blocker when Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Michael Guest (Jim Beaver Esports) got together. Caution four saw Darik Bourdeau (eRacr) spin into the inside wall, hard.
A wreck with the two Williams Esports cars and a Wood Brothers entry, an incident with the two RFK Racing drivers colliding after avoiding Manes who was battling for the lead a corner before, and an unfortunate four-wide spin kept the field continuously packed up.
By the time the drivers figured it out, eight cautions in the first half were marred by more than half of the laps (34) being spent under caution. Presumably, the drivers got tired of the pacing and decided to finally go green. Either that, or a mandate from race control to make restarts single file cleaned up the action.
UNEXPECTED GREEN FLAG RUN TO THE END
For the most part, Bowlin looked almost unbeatable. He had the early pace, a clean car, and only Manes was able to get alongside him by that point. Unfortunately, as the field entered it’s longest green flag run of the night, the track began to get demolished.
As the race progressed green, Ottinger sat behind Bowlin and attempted to pick up any nuances that he could. Eventually, with 50 laps to go, Ottinger made the move. The pair made contact. The result was an ecstatic Ottinger in the front and a heated Bowlin now in chase mode for the first time all night.
As the pair worked lapped traffic, Ottinger kept it collected as Bowlin did everything he could to keep up. Eventually, Ottinger pulled away and Bowlin fell into the clutches of Wilson for second.
Wilson did everything in his power to close in for the lead, but without a caution, the gap was too great.
CHARLOTTE PHOENIX TAKE TOTAL TEAM POINT CONTROL
While Bowlin had another phenomenal performance, Kollin Keister made his presence known by claiming a third Top 10 finish on the five race season. The duo combined now lead the league in the Team Standings, unofficially 25 points up on last week’s leaders, Jim Beaver Esports.
It was a bad night for JBE’s Michael Guest. Guest was involved in just about every incident, caution-worthy or not, in the first couple of laps. Luckily, his teammate Blake Reynolds was able to capitalize on the night, scoring another Top 5 finish for the team.
Stewart-Haas eSports maintains the third position, but making the biggest jump is the winning team from this week, William Byron eSports.
Last week, the Ottinger/Clampitt duo had just broken into the Top 10 in the team points. After Bristol, the pair sits in fourth overall, 37 points out.
NEXT UP: A DATE WITH MILES THE MONSTER
Dover Motor Speedway is next up for he eNASCAR stars in two weeks.
This particular venue has been on the eNASCAR calendar eight times prior since its first race back in 2011, won by Thomas Lewandowski. Both Ottinger and Conti have won at the Monster Mile twice before while Ryan Luza (XSET) has a lone victory from the 2017 season. Dover wasn’t on the calendar last season, but in 2020, Ottinger was victorious.
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on 26th April 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 #5 – BRISTOL DIRT TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||5||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron eSports||120 LAPS||50||40|
|2||3||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas eSports||+3.094 sec||0||35|
|3||1||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||+4.286 sec||68||34|
|4||8||15||Blake Reynolds||Jim Beaver eSports||+4.871 sec||0||33|
|5||7||23||Mitchell deJong||23XI Racing||+6.737 sec||0||32|
|6||13||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||+8.026 sec||0||31|
|7||4||97||Logan Clampitt||William Byron eSports||+8.184 sec||0||30|
|8||21||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||+11.890 sec||0||29|
|9||22||43||Kollin Keister||Charlotte Phoenix||+13.368 sec||0||28|
|10||6||3||Corey Vincent||Team Dillon Esports||+13.539 sec||0||27|
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER RACE #5 – BRISTOL DIRT
|1||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||117||3||3|
|2||25||Nick Ottinger||Team Dillon Esports||1||152||4||4|
|3||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas eSports||1||150||3||3|
|4||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||135||1||2|
|5||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||0||140 (+27)||3||3|
|6||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||0||127 (+14)||1||3|
|7||15||Blake Reynolds||Jim Beaver eSports||0||126 (+13)||1||2|
|8||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||0||119 (+6)||0||1|
|9||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||0||116 (+3)||1||3|
|10||43||Kollin Keister||Charlotte Phoenix||0||114 (+1)||0||3|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE #5 – BRISTOL DIRT
|1||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||254 (–)|
|2||9 | 15||Jim Beaver eSports||229 (-25)|
|3||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas eSports||224 (-30)|
|4||25 | 97||William Byron eSports||218 (-36)|
|5||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||214 (-40)|
|6||4 | 95||XSET||209 (-45)|
|7||23 | 45||23XI Racing||200 (-54)|
|8||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||198 (-56)|
|9||14 | 79||Clint Bowyer Racing||197 (-57)|
|10||18 | 51||Joe Gibbs Racing||181 (-73)|
BRISTOL DIRT BOX SCORE:
- 8 cautions for 34 laps
- 3 lead changes among 3 drivers (Ottinger, Bowlin, Manes)
- Most laps led: No. 48 Graham A. Bowlin (68)
- Fastest lap: No. 48 Graham A. Bowlin (Lap 2, 18.200 secs)
- Rookie of the race: No. 69 Collin Bowden (12th place)
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|26-Apr-22||6||Dover Motor Speedway||120|
|24-May-22||8||Charlotte Motor Speedway||100|
|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|