Take a bow, Jimmy Mullis.
After multiple late race restarts and with a pair of past reigning champions in hot pursuit, Mullis managed to pull off his third straight win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the fifth victory of his career.
“I was shaking, to be honest,” Mullis said. “It’s unreal. There’s a lot of emotions right now. We’ve had a pretty rough year, on and off the track, and this last week or so has been really tough. To pull this off is huge. It’s huge for our team, Richmond Raceway Esports. I couldn’t be happier to be back in victory lane here at New Hampshire. I love this place.”
For most of those final restarts, Mullis had the likes of Michael Conti right alongside as they raced into Turn 1. Right behind, Mullis’s Richmond Raceway Esports teammate, Zack Novak, restarted in third, also needing a win. The pair of Conti and Novak were eventually bested by eventual runner-up Jake Nichols, but Mullis was untouchable.
“I just love this style of racing,” Mullis said. “I know every time we head here, we’ll have a piece to race with. I’m so thankful. This is incredible.”
With the win, Mullis moves from 20th to 14th in the points. More importantly, Mullis preemptively locks himself into the 2021 playoffs as long as he stays in the Top 20 in the standings and there are no new winners in the final two regular season races. A points breakdown can be found later in this race rundown.
MAGIC MILE FILLED WITH MULTIPLE MESSES
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is often filled with some of the most intense, yet most respectful racing across the top levels of sim racing. That was the case for about the first 25 laps on Tuesday night, but an early caution set the tone for chaos to ensue.
The first caution flew when Ashton Crowder and Ryan Doucette made contact multiple times until the pair spun hard into the wall. Another similar incident halted another short green flag run about the same amount of laps later. On lap 52, Brian Schoenburg and Anthony Burroughs were fighting for essentially last when they made contact.
The theme recurred throughout the rest of the evening. Garrett Manes and Steven Wilson were both trying to get as much as they could and collided at lap 88. Lap 121 saw Femi Olat misjudge his nose and sent Caine Cook spinning as a result.
With less than 30 laps to go and pit stops no longer necessary, spots became crucial on restarts. Ryan Luza paid a hefty price for it, as did many others on the next restart. Barely a lap into it, drivers went three and four wide, resulting in a massive pileup on lap 126. Luza went from a Top 5 performance to an eventual 33rd place result.
Mullis continued to bring the field to the green as Conti and Novak continued to stay within striking distance. The next caution flew, and again it was for Manes, this time with help from Derek Justis. The next wreck involved a pair of McLaren Shadow teammates in Allen Boes and Blake Reynolds.
The final caution that set up overtime was due to a four wide battle gone wrong on the backstretch. As the field went into Turn 3, Matt Bussa was sent into his Team Conti teammate Logan Clampitt.
Some drivers said it was some of the most disrespectful racing they had seen in the series. Only eight drivers, all of which finished in the Top 10, managed to bring it home with no incident points.
PLAYOFFS COULD PIVOT IN FINAL TWO RACES
Only two races remain in the 2021 regular season. After the All Star Race, announced during the broadcast that it will take place in the NASCAR NEXT Gen cars at Nashville Superspeedway, the series will head to Watkins Glen Int’l for the final road race of the season.
After Watkins Glen, the series decides the ten drivers that will race for a title following Round 14 at Michigan. With these drivers more tuned for oval racing, road events often mix up the usual suspects that run well. Mitchell deJong and Bobby Zalenski will be early favorites there, both already winners on the season.
With 11 winners on the season, there are more winners than there are playoff tickets. As it stands, ten of those winners are currently in the Top 20, a stipulation to be playoff eligible. Ray Alfalla is the odd man out, currently 25th in the standings. Alfalla is 23 points behind the cut, but he’s also 25 points behind the 10th place driver on the playoff grid, Chris Shearburn.
Shearburn started Tuesday night on the pole position, but after losing track position, he found himself falling down the standings quickly. Shearburn wound up finishing 23rd at the end of the night. Only seven points above relegation and 25 points ahead of Alfalla, the two drivers have been riding different slopes in recent weeks.
Alfalla is on the rise following his win at Charlotte while Shearburn has spiraled down since his win at Kansas. Neither driver has historically performed well at road courses, so Watkins Glen may be a coin flip. The trends lean towards Alfalla lately, so if there are no new winners, his playoff hopes are still alive.
WHAT ABOUT THE POINTS?
For the drivers with a large sum of points and no win, their playoff chances aren’t over yet either. Before Mullis shook up the status quo with his three-peat at New Hampshire, the talk for the final spot was between Steven Wilson, Graham A. Bowlin and Michael Guest. As it stands, none of them will make the playoffs despite occupying three of the Top 5 spots in the standings.
If Shearburn falls out, or really any of the winners since nobody is locked just yet, that would open up one spot for a points scorer. Alternatively, if any of those guys win, they’d be a lock with their point total. Not even the points leader, Keegan Leahy, is officially mathematically locked in at this point.
Leahy should lock in at Watkins Glen without worry. The same goes for deJong, the only multi-race winner so far through 12 races. A second win would essentially lock anyone, but staying above the relegation line is key to keeping a playoff spot.
Points will still be a crucial topic through the rest of the season. Drivers assuming a win would be a lock are now calculating points against other winners in the series. The relegation line will still be a factor for the 30 drivers that don’t make the playoffs. Making the Top 20 prevents a case of having to go back to the Road to Pro Challenger Series.
ALL STAR UP NEXT
As announced on the Tuesday night broadcast, the upcoming All Star Race will feature NASCAR NEXT Gen at Nashville Superspeedway.
With the cancellation of the remainder of the 2021 eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series, the NEXT Gen cars weren’t likely to see much action on official platforms until 2022. Unfortunately for Coke Series painters, they’ll have the task of converting schemes to the new car over the next week or so.
TOP 10 RESULTS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
- 46 Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway Esports 152 LAPS
- 24 Jake Nichols – MODE Motorsports +0.453 sec
- 8 Michael Conti – JR Motorsports +0.528 sec
- 90 Zack Novak – Richmond Raceway Esports +0.685 sec
- 10 Graham A. Bowlin – Stewart-Haas Esports +0.709 sec
- 88 Brad Davies – JR Motorsports +0.873 sec
- 51 Ray Alfalla – Gibbs Gaming +0.902 sec
- 9 Michael Guest – Jim Beaver Esports +1.194 sec
- 3 Corey Vincent – Team Dillon Esports +1.203 sec
- 23 Mitchell deJong – 23XI Racing +1.555 sec
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER NEW HAMPSHIRE
- 23 Mitchell deJong – 23XI Racing – 2 wins
- 32 Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing – 1 win
- 83 Bobby Zalenski – LETARTE Esports – 1 win
- 8 Michael Conti – JR Motorsports – 1 win
- 55 Vicente Salas – Spacestation Gaming – 1 win
- 77 Bob Bryant – Kligerman Sport – 1 win
- 97 Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports – 1 win
- 46 Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway Esports – 1 win
- 4 Ryan Luza – XSET Gaming – 1 win
- 36 Chris Shearburn – LETARTE Esports – 1 win
*51 Ray Alfalla – Gibbs Gaming – 1 win, outside Top 20, -25 behind Shearburn
TOP 10 TEAM STANDINGS AFTER NEW HAMPSHIRE
- 23XI Racing (23, 32) – 569 points | 3 wins
- Stewart-Haas Esports (10, 41) – 503 points
- XSET Gaming (4, 38) – 486 points | 1 win
- William Byron Esports (25, 97) – 484 points | 1 win
- LETARTE Esports (36, 83) – 480 points | 2 wins
- Kligerman Sport (44, 77) – 464 points | 1 win
- Team Dillon Esports (3, 33) – 451 points
- Richmond Raceway Esports (46, 90) – 446 points | 1 win
- JR Motorsports (8, 88) – 442 points | 1 win
- Roush Fenway Gaming (6, 17) – 440 points