eNCCiS: Chris Shearburn earns “biggest win ever” at Kansas
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series delivered once again on Tuesday night with Chris Shearburn celebrating a Kansas Speedway victory when it was all said and done.
On the final restart with 46 laps to go, Shearburn began to battle with Isaac Gann for the top spot. Gann cleared himself on lap 91, but Shearburn didn’t give up. As Gann’s tires began to slide around, Shearburn hooked the inside lane and reclaimed the lead with 40 laps to go.
Shearburn held off a final charge from Keegan Leahy in the final laps and went on to win his first race of the season, becoming the seventh different winner in as many races in the 2021 season.
“This is huge,” Shearburn said. “This is by far my biggest win ever, I think.”
Early in the event, Ryan Luza was in control of things, but Shearburn didn’t give him much room to relax.
“I really didn’t think I was ever going to be able to pull off a pass. I got close a couple of times with (Ryan) Luza, it was a lot closer than I thought I was going to. I tried to short pit on him to get in front of him to get some clean air, and it worked out. I was able to get the clean air on the pit stops and pull away from him before the caution came out.”
When Gann pulled ahead on the final restart, Shearburn was pleasantly surprised he was able to make it work this time to take the lead back.
“I can’t believe (Isaac Gann) got in front of me, I thought I had it when he couldn’t get in front of me the first couple of laps… I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to pass him back, but this car was amazing on the bottom.”
Shearburn made history last season in the Homestead-Miami finale by becoming the oldest winner in series history at 39 years old. Now he’s added a few months onto that record after winning his second career race on Tuesday night.
Tentatively, the victory puts Shearburn into the 2021 playoffs, but with seven different winners so far, only three spots remain in the playoffs with seven more races to go in the regular season. Should more than 10 drivers take a victory, it will come down to points to set the playoff field.
IT STARTED OFF LOOKING A LOT LIKE FONTANA
Remember at Auto Club two races ago, how Bob Bryant snookered the faster guys that night by pitting one less time en route to his first career victory? There seemed to be a similar story in the works at Kansas with some guys opting for three pit stops, some for two, and one driver, Blade Whitt, trying to make it the distance on one stop.
Logan Clampitt set the tone with his early stop with over 100 laps to go. The initial look seemed to be a three-stop strategy from the Atlanta winner, but when Whitt hadn’t yet pitted by the timing of when a second stop would be and Clampitt’s team kept him on track for longer, it wound up looking like a two stopper with a long middle stint to gain track position.
Most drivers opted to pit around lap 40 to 45, which would make each run fairly even should it stay green. For the guys who pitted between laps 30 and 35, that just meant that their second and third runs would go longer. During the broadcast, Clampitt’s team communications figured a full run could go as long as 60 laps.
As Whitt relinquished the lead on lap 62, he stayed on track and waited until the exact halfway point, as he completed lap 67 and began lap 68. Whitt made it as high as about the 10th place running car but a lap behind the leaders when a caution flew for the first time at lap 79. The resulting slow down trapped Whitt a lap down for the moment until he was waved around, but the strategy relegated him back into the mid-30s on the ensuing restart.
It would have been interesting to see how it all would have played out if it stayed green. In total, there were 13 lead changes among nine drivers, and who knows how many more there could have been if it would have played out to the end without slowing down.
THIS WASN’T TALLADEGA?
On lap 83, it looked like a Talladega graveyard in the middle of Turns 3 and 4 after the second caution of the night.
Battling for the second position, Mitchell deJong held Logan Clampitt to the apron entering the third turn. As they went in, the two made contact and it sent deJong’s No. 23 Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Toyota up and into oncoming traffic.
The incident nearly wiped-out half of the field.
Drivers involved included:
- Ashton Crowder
- Garrett Manes
- Corey Vincent
- Ryan Luza
- Michael Guest
- Caine Cook
- Steven Wilson
- Mitchell deJong
- Nick Ottinger
- Zack Nichols
- Taylor Hurst
- Casey Kirwan
- Jimmy Mullis
- Brian Schoenburg
- Vicente Salas
- Allen Boes
- Bobby Zalenski
- Zack Novak
- Logan Clampitt
Seven drivers ended up sitting on pit road for an extended period of time while another eight struggled to maintain speed for the remainder of the race.
A few drivers had terrifying near-misses and were able to make it through unscathed.
The pole sitter on the night, Ryan Luza looked to be the man to beat before the incident.
Luza took the fast lap in practice, the pole position, and led 41 of the first 42 laps before taking his first pit stop. Shearburn seemed to be Luza’s only close competition on the night, strategizing ahead of him during the green flag stops. That proved to be a deciding factor as Shearburn drove past the incident clean and Luza wound up on the virtual wrecker.
Whitt, who was bit by the timing of the first caution, was able to make it by unscathed and went on to collect a 13th place finish on the night, earning himself the virtual hard charger award after starting shotgun on the field.
There were only two cautions on the night for eight laps total.
FIRST ROAD COURSE OF 2021, BRAND NEW TO eNCiS
Next up, the series heads to the current US home for Formula 1 racing, that being none other than Circuit of the Americas in the State of Texas. It’s the first time that the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will visit the 3.41-mile venue, and it’s also the first road course event on the 2021 calendar.
Looking at previous road course events, it’s a no brainer to believe that Bobby Zalenski will be the dominant car in three weeks’ time. However, Michael Conti and Nick Ottinger both hold victories at Watkins Glen International and could give Zalenski a run for the win at the new venue. Also in the mix may be the 23XI Racing rookie who is no stranger to road racing, that being Mitchell deJong.
KANSAS SPEEDWAY TOP 10 RESULTS
- 36 Chris Shearburn – LETARTE Esports – 134 LAPS
- 32 Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing +1.838 sec
- 44 Isaac Gann* – Kligerman Sport +4.646 sec
- 97 Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports +5.064 sec
- 10 Graham A. Bowlin – Stewart-Haas Esports +6.185 sec
- 9 Michael Guest – Jim Beaver Esports +7.399 sec
- 8 Michael Conti – JR Motorsports +7.744 sec
- 66 Blake Reynolds – McLaren Shadow +9.350 sec
- 41 Dylan Duval – Stewart-Haas Esports +9.511 sec
- 6 Nathan Lyon – Roush Fenway Gaming +10.743 sec
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER KANSAS SPEEDWAY
- 32 Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing – 1 win
- 97 Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports – 1 win
- 36 Chris Shearburn – LETARTE Esports – 1 win
- 8 Michael Conti – JR Motorsports – 1 win
- 4 Ryan Luza – XSET Gaming – 1 win
- 77 Bob Bryant – Kligerman Sport – 1 win
- 55 Vicente Salas* – Spacestation Gaming – 1 win
- 9 Michael Guest – Jim Beaver Esports – 179 points
- 44 Isaac Gann* – Kligerman Sport – 158 points
- 75 Matt Bussa – MODE Motorsports – 158 points
TEAM STANDINGS – TOP 10 AFTER KANSAS SPEEDWAY
- William Byron Esports (25, 97) – 345 points
- 23XI Racing (23, 32) – 322 points
- LETARTE Esports (36, 83) – 317 points
- Kligerman Sport (44, 77) – 298 points
- MODE Motorsports (24, 75) – 280 points
- XSET Gaming (4, 38) – 271 points
- JR Motorsports (8, 88) – 270 points
- Jim Beaver Esports (9, 15) – 267 points
- Roush Fenway Gaming (6, 17) – 258 points
- Team Dillon Esports (3, 33) – 257 points
*Denotes Rookie of the Year Contender