From his first career eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series pole position to leading all 203 laps, Vicente Salas checked all the boxes on Tuesday night to collect his first career series victory at the virtual Richmond Raceway.
In only his sixth career start, Salas dominated the night from start to finish. Through 203 laps and multiple restarts, Salas held off his technical teammate and fellow rookie contender Garrett Manes (Elliott Sadler Esports) in all aspects of the race for the win, becoming the sixth different winner in as many races in the 2021 season.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Salas said. “We put in thousands and thousands of laps, tens of thousands of laps this week, and for it to pay off like this, for Garrett (Manes) to get second place too, I could not be any happier for everybody.”
Salas became the 56th different winner in Coke Series history. The win was also the first series victory for newcomer team Spacestation Gaming.
“It’s huge. It relieves so much stress for the rest of the season.”
Salas joins Michael Conti, Keegan Leahy, Ryan Luza, Logan Clampitt, and Bob Bryant on the win list so far, and as long as all six drivers stay within the Top 20 in the driver points, they’ll qualify for the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs.
Never before had anyone led every single lap in a race in the Coke Series. Salas changed that after snagging the pole position and nailing every restart, pit stop, and challenge encountered throughout the night.
DIFFICULT TO PASS
For a good portion of the race, all 40 drivers found themselves on the lead lap, with leaders never really running into lapped traffic. That goes to prove how close of a level that these drivers compete at, but really goes to prove the skill it takes to stay as focused as these drivers do for a good portion of the night.
The first caution flew on lap 49 when Jimmy Mullis (Richmond Raceway Esports) slightly nudged the bumper of Chris Shearburn (LETARTE Esports) in front of him. Shearburn went for a four-wheel drift around the corner, but no further damage was incurred. The field waited another stint of about 50 laps until the next caution just before halfway. Malik Ray (Spacestation Gaming) got loose on the backstretch and made contact with Ashton Crowder (Elliott Sadler Esports). Crowder collected Femi Olat (Gibbs Gaming) in the process, effectively ending both of their nights.
With just about 50 laps to go, both Wood Brothers Gaming drivers found issues in consecutive order. First, John Gorlinsky made contact with JTG Daugherty Racing’s Derek Justis and slid around for a quarter of a lap, collecting a few more in the process. Immediately on the next restart, Garrett Lowe got caught up in a slide after contact with MODE Motorsports’ Matt Bussa, and pinballed off of Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) and the other MODE car of Jake Nichols.
The final long run of the night saw tons of contact that didn’t result in any stoppage. One of the more exciting moments came with eight laps to go when Taylor Hurst (Team Dillon Esports) moved Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) out of the groove, and the following lap, Ottinger paid Hurst back with a more aggressive slam. Neither driver spun, but it wound up costing both drivers a few spots at the end.
A final caution involving Femi Olat, Nathan Lyon (Roush Fenway Gaming) and others ultimately set up a few additional laps in eNASCAR Overtime, but it was no matter for Salas who was able to conquer the final restarts en route to victory. In total, there were seven cautions for 34 laps, but they all flew at a point where Salas was able to lead every single lap.
SIX RACES, SIX WINNERS, SIX DIFFERENT TEAMS
Six races with six different winners are in the books and eight races until the regular season ends. One of the biggest questions on the table is what will happen if more than 10 different drivers win a regular season race?
The stipulation and expected answer is that the 10 drivers that qualify for the playoffs will be the ten highest winners in the standings as long as they find themselves in the Top 20 come the end of the regular season.
All six drivers are currently good with that. Leahy leads the group as well as the overall standings with Clampitt only 13 points behind. Luza is really seventh in the standings, but sits third on the playoff grid due to his victory at Las Vegas. Conti has slipped back to ninth after a tough night at Richmond, while Salas and Bryant sit 14th and 15th, respectively.
Some of the names that haven’t won are… surprising to say the least. The defending champion, Nick Ottinger, sits sixth in the standings, but without a win, he sits on the bubble to make the playoffs. Bobby Zalenski was in the championship four last season, but just recently made his way back inside the Top 5 in the points, placing him ninth on the grid. Garrett Lowe, Ray Alfalla, Jimmy Mullis, Zack Novak, and Blake Reynolds have all been in the playoffs in the last two seasons, but none of them is even in the Top 20 in the standings.
Parity runs high so far into this season, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock if there were more than 10 winners in 14 races, but who knows if Kansas will prove to be a place where a driver with a win can ensure their place in the playoffs with another.
CARRY ON WAYWARD SONS… TO KANSAS IN TWO WEEKS
After a round of short track racing at “The Action Track”, the series moves back to its bulk of 1.5 mile ovals for a date at Kansas Speedway on April 27. The midwestern cookie cutter returns to the fold for the fourth straight season and fifth time overall.
Last year, Nick Ottinger solidified his place in the Championship 4 with the win from the pole. Ottinger is the only multi-time winner at the virtual facility, winning the inaugural event back in 2013 as well. Only two other drivers, Keegan Leahy and Zack Novak, have a victory at Kansas in Coke Series history.
eNASCAR RICHMOND RACEWAY TOP 10 RESULTS
- 55 – Vicente Salas* – Spacestation Gaming 203 LAPS
- 2 – Garrett Manes* – Elliott Sadler Esports +0.336 sec
- 4 – Ryan Luza – XSET Gaming +0.686 sec
- 44 – Isaac Gann* – Kligerman Sport +0.797 sec
- 83 – Bobby Zalenski – LETARTE Esports +1.008 sec
- 97- Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports +1.026 sec
- 32 – Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing +1.200 sec
- 17 – Steven Wilson* – Roush Fenway Gaming +1.209 sec
- 25 – Nick Ottinger – William Byron Esports +1.377 sec
- 75 – Matt Bussa – MODE Motorsports +1.459 sec
eNASCAR PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER RICHMOND RACEWAY
- 32 – Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing 1 win
- 97 – Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports 1 win
- 4 – Ryan Luza – XSET Gaming 1 win
- 8 – Michael Conti – JR Motorsports 1 win
- 55 – Vicente Salas* – Spacestation Gaming 1 win
- 77 – Bob Bryant – Kligerman Sport 1 win
- 9 – Michael Guest – Jim Beaver Esports 148 points
- 17 – Steven Wilson* – Roush Fenway Gaming 144 points
- 83 – Bobby Zalenski – LETARTE Esports 144 points
- 25 – Nick Ottinger – William Byron Esports 141 points
eNASCAR TEAM STANDINGS – TOP 10 AFTER RICHMOND RACEWAY
- William Byron Esports (25, 97) 298 points
- 23XI Racing (23,32) 285 points
- LETARTE Esports (36, 83) 274 points
- XSET Gaming (4, 38) 269 points
- Kligerman Sport (44, 77) 243 points
- Team Dillon Esports (3, 33) 232 points
- MODE Motorsports (24, 75) 232 points
- Roush Fenway Gaming (6, 17) 230 points
- JR Motorsports (8, 88) 227 points
- Jim Beaver Esports (9, 15) 225 points
*Denotes Rookie of the Year Contender