The first ticket to the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Championship 4 has been punched. Garrett Lowe (Jim Beaver Esports) persevered in a pair of eNASCAR Overtime restarts to move from 12th to third, then third to the lead on a two-tire pit stop call late in the show.
His second win of the 2023 season and the fourth of his career, Lowe is the only driver with a guaranteed seat on the stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte this September. The Gastonia, North Carolina driver won’t have to travel too far to compete in what will be his first crack at the Coke Series title.
Lowe held off Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Racing) and Michael Guest (23XI Racing) to score the victory. Together with fifth place finisher Jordy Lopez (Team Dillon Esports), the trio of Playoff drivers that finished right behind Lowe are the current trio in on points leaving Michigan.
Of course, a win is the only guarantee, and Lowe is the only one to earn that after one race.
Lowe: “We just had to take the opportunities when they came”
Tucker Minter (Team Dillon Esports) kicked off the night with an impressive pole run, beating out Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) and Lowe for the top spot. It didn’t take long for the first caution to fly, however, as cars went around towards the back on Lap 5.
Leahy had taken the point just before the yellow flew, but on the restart, it was Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Racing) who jumped at the opportunity to lead. His Deadzone Racing backend teammate Casey Kirwan (XSET) jumped into the runner-up spot with Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) running in third.
A caution at lap 17 brough the field down pit road for the first time collectively, most drivers opting for four tires and a full can of fuel. With enough pacing, making it to the end might have been a play, but the tires were still an important aspect to keep in mind.
Split decisions on pits
Right at the expected halfway mark, a caution once again bunched the field back together. Drivers only had two extra sets of virtual tires to take on the night, and about a half dozen drivers opted to take their last pairs with half the race remaining.
It would seemingly pay off as they all rose to the top of the charts. Collin Bowden (eRacr), Joey Brown (fgrAccel eRacing) and Ryan Luza (XSET) have all had seasons of misery to this point, but their off-strategy call looked to be a turning point. Even Leahy was in on the fun, and as the laps wound down, it looked to be what would win.
Meanwhile, the cars who didn’t pit were all losing tons of time. Front runners like Conti and Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) were mired in the 20s. The only three that looked to have any tire by the end were Kirwan, Minter, and Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing).
A late race yellow that completely changed the outcome
Of course, as Leahy was set to take the white flag and finally turn his season into a positive, the caution flew in Turn 4. Garrett Manes (fgrAccel eRacing) made a late dive and it would cause Corey Vincent (Pittsburgh Knights) to crash up into the likes of Conti and Ottinger.
The caution that everyone was waiting for was finally here, but they would get only eNASCAR Overtime attempts to use the new virtual rubber. Lowe opted for two tires and restarted in 12th. The decision was fractured to where 11 cars stayed out, four drivers took two (including Guest, Lopez and Zack Novak (Rise Esports) and the rest took four.
Up front, Leahy and Luza led the way, other drivers on old tires including championship hopefuls such as Zalenski, Minter and Kirwan. The first restart attempt would end in tears for that entire trio as Zalenski went to block Lowe in Turn 3 and wound up wrecked instead, collecting the other two and many more.
An insane finish
Up front, there was more drama as Leahy and Luza made contact around the same time as the incident behind them. It looked like they initially gathered it back up, but more contact sent Leahy hard into the outside wall and out of the race.
On the final restart, it was Luza and Kollin Keister (eRacr) on the front row with Lowe alongside Manes in the second row. Lowe was on two, Manes was on four, and before Turn 1, they were making contact. Lowe was able to collect it and make the pass on Keister into second as Manes wound up swallowed by the pack.
Into Turn 3, Lowe made it stick around Luza. Luza would plummet to finish 19th after leading with two to go and taking the white flag in eighth. Meanwhile up front, Lowe had it with Wilson and Guest on their way to try and steal it. Lowe managed to hold on and win his way to a Championship 4 berth.
Race 15 at Michigan International Speedway – Top 10 Results
|1||3||15||Garrett Lowe||Jim Beaver Esports||78 LAPS||2||40|
|2||9||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Racing||+0.134 secs||0||35|
|3||24||45||Michael Guest||23XI Racing||+0.345 secs||0||34|
|4||10||41||Dylan Duval||Stewart-Haas Racing||+0.488 secs||37||33|
|5||19||3||Jordy Lopez||Team Dillon Esports||+0.492 secs||0||32|
|6||25||12||Garrett Manes||fgrAccel eRacing||+0.506 secs||0||31|
|7||31||75||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||+0.548 secs||0||30|
|8||26||77||Ryan Doucette||Pittsburgh Knights||+0.560 secs||0||29|
|9||4||51||Donovan Strauss||Williams Esports||+0.666 secs||0||28|
|10||22||1||Darik Bourdeau||Elliott Sadler Esports||+0.718 secs||0||27|
Shakeup in Playoff Standings
Coming into the evening, it was Zalenski, Conti, Minter and Kirwan as the Top 4 seeded drivers. Due to their poor luck at Michigan, none of them leave still in that Top 4 position.
Lowe locks up a guaranteed spot in the title race, which leaves three spots at current to fight for amongst the nine remaining drivers. Wilson leads the points of those drivers, just by a single point over Guest and by three over Lopez.
Kirwan, meanwhile, wound up in 14th and sits six points out of contention. Zalenski falls from the top spot to sixth with Minter seventh, Mullis eighth, Ottinger ninth and Conti the biggest loser on the night in 10th.
Playoff Standings following Playoff Race #1 at Michigan
|1||15||Garrett Lowe||Jim Beaver Esports||LOCKED||—-||2||4||7|
|2||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Racing||2038||+9||1||3||6|
|3||45||Michael Guest||23XI Racing||2037||+8||1||3||6|
|4||3||Jordy Lopez [R]||Team Dillon Esports||2035||+6||1||4||7|
|— CUT OFF —|
|6||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||2024||-11||3||3||6|
|7||33||Tucker Minter [R]||Team Dillon Esports||2019||-16||2||5||6|
|8||46||Jimmy Mullis||Rise Esports||2014||-21||1||3||4|
|9||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||2012||-23||0||5||8|
|10||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2011||-24||2||7||8|
Team Championship now a four-team race
With a great finish from Lopez and an ok result from Minter, it was enough to land the Team Dillon Esports duo back on top of the Team Title with three races to go. It is only by nine points, however, over William Byron Esports, who collectively suffered a 13-point round with Ottinger in 25th and Bussa 36th.
The big winners on the night were Stewart-Haas Racing, now only 33 points out of the top spot. They were more than a race out entering the night, and now sit just behind the winning Jim Beaver Esports organization in third, 26 points behind.
Not to say JR Motorsports is or isn’t out of it, but they are more than a full race behind and it’s mostly been a carry from Conti this season. They could get into the conversation depending on how Dover goes, but for now, it looks to be just the Top 4 in the mix leaving Michigan.
Team Standings after Race 15 at Michigan International Speedway
|1||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||701||—||3||9||13|
|2||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||692||-9||0||7||15|
|3||7 | 15||Jim Beaver Esports||675||-26||2||10||15|
|4||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas Racing||668||-33||1||6||12|
|5||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||624||-77||2||7||8|
|6||11 | 66||Tony Kanaan Esports||588||-113||0||2||8|
|7||23 | 45||23XI Racing||567||-134||1||5||8|
|8||34 | 38||Front Row Motorsports||542||-159||0||2||8|
|9||46 | 75||Rise Esports||500||-201||1||4||7|
|10||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||469||-232||0||4||9|
Michigan International Speedway – Box Score
- Six cautions for 18 laps in 78 completed laps (+8 in eNASCAR Overtime)
- Nine lead changes among seven drivers
- Pole sitter: No. 33 Tucker Minter (38.219 secs)
- Most laps led: No. 41 Dylan Duval (37 laps led)
- Lap Leaders:
- #33 Tucker Minter (pole-4)
- #23 Keegan Leahy (5-8)
- #41 Dylan Duval (9-45)
- #69 Collin Bowden (46-49)
- #23 Keegan Leahy (50-55)
- #14 Joey Brown (56-59)
- #69 Collin Bowden (60)
- #23 Keegan Leahy (61-72)
- #4 Ryan Luza (73-76)
- #15 Garrett Lowe (77-78)
- Fastest lap: No. 51 Donovan Strauss (Lap 26, 38.629 secs)
- Hard charger: No. 75 Zack Novak (Started 31st, Finished 7th | +24 spots)
- Hard luck: No. 23 Keegan Leahy (Started 2nd, Finished 38th | -36 spots)
- Fewest incidents: #48 Graham Bowlin (0x, Finished 37th)
- Most incidents: No. 45 Michael Guest (20x, Finished 3rd)
- Rookie of the race: No. 3 Jordy Lopez (5th Place)
- Team of the race: No. 10 / No. 41 – Stewart-Haas Racing (68 points, 2nd and 4th)
- Winning Club: Carolina
Up Next: A date at Dover with Miles the Monster
Now, there are only two chances left to ensure a trip to Charlotte to race in the Championship 4 finale live on stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Monster Mile, also known as Dover Motor Speedway, is the next battle, and surely Nick Ottinger will be looking to get a third straight at the track to lock into the final four.
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 and Camille Salazar Hadaway are expected to be on the call.
2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Schedule
|16 – PO2||29-Aug||Dover Motor Speedway||120|
|17 – PO3||12-Sep||Phoenix Raceway||120|
|18 – C4||26-Sep||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|