The unofficial start to the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season is in the record books, and just as it was last year, Casey Kirwan (XSET) stole the show. 2022’s defending series champion took the lead just past halfway and cruised to yet another L.A. Coliseum Clash victory on Tuesday night (31st January).
38 of the 40 drivers in the series pulled up for the exhibition event, two weeks ahead of the true start to the season at Daytona International Speedway. Kirwan was victorious last season in the inaugural eNASCAR Clash. Then he went on to win the title in October…
Kirwan led 32 of the 70 laps, leading the final 32 after taking control from Garrett Lowe (Jim Beaver Esports). Lowe led 37 laps on the night while rookie competitor Timmy Holmes (RFK Racing) led a sole lap en route to finishing in sixth.
The feature had two caution periods, the only two on the entire night, as the series began to reacclimate back into existence following the offseason, Free Agency and a well produced Media and Production day in Charlotte, North Carolina three weeks ago.
HEAT RACES TO SET THE FIELD
As advertised, the night would feature a trio of Heat races, with five drivers advancing to the feature from each. The final seven spots to make up the 22-car field would be decided later on in a Last Chance Consolation race.
The pole belonged to Corey Vincent (Pittsburgh Knights) with a blistering lap time of 13.316 seconds. Ryan Luza (XSET) and Holmes would round out the Top 3 spots and would each lead a respective Heat to the green flag.
The first heat saw Lowe pass Vincent for the victory after 20 laps. Kevin King (JR Motorsports), Michael Cosey Jr (Front Row Motorsports) and Zack Novak (Rise Esports) would round out the Top 5, the list that would transfer to the feature.
In the second heat, things got wild almost instantly as Cody Byus (Elliott Sadler Esports) was spun off the nose of Derek Justis (Kansas City Pioneers). Byus wouldn’t recover, but Luza would score an easy victory with Jordy Lopez Jr (Team Dillon Esports) finishing second, Justis in third, and Michael Guest (23XI Racing) and Matt Bussa (William Byron Esports) rounding out the transfer list. Bussa’s fifth place finish was only 0.010 seconds ahead of Kaden Honeycutt (RFK Racing), who would fall to the LCQ.
For the final Heat, Holmes would get an incredible launch on Kirwan, pulling away to lead all 20 laps. Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) managed to pass both Kirwan and Dylan Ault (Letarte Esports) for the runner-up spot by the end of it. All four would be joined by Vicente Salas (Williams Esports) in transferring.
LAST CHANCE GETS FIESTY, BIG NAMES MISS MAIN
23 drivers who had failed to make it so far were all stuffed into a desperation 40-lapper where only the Top 7 could advance upwards and onwards. With finishing in sixth in the first heat, Parker White (Kanaan Esports) led the field to the green with Honeycutt and Garrett Manes (FGR Accel eRacing) in tow.
The early stages saw many hopefuls fall out of contention. Darik Bourdeau (Elliott Sadler Esports) was done almost instantly. Joey Brown (FGR Accel eRacing) and 2022 Championship 4 competitor Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) were stuck with broken axels the next time by.
Champions such as Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) and Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) all found themselves battling to advance to the feature in this LCQ. Things didn’t go well for Conti, as he wound up losing a lap following a few incidents and failed to advance.
For Leahy, he just needed to keep his nose clean and survive. He did just that, managing a sixth place finish to move on. The battle would fall to the seventh and final spot, and boy did things get fired up. Ottinger had it, but Kollin Keister (eRacr) wanted it. The two traded blows until two to go, when they were trying to figure out who wanted to follow who, and Keister wound up turning Ottinger.
Ottinger would end up finishing 11th and was eliminated. Keister took that final spot and joined White, Manes, Honeycutt, Daniel Faulkingham (Joe Gibbs Racing), Tucker Minter (Team Dillon Esports) and Leahy in transferring to the main event.
KIRWAN BESTS LOWE IN FEATURE
Once the 22 car field was set for the eNASCAR Clash, things started off as calm as they’d been all night. Lowe got out to a decent lead over Luza and Holmes almost instantly while drivers like Kirwan and White began to carve their way up the order.
While there were zero cautions in the three Heats and the one LCQ, cautions were available to use in the feature if needed, and they would be controlled by a race administrator. Basically, things would need to be really bad for the flag to fly.
On two occasions, the yellow did come out. The first time was after Faulkingham got spun and it collected the likes of Lopez Jr and Luza, essentially ending all three of their chances. A second caution flew shortly after when Justis was trying to get himself unstuck after a spin and wound up more stuck, involving Bussa.
While Holmes was able to steal a lap on the first caution restart, Lowe took it right back and pulled away from the field on the final restart with about 50 laps to go. Kirwan had made his way up into position by that point and began to stalk.
With 32 laps to go, Kirwan looked on the inside of Lowe. The two ran side-by-side for a few corners before the position was essentially yielded. The two came up to a patch of traffic, but with the use of the chrome horn on occasion, both drivers were able to make it through before they were caught by the rookie White.
Kirwan went on to win it by more than a second over Lowe. White managed to pass King with four laps to go to round out the podium.
2022 eNASCAR COCA-COLA iRACING SERIES CLASH – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||9||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||70 LAPS||32|
|2||1||15||Garrett Lowe||Jim Beaver Esports||+1.117 secs||37|
|3||16||11||Parker White||Kanaan Esports||+3.391 secs||0|
|4||7||88||Kevin King||JR Motorsports||+4.230 secs||0|
|5||15||55||Vicente Salas||Williams Esports||+4.520 secs||0|
|6||3||6||Timmy Holmes||RFK Racing||+6.641 secs||1|
|7||6||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+7.639 secs||0|
|8||22||42||Kollin Keister||eRacr||+9.340 secs||0|
|9||17||12||Garrett Manes||FGR Accel eRacing||+9.436 secs||0|
|10||20||33||Tucker Minter||Team Dillon Esports||+9.512 secs||0|
The season REALLY starts in two weeks, when the series heads down to Daytona for the opening round of the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season. Last year, Femi Olatunbosun (now with Charlotte Phoenix) was able to win in a three-wide contest over Manes and Wilson at the line.
This year, the physics are a little bit different than a year ago, so we’ll have to see how these trimmed out NEXT Gens will react at Daytona with arguably the most-realistic NASCAR Cup superspeedway package to date.
Things kick off with the eNASCAR Countdown to Green, which begins at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. GMT on Tuesday, 14th February. The race itself starts at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. GMT. Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless, Alan Cavanna, Camille Salazar Hadaway and James Pike are expected to be on the call.
2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|1||14-Feb||Daytona International Speedway||80|
|2||28-Feb||The Milwaukee Mile||100|
|3||14-Mar||Atlanta Motor Speedway||100|
|5||11-Apr||Autodromo Nazionale Monza||30|
|7||2-May||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||100|
|9||30-May||Charlotte Motor Speedway||100|
|10||13-Jun||World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway||120|
|11||27-Jun||Watkins Glen International||45|
|13||25-Jul||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||101|
|15 – PO1||15-Aug||Michigan International Speedway||60|
|16 – PO2||29-Aug||Dover Motor Speedway||120|
|17 – PO3||12-Sep||Phoenix Raceway||120|
|18 – C4||26-Sep||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|