The month of July was better known as Firecracker 400 season in the iRacing oval community in 2023. 43 drivers qualified for the eRacr.gg Firecracker 400 presented by the Thrustmaster T818, but only one would be able to take the crown as the 2023 event champion.
After weeks of preliminaries, qualifying, what turned out to be a last chance race to make the big show on Monday in the Firecracker 200 and 160 mostly green laps around the older edition of Daytona International Speedway, Nexxus Esports’ Logan Helton was victorious by mere inches over Altus Esports’ Ryan Doucette.
On the final restart, Helton restarted in the 10th position. As they took the white flag, Helton had moved into fifth, taking the bottom lane into Turn 1 behind Doucette. Up top, Altus Esports’ Michael Cosey Jr led, but after contact with Deadzone Racing’s Casey Kirwan, the track became blocked.
It was just Doucette and Helton, with Deadzone driver Nathan Lyon waiting in the wings in third in case anything happened. Doucette took the low line, Helton went high. Off of Turn 4, contact! Doucette narrowly avoided the grass and slid back into Helton’s door, literally. At the line, it was Helton by 0.005 seconds.
Helton only led a single lap, the last one. Lyon would have been there with another lap, but instead he comes home in third, the hard charger of the race with 35 spots gained. Larry Pace finished fourth and Colton Salek, quite possibly the only driver in eRacr.gg Firecracker 400 history to be on their roof at some point in all three races, managed a fifth place effort. Salek was one of 12 drivers in the 2023 field to have qualified for all three events.
For 122 laps, all 43 drivers were on track and in contention, the race clean and green for the first 75 percent of the event. The field managed two full green flag pit stop cycles, and with the window open at 38 laps to go, the final cycle was just about to take shape.
Unfortunately, a crash would bunch up the field and change the complexion of the rest of the event. In the final 38 laps, the field would be slowed six times for 17 of those laps, setting up for some interesting strategies with plenty of sets of tires to take sitting on virtual pit road.
On the final real opportunity to pit for strategy, a trio of Altus Esports drivers were at the front, but they were not all on the same page at the pit entrance. Doucette and Cosey Jr maintained their position on track while Seth DeMerchant opted for a final pair of new shoes.
While DeMerchant attempted to work back up, Cosey Jr and Doucette had to hold off Ray Alfalla and Kevin McAdams. One final caution bunched up the field for the final restart, and that’s where Helton was able to carve his way through the mess and to the front, barely edging Doucette for the victory.
Alek Martinez (Nexxus Esports) won the pole position and took on the Whitz Racing Last-to-First Challenge for a chance at winning a $10,000 bonus. On the final restart, Martinez was 11th, but he was spun out on the green and would end up finishing 19th.
Two drivers had unconfirmed game or internet issues during the long green flag run and lost multiple laps due to the issues that neither were able to get back. Norse Force Racing’s Parker White and NTM v6’s Philip McCandless both fell out of the race but came back in, finishing 27th and 32nd, respectively.
The inaugural winner of the eRacr.gg Firecracker 400 back in 2020, Brandon Kettelle (NTM v6) was a force throughout the night. His race would end early, however, in a late race incident, as he wound up finishing 34th.
The other former Firecracker 400 winner from 2021, Cosey Jr, was in position to win before his incident with Kirwan. Cosey Jr won his way into the 400 after winning the Firecracker 200 on Monday over Alex Kolonics and Connor Harrington. Unfortunately, with the final lap crash, Cosey would finish in 20th.
A total of 20 drivers led laps on Wednesday night, the most of which was 19, a total that was led by two drivers – NTM v6’s Chris Overland and Deadzone Racing’s Michael Guest. Both would get caught up in late race incidents with Overland finishing 12th and Guest finishing in 21st.
2023 Firecracker 400 Final Results:
|1||28||63||Logan Helton||160 LAPS||1|
|2||34||77||Ryan Doucette||-0.005 secs||9|
|3||38||10||Nathan Lyon||-0.562 secs||0|
|4||25||00||Larry Pace||-1.576 secs||0|
|5||18||91||Colton Salek||-1.710 secs||0|
|6||24||66||Blake Reynolds||-1.746 secs||0|
|7||31||57||Seth DeMerchant||-2.052 secs||8|
|8||5||58||Michael P Frisch||-2.699 secs||3|
|9||32||73||Jake Nichols||-2.827 secs||3|
|10||42||61||Conor Horn||-2.844 secs||0|
|11||19||32||Shawn M. Butler||-3.317 secs||11|
|12||29||47||Chris Overland||-3.381 secs||19|
|13||7||89||Brandon Hawkin||-3.603 secs||0|
|14||11||67||Eric J. Smith||-4.190 secs||0|
|15||13||13||Daniel Buttafuoco||-4.531 secs||17|
|16||6||87||Sander Nijhof||-5.228 secs||0|
|17||4||26||Kevin McAdams||-8.015 secs||7|
|18||26||23||Matthew Zwack||-8.410 secs||0|
|19||1||51||Alek Martinez||-11.364 secs||0|
|20||43||99||Michael Cosey Jr||-11.560 secs||4|
|21||9||45||Michael Guest||-15.095 secs||19|
|22||23||27||Ray Alfalla||-17.374 secs||10|
|23||36||82||Kyler Wynn||-22.499 secs||0|
|24||10||95||Casey Kirwan||-28.119 secs||9|
|25||16||14||Justin Bolton||-1 lap||0|
|26||20||33||Bryan Blackford||-1 lap||3|
|27||15||11||Parker White||-1 lap||2|
|28||2||52||Will Norton||-1 lap||5|
|29||27||98||Eddie Kerner||-1 lap||0|
|30||21||71||Blake McCandless||-1 lap||11|
|31||41||5||Michael Conti||-2 laps||0|
|32||12||109||Phillip Cecil McCandless||-2 laps||0|
|33||39||94||TJ Burske||-2 laps||0|
|34||30||80||Brandon Hayse Kettelle||-3 laps||4|
|35||35||46||Teemu Toikka||-3 laps||0|
|36||8||84||Cosmin Ioanesiu||-4 laps||0|
|37||22||25||Nick Ottinger||-5 laps||0|
|38||17||4||Nate S Stewart||-5 laps||0|
|39||37||30||Corey A Carpenter||-6 laps||9|
|40||40||01||Justin L Nasseir||-9 laps||0|
|41||14||69||Collin Bowden||-11 laps||0|
|42||33||43||Femi Olatunbosun||-22 laps||0|
|43||3||7||Malik Ray||-37 laps||6|
Helton takes $2,000 of the $12,500 purse with his victory. Doucette takes home $1,000 of that purse while the third place finisher, Lyon, takes home $600. Cosey Jr only gets $162 for finishing in 20th, but also took $500 on Monday night when he won the Firecracker 200.
It was only $25 to enter, but the last place finisher in the 400 (Malik Ray) still took home $100 in winnings. To start in the Firecracker 200 on Monday night, every competitor made back at least the entry fee. More than 350 iRacers entered the event on 4th July.
There were 59 lead changes among the 20 leaders. The Strength of Field was about 6,400 in average iRating among the 43 competitors. eRacr.gg doesn’t have any public plans for any more community iRacing events in the remainder of 2023, but here’s to hoping, at the minimum, that we see this event return in 2024.