The second round of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is in the books, and after 134 laps of uninterrupted, green flag racing, Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) was the undisputed winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sure, there were nine lead changes throughout the event, but that had more to do with differing pit strategies taken than anyone outpacing Leahy on Tuesday night.
Leahy led 105 laps from the pole position, defeating Ryan Michael Luza (XSET Gaming) by just over two seconds to claim his first win in 2021, and the ninth of his career in 58 attempts.
“I was trying to play the pit strategy to give myself the most clean air possible,” Leahy told Tim Terry post-race on the iRacing eSports Network. “With a long, green flag race like this, 134 laps green, losing a hundredth of a second a lap adds up to a lot, right? These little decisions I made, like when to pit, how to pass lapped traffic, that’s what made the difference, and I only won by a couple of seconds.”
The closest driver to Leahy was Luza, who kept it close enough to keep the pressure on, but not close enough to make a run at the victory.
“We were really close, speed-wise,” Luza said. “I think it just came down to who had the clean air. The first pit stop, I came out right on (Leahy’s) bumper, and if I could have cleared him, maybe I could have taken off with the clean air. That’s kind of what the race boiled down to, was who got out of pit road in front of the other.”
For the first time, a win automatically places a driver into the eNASCAR Playoff grid, as long as they stay in the Top 20 by the end of the 14 race regular season. Leahy joins Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) in that category following his Homestead-Miami victory.
CONNECTION ISSUES PLAGUE CONTENDERS EARLY
The race wound up caution-free for the full race distance around the 1.5 mile oval in Southern Florida, but it would not come without controversy early on. Not four laps into the race, seven drivers had connection issues and were dropped from the race server.
Four-Time Series Champion Ray Alfalla was among those to drop out, along with 2020 Championship 4 driver Bobby Zalenski, 2019 Championship 4 driver Blake Reynolds, Caine Cook, Graham A. Bowlin, and a pair of rookies in Garrett Manes and Derek Justis. The group of drivers came back into the race about five laps down, and not too long after that, all seven experienced the same issue again.
Zalenski finished the best of the bunch, 10 laps down in 33rd. Of the 40 cars who started, 31 finished on the lead lap.
iRacing officials continued the race without any delay, telling drivers around the 20 lap mark that they were looking into it, and around the 40 lap mark that they would continue on and look into it afterward.
On the iRacing forums, it was determined to be a spotty connection for select Comcast users. iRacing says they are asking for further information from Comcast about the unfortunate event.
UNEVENTFUL EVENING FOR MOST
The race seemed to fly by, uneventful for most in the field. It took just under 75 minutes to go flag to flag, and only nine cars didn’t finish on the lead lap.
The only car one lap down was Brad Davies (JR Motorsports), who ended up spinning into the pits during the first pit sequence. Davies ran consistently around the Top 10, but one lap off the pace due to his error. The only other car with issues in the event was the No. 14 of Blade Whitt (Clint Bowyer Racing), who had engine woes on lap 8. Whitt came back in 58 laps later, ran a few laps, and retired for good at lap 88.
The differing pit strategies brought some excitement to the fold, as Bob Bryant (Kligerman Sport) and Malik Ray (Spacestation Gaming) opted to pit once instead of twice like everyone else. It didn’t work out as great for Ray, who fell down to 25th spot when it was over, but on the other hand, Bryant was able to capture a Top 10 finish, coming home eighth.
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY UP NEXT
The third race of the season is only a week away, lining things up smoothly with the NASCAR race week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Last season, Jimmy Mullis took the checkers in Vegas, his second win of the 2020 season.
Heading into Vegas, both Leahy and Conti sit atop the playoff board, both with a win, both sitting inside the Top 20 easily in the driver’s standings. Corey Vincent has the most points without a victory, second overall with 64 points.
HOMESTEAD-MIAMI TOP 10 RESULTS
- 32 – Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing 134 LAPS
- 4 – Ryan Michael Luza – XSET Gaming +2.293
- 36 – Chris Shearburn – LETARTE eSports +3.521
- 21 – Garrett Lowe – Wood Bros Gaming +7.643
- 33 – Taylor Hurst – Team Dillon eSports +9.581
- 3 – Corey Vincent – Team Dillon eSports +11.564
- 25 – Nick Ottinger – William Byron eSports +12.630
- 77 – Bob Bryant – Kligerman Sport +13.611
- 90 – Zack Novak – Richmond Raceway eSports +14.342
- 8 – Michael Conti – JR Motorsports +15.159
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER HOMESTEAD-MIAMI
- 8 – Michael Conti 1 win
- 32 – Keegan Leahy 1 win
- 3 – Corey Vincent 64
- 36 – Chris Shearburn 62
- 38 – Casey Kirwan 54
- 44 – Isaac Gann* 53
- 9 – Michael Guest 52
- 23 – Mitchell deJong* 52
- 21 – Garrett Lowe 51
- 25 – Nick Ottinger 50
- 52 – Jake Matheson 45
- 24 Jake Nichols 45
TEAM STANDINGS – TOP 5
- 23XI Racing (23, 32) 112
- JR Motorsports (8, 88) 99
- Team Dillon eSports (3, 33) 99
- LETARTE eSports (36, 83) 97
- Kligerman Sport (44, 77) 95