In his 100th career eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series start on Tuesday night (16th May) at Darlington Raceway, the defending series champion Casey Kirwan (XSET) managed to pull off the Wreckers to Checkers victory after early involvement in the first caution. Kirwan held off Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) for the victory.
It’s Kirwan’s second victory of the season, and the fifth of his career. The 2022 Champ is now more secure than ever for a post-season berth in the 2023 eNASCAR Playoffs. With damage to his right front for 114 of the 120 laps on the night, victory did not come easy for the XSET driver.
In fact, when Casey wins, he always wins in dramatic fashion. His first win at Bristol came down to the final laps. Win no. 2 was in a photo finish in eNASCAR Overtime at Michigan. Who could forget his drag race with Zack Novak at Pocono last year, or his fourth career win last month at Talladega, snatching the win from Malik Ray?
Even in his championship battle, which wasn’t a victory, but a brawl for second with Bobby Zalenski at Phoenix last October, it came after entering that night as the underdog. NEVER count out Casey Kirwan. He’s quickly becoming eNASCAR’s version of “The Closer”, a nod to Kevin Harvick and his ability to win out of nowhere.
There were three cautions for 10 laps, 10 total lead changes among nine different drivers, and some insane strategies that paid off for some, and not so much for others. Only six races remain until the 2023 eNASCAR Playoffs.
KIRWAN: “WE WON AT DARLINGTON. IT’S CRAZY”
Tuesday’s race was a throwback race night, where 23 of 39 cars participated with liveries akin to motorsports’ past. Most schemes threw back to NASCAR, such as Kirwan’s 2011 Tony Stewart throwback. Others like the Kanaan Esports and Williams Esports duos, threw back to their respective series of IndyCar and F1.
READ: All of the 2023 eNASCAR Throwback paint schemes for Darlington
Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix) was not in a throwback car, but he was the fastest in qualifying and started on the pole alongside another car not dressed for the occasion, that being Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) in his first race on the Norse Force Racing backend team.
The first caution was for Kirwan, who got caught in the fracas after Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports) caught the wall a few cars ahead and Femi Olatunbosun (Charlotte Phoenix) looked to make it three-wide at the last moment. This put Kirwan in a compromising position that also collected Daniel Faulkingham (Joe Gibbs Racing).
DEADZONE BACK FROM THE DEAD?
Both Bowlin and Kirwan looked to have the best long run pace, but they were up against the likes of the Team Conti squadron of Nick Ottinger, Matt Bussa (William Byron Esports) and Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), who seemed to have more overall pace until the tires fell off, and fell off hard.
While both Wilson and Olatunbosun took their talents to Norse Force starting this week, and with Wilson showing early pace, it was the Deadzone duo that seemed to have the race on lock if it were to go green, something that really hadn’t been in the cards to this point on the season.
Other Deadzoners seemed to be stuck in the mid-pack, but it was encouraging to see the champion and one of the other Championship 4 competitors towards the front throughout the night.
COMERS AND GOERS
In reality, this “driver’s track” had a very old school feeling in the sense that we had drivers that would come and go. Matt Bussa was the early favorite, but after getting passed by his teammate Ottinger, he quickly fell down the order and out of the conversation for the win.
Ottinger was likely the most consistent running driver through the night, but he wasn’t in position to do anything with it at the end, especially given the extremely hard time he had to get that second spot late in the going.
An interesting call came from the No. 7 camp with Malik Ray (Jim Beaver Esports). Ray waited until lap 78 to pit. After getting his lap back, Ray parked it in front of the leader, who at the time had cycled to be Kirwan, and super saved his tires while essentially running 38th. With the caution only a dozen laps into his run, Ray stayed out.
Restarting second, Ray passed his Jim Beaver Esports teammate Garrett Lowe, also on old tires, for the lead. Another quick yellow saw him line up in the lead alongside the two tire strategy of Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) and in front of the four tire users in Bowlin and Kirwan.
Ray held on to finish fifth, behind Kirwan, Ottinger, Conti and Bowlin. Zalenski’s two tires put him back to finish eighth, right behind the early dominator that was Bussa.
RACE 8 AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||14||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||120 LAPS||32||40|
|2||6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||+0.325 secs||18||35|
|3||10||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||+1.670 secs||1||34|
|4||1||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||+3.095 secs||3||33|
|5||28||7||Malik Ray||Jim Beaver Esports||+4.415 secs||17||32|
|6||26||12||Garrett Manes||FGR Accel eRacing||+4.483 secs||0||31|
|7||4||97||Matt Bussa||William Byron Esports||+5.058 secs||36||30|
|8||21||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+5.514 secs||0||29|
|9||29||33||Tucker Minter||Team Dillon Esports||+5.572 secs||0||28|
|10||11||3||Jordy Lopez||Team Dillon Esports||+5.609 secs||5||27|
PLAYOFF SEEDING AFTER RACE 8 AT DARLINGTON
|1||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||244||WIN||2||4||4|
|3||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||189||WIN||2||2||4|
|4||33||Tucker Minter [R]||Team Dillon Esports||207||WIN||1||3||4|
|5||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||157||WIN||1||1||2|
|6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||230||+58||0||4||5|
|7||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||211||+39||0||3||6|
|8||3||Jordy Lopez Jr [R]||Team Dillon Esports||206||+34||0||2||3|
|9||7||Malik Ray||Jim Beaver Esports||199||+27||0||4||5|
|9||38||Michael Cosey Jr [R]||Front Row Motorsports||199||+27||0||2||4|
|11||23||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||172||-27||0||2||2|
|12||12||Garrett Manes||FGR Accel eRacing||166||-33||0||1||4|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE 8 AT DARLINGTON
|1||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||413||—||1||5||7|
|2||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||384||-29||0||4||8|
|3||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||360||-53||2||4||4|
|4||34 | 38||Front Row Motorsports||350||-63||0||2||6|
|5||23 | 45||23XI Racing||315||-98||0||3||4|
|6||7 | 15||Jim Beaver Esports||314||-99||0||4||6|
|7||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas Esports||305||-108||1||1||5|
|8||11 | 66||Tony Kanaan Esports||291||-122||0||0||4|
|9||4 | 95||XSET||281||-132||2||4||5|
|10||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||252||-161||0||3||6|
- Three cautions for 10 laps in 120 completed laps
- 10 lead changes among nine drivers
- Pole sitter: No. 48 Graham A. Bowlin (28.842 secs)
- Most laps led: No. 97 Matt Bussa (36 laps led)
- Lap Leaders:
- #48 Graham A. Bowlin (Pole-3)
- #97 Matt Bussa (4-39)
- #25 Nick Ottinger (40-57)
- #8 Michael Conti (58)
- #3 Jordy Lopez (59-63)
- #7 Malik Ray (64-72)
- #4 Ryan Luza (73-77)
- #95 Casey Kirwan (78-94)
- #15 Garrett Lowe (95-97)
- #7 Malik Ray (98-105)
- #95 Casey Kirwan (106-120)
- Fastest lap: No. 25 Nick Ottinger (Lap 110, 29.021 secs)
- Hard charger: No. 46 Jimmy Mullis (Started 39th, Finished 15th | +24 spots)
- Hard luck: No. 54 Daniel Faulkingham (Started 3rd, Finished 38th | -35 spots)
- Fewest incidents: Nine drivers with 0x (Highest finisher with 0x: #8 Michael Conti)
- Most incidents: No. 6 Timmy Holmes (14x)
- Rookie of the race: No. 33 Tucker Minter (9th place)
- Team of the race: No. 25 / No. 97 William Byron Esports (65 points, 2nd and 7th)
- Winning Club: Carolina
UP NEXT: POST-MEMORIAL DAY ACTIVITIES AT CHARLOTTE
With six races remaining in the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Regular Season, the next chance to win and get into the playoffs will be post-Memorial Day, on 30th May, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Things will kick off with the eNASCAR Countdown to Green, now presented by Wendy’s, which begins at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. BST. The race itself starts at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST. Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless, Alan Cavanna, Camille Salazar Hadaway and James Pike are expected to be on the call.
The 100-lap event broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing social channels.
2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|9||30-May||Charlotte Motor Speedway||100|
|10||13-Jun||World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway||120|
|11||27-Jun||Chicago Street Course||TBA|
|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|
Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Throwback scheme from Tuesday night!