For the second time this season, we have a new winner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. Round 3 took the best oval iRacers to the old version of Atlanta Motor Speedway for a scheduled 100-lap event. After 107 laps due to a pair of eNASCAR overtime restarts, Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas eSports) took the victory, his first at the highest level of eNASCAR racing.
On the second to last restart, Wilson almost nudged ahead of Charlotte Phoenix competitor Graham A. Bowlin. Restarting second for the final time, Wilson managed to hold off fresh tires from Nick Ottinger (William Byron eSports), pass Bowlin before Turn 3, and hold off Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports) down to the line.
In his 21st career eNASCAR Coke Series start, after so many near-victories in his rookie season and a near win at Daytona earlier this season, Wilson is finally an eNASCAR winner.
A gutsy call to stay out on old tires proved to be a winning one even with fresh tires knocking on his bumper. “To be honest, we all thought we were screwed,” Wilson said post-race. “It held on pretty well. I was able to put it in front of Bussa into Turn 3… I cleared myself off of his front bumper earlier in the race. He had every right to ship me into 3.”
Bussa, who took two tires on the final pit cycle, was up front the majority of the race. He thought he had it won, but as Wilson alluded, the older tires did their job. “Those old tires really held on well for a lap or two, and honestly that was more than we expected.”
Bussa would wreck across the line after contact with both Bowlin and Briar LaPradd (JR Motorsports) coming to the line. Michael Guest (Jim Beaver eSports) snuck through the wreckage to finish third, while Ottinger was fourth and LaPradd finished fifth. He was the leader on the last lap, but Bowlin wound up in 12th.
The third different winner in as many races, Wilson moves up to second in the overall standings just a single point behind Daytona winner Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing). Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), winner at Las Vegas two weeks ago, falls to ninth in the points, but still holds his playoff “lock” for now.
NICK “ROCKETMAN” OTTINGER
Three-for-three, Ottinger can call himself the new “Rocketman” after capturing yet another pole on the 2022 season. Ottinger led the field to green alongside Bussa and controlled the first half of the race.
38 drivers took the green flag on Tuesday (15th March). Two drivers didn’t, including Malik Ray (iRacing Motorsports) who suffered from connection issues earlier in the day, as well as Kyle Peddle (Spacestation Racing) who sat for a week after violating the iRacing Sporting Code.
There was an early caution at lap 4 when multiple drivers started getting squirrel-y in the corner. The worst damages went to a pair of teammates at RFK Racing, as both Parker Retzlaff and Kaden Honeycutt went for a loop. Kollin Keister (Charlotte Phoenix) was also collected.
The yellow set the stage for a long, clean and green run. Ottinger controlled the race from the low line while Bussa led the charge on the high side. Last week’s winner Conti made moves to get up inside the Top 5, but the low line was tough to make moves on.
For a while, the high line was the dominant lane, forcing drivers to ride as close to the wall as they could to prevent others from passing. About the only car on the bottom trying to make it work was the No. 10 of Wilson. His Stewart-Haas eSports teammate Dylan Duval rode the top lane for the majority of the run. Duval held the advantage up until the last few laps of the run, when the bottom came in strong.
TO PIT, OR NOT TO PIT
The pits became a busy place just after lap 40. Only one pit stop was needed to make it to the end, so drivers could pit a little early. Garrett Manes (Elliott Sadler Esports) led down a group of drivers at lap 43 and the cycle kicked off from there.
After everyone but Allen Boes (Spacestation Racing) had pitted, the field had cycled around to a new cast up front. Ottinger was still there, but he was joined by Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) and LaPradd, all on differing strategies. Ottinger seemed to win out at the time, but he needed Boes to pit to reclaim the top spot.
Before Boes could pit, hoever, disaster struck for a handful of front runners. As Derek Justis (iRacing Motorsports) was getting lapped, he attempted to let the field by safely. Unfortunately, he straddled the apron in a way that turned the NEXT Gen Mustang on a dime.
Ryan Luza (XSET) was there to make first contact, and Conti took a shot straight into the wall from there. Darik Bourdeau (eRacr) also managed heavy contact in the wreck.
The circumstances changed the complexion of the race. Ray Alfalla (Joe Gibbs Racing) opted to stay out on the caution, while Zalenski won the battle out of the pits. Boes and Ottinger lined up in the next row, and from there, it was an uphill climb for the 2020 champion Ottinger.
Once he lost control, it was nearly impossible for Ottinger to take it back. His car looked evil in the dirty air, sliding around as he tried to make moves back to the top. For a bit, it looked like Zalenski had snookered a victory from Ottinger’s grasp, but those who had saved started to rise to the top as the laps wound down.
Ottinger was the first to get to Zalenski’s bumper. He tried low, but Zalenski pinched him down and held him off. Wilson then got the run, and made his dive for the lead. Zalenski fought back, and down the backstretch it was Bowlin now looking for a piece of it. When it settled, Bowlin was the leader with Ottinger right behind with five laps to go.
A late race spin from Bussa after contact from Casey Kirwan (XSET) set the stage for the final act.
The decision to pit was split. Bowlin, Zalenski and Wilson opted to stay out with only a handful of others. Bussa, the spinner, took two tires after managing a perfect 360 and only losing a few spots. Ottinger took the four freshies and they lined up once more. Bowlin led, Bussa was seventh, and Ottinger was ninth.
The first overtime attempt didn’t see the white flag, as Donovan Strauss (Williams Esports) went for a spin after possible contact with Ottinger. Many hopefuls were involved, including Duval and RISE eSports’ Jimmy Mullis.
Meanwhile up front, the caution flew just before the line and just before Wilson could clear Bowlin. Restacked and ready to go, the field took the final green on lap 106.
As Ottinger and Bussa both worked their way to the back bumpers of Bowlin and Wilson, the white flag was displayed. Both Ottinger and Bussa wanted the middle to take the lead three-wide, but they made contact. Ottinger saved it, and Bussa kept charging. Wilson cleared Bowlin on the outside in the meanwhile as they went into Turn 3.
As Bussa looked low, Wilson painted the apron out of Turn 4. As they wrecked behind him, Wilson took his first checkered flag.
STEWART-HAAS ESPORTS ON TOP OF TEAM POINTS
With Wilson’s win and an unfortunate 25th place effort from Duval, Stewart-Haas eSports takes control of the team standings. Duval spent the majority of the night in the Top 10, but that last caution completely ruined his chanced after he sustained heavy nose damage.
Stewart-Haas eSports only leads by three points over the former leaders at XSET. Kirwan managed an eighth, but Luza was damaged in the Justis wreck earlier and limped it home to 26th.
The fine folks at Jim Beaver eSports sit third after three weeks after an insane finish by Guest to finish third. His teammate Blake Reynolds had an average run after starting 20th, eventually finishing 19th.
Olatunbosun’s team, Clint Bowyer Racing, spent the last two years at the bottom of the standings. Now, they’re in fourth overall. Olatunbosun finished 14th while Nickolas Shelton brought the No. 14 home to finish right behind in 15th.
The defending champions got their trophy in the mail today, but otherwise, 23XI Racing has been pretty quiet in 2022. Both the defending champion Keegan Leahy and 2021 Rookie of the Year Mitchell deJong managed Top 10 finishes on Tuesday after spending most of the race out of the picture. They’re up to fifth in the team points.
JR Motorsports continues their Top 5 streak with LaPradd’s first career Top 5 finish, but after Conti’s unexpected exit just after halfway, the team falls to seventh just behind the newcomers at the Charlotte Phoenix.
NEXT UP: RICHMOND RACEWAY
Richmond Raceway hosts the fourth round of the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, and the first since the Richmond Raceway eSports team was rebranded to RISE eSports.
Last season, Vicente Salas took his Spacestation Racing Mustang around 203 times without once being passed. This year, he’s with Williams Esports, and he’ll be looking to do the same thing. Alfalla, Ottinger and Luza are also previous winners at the 0.75-mile short track and will all be looking to add their first wins of the season at the track in two weeks.
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on 29th March to see it all unfold. Things will kick off with the Countdown to Green for a half-hour before the main cast starts at 9:00 p.m. ET. The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing Social Channels.
RACE #3 – ATLANTA TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||6||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||107 LAPS||3||40|
|2||2||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||+0.290 sec||2||35|
|3||24||9||Michael Guest||Jim Beaver eSports||+0.329 sec||0||34|
|4||1||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron eSports||+0.440 sec||48||33|
|5||29||88||Briar LaPradd (R)||JR Motorsports||+0.480 sec||0||32|
|6||3||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+0.590 sec||16||31|
|7||16||97||Logan Clampitt||William Byron eSports||+0.832 sec||0||30|
|8||23||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||+0.832 sec||0||29|
|9||9||23||Mitchell deJong||23XI Racing||+0.871 sec||0||28|
|10||5||45||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||+0.928 sec||0||27|
POINTS AFTER RACE #3 – ATLANTA
|1||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||90 pts – WIN||1||2|
|2||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas eSports||89 pts – WIN||2||2|
|3||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||74 pts – WIN||2||2|
|4||31||Garrett Manes||Elliott Sadler Esports||84 pts||1||2|
|4||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||84 pts||1||2|
|6||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||80 pts||0||1|
|7||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron eSports||78 pts||2||2|
|8||45||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||75 pts||0||2|
|8||15||Blake Reynolds||Jim Beaver eSports||75 pts||0||1|
|10||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||71 pts||1||1|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE #3 – ATLANTA
|1||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas eSports||135 pts|
|2||4 | 95||XSET||132 pts|
|3||9 | 15||Jim Beaver eSports||130 pts|
|4||14 | 79||Clint Bowyer Racing||119 pts|
|5||23 | 45||23XI Racing||118 pts|
|6||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||114 pts|
|7||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||113 pts|
|8||2 | 31||Elliott Sadler Esports||112 pts|
|9||18 | 51||Joe Gibbs Racing||109 pts|
|10||25 | 97||William Byron eSports||97 pts|
ATLANTA BOX SCORE:
- Four cautions for 16 laps
- 12 lead changes among eight drivers
- Most laps led: No. 25 Nick Ottinger (48)
- Fastest lap: No. 10 Steven Wilson (Lap 73, 30.611 secs)
- Rookie of the race: No. 88 Briar LaPradd (5th place)
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|12-Apr-22||5||Bristol Motor Speedway DIRT||25/120|
|26-Apr-22||6||Dover Motor Speedway||120|
|24-May-22||8||Charlotte Motor Speedway||100|
|31-May-22||9||World Wide Technology Raceway||120|
|16-Aug-22||13||Watkins Glen Int’l||35|
|13-Sep-22||PO1 | 15||Bristol Motor Speedway||175|
|27-Sep-22||PO2 | 16||Talladega Superspeedway||70|
|11-Oct-22||PO3 | 17||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|
|25-Oct-22||C4F | 18||Phoenix Raceway||110|