Another season in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series history books has officially begun. The 14th season of competition once again kicked things off at the hallowed ground of Daytona International Speedway. When the checkered flag flew, a new face found himself celebrating in virtual victory lane.
Before tonight, only two drivers had ever won in their series debut. The most recent to do it was Darik Bourdeau (Elliott Sadler Esports) back in 2016. The first to do it was in the first race in Series history back in 2010, and that was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now we can add Team Dillon Esports‘ Tucker Minter to that list.
After contending throughout the night, Minter put himself in the perfect position to begin the final lap. He was in second, right behind the defending champion Casey Kirwan (XSET). Off of Turn 4, Minter went low. Kirwan tried to block but the two made contact, sending Minter ahead towards his first ever victory.
Malik Ray (Jim Beaver Esports) and Bourdeau finished out the podium spots. Kirwan slipped back to finish fourth while another rookie contender in Michael Cosey Jr (Front Row Motorsports) rounded out the Top 5 on Tuesday (14th February).
37 of the 40 starters completed every lap, including the seven extra laps due to two rounds of eNASCAR Overtime. The race saw four cautions all together, two of which happened in the last handful of laps, for a total of 12 laps of pacing. Allen Boes (Front Row Motorsports) led the most laps at 26.
MINTER: “DREAMING ABOUT, THINKING ABOUT THIS RACE ALL OFFSEASON”
The first rookie to win since Mitchell deJong did it back in 2021 at Circuit of the Americas, Minter has already exceeded his own expectations with Tuesday night’s victory.
“I tried to keep my expectations real low coming into the year,” Minter told Blake McCandless on the post-race show. “Rookies don’t generally win Coke Series races, it usually takes a year or two to get there… Now to have myself in a prime position to lock into the playoffs already, it’s huge.”
Minter is, in fact, now all but locked into the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs after just one race. He’ll need to maintain his position in the Top 20 and hope ten other winners don’t beat him in the final regular season points.
FIREWORKS EARLY, OFTEN AND THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT
The race began in peculiar fashion as Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports) led the field to the green flag as almost immediately, the caution flag flew. What looked to be a checkup on the bottom lane caused Dylan Ault (Letarte Esports) and Donovan Strauss (Williams Esports) to make contact and spin before Turn 1.
Garrett Manes (FGR Accel eRacing) was the most unlucky as a result, collecting the most significant damage as he limped around the entire rest of the race just to finish 39th, three laps down.
When the race resumed, things did start to fizzle. Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) had stolen the lead in that moment originally in the first caution from Duval and led, but not too long afterward, Kollin Keister (eRacr) had taken the top lane to the promised land.
Zalenski wouldn’t go away quietly, however. A few laps after, he and Cosey Jr tandemed back to the top spot and brought with them a host of other Altus backend team cars such as Minter and his Team Dillon teammate Jordy Lopez Jr. Cosey Jr and Minter later tandemed around Zalenski to give Cosey Jr the lead.
FOUR CAR BREAKAWAY
Just before pit stops, Cosey Jr, Minter, Zalenski and Lopez Jr all managed to break away from the field. A weird almost incident split the pack up and the Top 4 managed to pull multiple seconds of the rest of the field.
They would retain the lead after pit stops as well, but it would be Minter in the lead instead of Cosey Jr. The pack from fifth on back was led by Boes as they worked to catch the lead draft.
Boes would eventually catch up with his help behind him, taking control before too long. However, a wreck that didn’t result in a caution, followed by a wreck that did a few laps later, changed the complexion of the event.
TO BE (A CAUTION) OR NOT TO BE (A CAUTION)
In the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, caution flags are thrown by the in-game caution system as opposed to utilizing the in-race control humans. The simulation tries its best, but sometimes, things get missed and things that should be cautions just don’t happen the way they should.
Take the incident at Lap 57 which involved about a fifth of the field. They weren’t running in the main pack, but surely the platform would pick up on multiple cars strewn across the racing surface, right?
Wrong. No caution flew on that instance.
However, a full lap later, a caution flag did fly for a two-car incident involving Cody Byus (Elliott Sadler Esports) and Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix).
This brought the field back together after having been separated following the pit cycle. This brought names many hopefuls back into the equation for the victory.
As things began to wind down to the wire, moment after moment separated the field from one another, allowing the Top 9 cars to pull away and 10th on back screaming out at one another to figure it out and catch up.
Boes was leading with Kirwan in tow, followed by Minter, Cosey Jr and Tyler Garey (Kanaan Esports). With three laps to go, it was looking like they’d have a chance at making it, but alas, the caution flag flew and they were all forced into eNASCAR Overtime.
On the first overtime restart, Boes lost out on the lead to Kirwan who brough the likes of Cosey Jr and Derek Justis (Kansas City Pioneers) through up into the Top 3. Another crash saw another overtime attempt, and it would thankfully be the final one of the night.
Things got physical for the lead as Kirwan wrestled his way to hold the top spot. Minter was right behind as they ultimately separated into a three-car pack with Malik Ray (Jim Beaver Esports) in tow.
Off of the final corner of the final lap, Minter went low. Kirwan went lower. The two made contact, and Kirwan was heading towards the outside wall. Minter held on and held off Ray to win his first race in his first ever start in the series.
2023 eNASCAR COCA-COLA iRACING SERIES – RACE 1 AT DAYTONA – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||8||33||Tucker Minter||Team Dillon Esports||87 LAPS||14||40|
|2||38||7||Malik Ray||Jim Beaver Esports||0.085 secs||0||35|
|3||20||1||Darik Bourdeau||Elliott Sadler Esports||0.212 secs||1||34|
|4||11||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||0.220 secs||5||33|
|5||6||38||Michael Cosey Jr||Front Row Motorsports||0.418 secs||11||32|
|6||10||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||0.514 secs||0||31|
|7||31||66||Tyler Garey||Kanaan Esports||0.616 secs||1||30|
|8||12||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||0.824 secs||0||29|
|9||19||34||Allen Boes||Front Row Motorsports||0.864 secs||26||28|
|10||28||2||Corey Vincent||Pittsburgh Knights||0.936 secs||0||27|
2023 eNASCAR COCA-COLA iRACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS AFTER RACE 1 AT DAYTONA
|1||33||Tucker Minter||Team Dillon Esports||40||—||1||1||1|
|2||7||Malik Ray||Jim Beaver Esports||35||-5||0||1||1|
|3||1||Darik Bourdeau||Elliott Sadler Esports||34||-6||0||1||1|
|5||38||Michael Cosey Jr||Front Row Motorsports||32||-8||0||1||1|
|6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||31||-9||0||0||1|
|7||66||Tyler Garey||Kanaan Esports||30||-10||0||0||1|
|8||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||29||-11||0||0||1|
|9||34||Allen Boes||Front Row Motorsports||28||-12||0||0||1|
|10||2||Corey Vincent||Pittsburgh Knights||27||-13||0||0||1|
2023 eNASCAR COCA-COLA iRACING SERIES TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE 1 AT DAYTONA
|1||34 | 38||Front Row Motorsports||60||—||0||1||2|
|2||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||57||-3||1||1||1|
|3||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||52||-8||0||0||1|
|4||23 | 45||23XI Racing||47||-13||0||0||0|
|5||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||46||-14||0||0||1|
|6||2 | 77||Pittsburgh Knights||46||-14||0||0||1|
|7||11 | 66||Kanaan Esports||46||-14||0||0||1|
|8||4 | 95||XSET||43||-17||0||1||1|
|9||1 | 27||Elliott Sadler Esports||41||-19||0||1||1|
|10||46 | 75||Rise Esports||37||-23||0||0||0|
- Four cautions for 12 laps in 87 completed laps (80 + 7 laps overtime)
- 11 lead changes among nine drivers
- Most laps led: No. 34 Allen Boes (26)
- Fastest lap: No. 48 Graham A. Bowlin (Lap 65, 43.986 secs)
- Hard charger: No. 7 Malik Ray (Started 38th, Finished 2nd | +36 spots)
- Hard luck: No. 69 Collin Bowden (Started 4th, Finished 35th | -31 spots)
- Fewest incidents: No. 33 Tucker Minter (0x)
- Most incidents: No. 40 Dylan Ault (25x)
- Rookie of the race: No. 33 Tucker Minter (1st place)
- Team of the race: No. 34 / No. 38 Front Row Motorsports (60 points)
- Winning Club: Virginias
UP NEXT: A MILE AT MILWAUKEE
In two weeks, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will return for its second race of the 2023 season, the first ever trip by the eNASCAR faithful to the Milwaukee Mile. While it is one of iRacing’s older venues, it may be a whole new challenge for some of these younger Coke Series drivers regardless.
Things kick off with the eNASCAR Countdown to Green, which begins at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. GMT on Tuesday, 28th 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.
The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing social channels.
2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|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|