Seven races are in and seven races are left in the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Regular Season. Sure, the season in total is listed for 20 races, including two exhibitions for no points and four eNASCAR Playoff races, but the Regular Season, which started at Daytona and ends at Pocono, is a 14-race section of the season.
With half of the Regular Season behind, why not take a look at where all 40 of the top oval sim racers on the iRacing platform stack up in the points entering the Summer months? We’ll look back at where it all stands following the seventh race of the season last week at Las Vegas, which was won by Michael Conti.
WINNERS SO FAR
There have been five winners in seven races, including two multi-time winners on the 2023 season so far. Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) is in the proverbial catbird seat, with a share of the most wins and the most points following Las Vegas. Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) is the other two-time winner, currently ninth in points.
The defending series champion Casey Kirwan (XSET) and the winner of the opening round in his first start, Tucker Minter (Team Dillon Esports) are sitting in prime playoff position, with a win a piece, third and seventh in the points standings respectively.
Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) is the only winner on the season who isn’t in the greatest point position, but he’s started to turn the corner with some solid results. Currently tied for 14th, which seems like an OK position, Wilson is merely nine points above the Relegation line. He’ll need to stay above the line and hope that six more new winners ahead of him in points don’t materialize over the next seven races.
If there are no new winners, there are a handful of drivers that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack as those in position to make the Playoffs on points. Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) is the best of them, sitting second in the standings, 35 points to the good as it stands.
Also in the running on points are rookies Jordy Lopez (Team Dillon Esports) and Michael Cosey Jr (Front Row Motorsports), as well as last year’s Championship 4 contender Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), all double digit points ahead of 11th on the playoff grid. Malik Ray (Jim Beaver Esports) rounds out the Top 10 at current.
Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) is only seven points behind Ray, and another 13 points behind him is Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports). Garrett Manes (FGR Accel eRacing) has also started to creep into the conversation, now 32 points behind Ray for the final points position after a rough start.
Of these contenders, Ottinger, Lopez, Bowlin, Ray and Leahy have shown winning pace at times through the season. That’s not to say that Cosey Jr, Duval or Manes haven’t, but all of these drivers have put themselves in a position to be ready to pounce on a win in the right circumstances.
BATTLE OF MID
There is a cluster of drivers, from 13th place Parker White (Kanaan Esports) to 28th place Timmy Holmes (RFK Racing) that are within a full race’s points and could change completely in the next event at Darlington Raceway next week.
Those drivers above the 20th place cutline include White, Atlanta’s winner Wilson, and also Kollin Keister (eRacr), Allen Boes (Front Row Motorsport), Tyler Garey (Kanaan Esports), Michael Guest (23XI Racing), Matt Bussa (William Byron Esports) and Wyatt Tinsley (Kansas City Pioneers).
Below the cut line, down to Holmes, includes Corey Vincent (Pittsburgh Knights), Dylan Ault (Letarte Esports), Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports), Donovan Strauss (Williams Esports), Kevin King (JR Motorsports), Garrett Lowe (Jim Beaver Esports) and Zack Novak (Rise Esports). One could also consider Ryan Doucette (Pittsburgh Knights) and Kaden Honeycutt (RFK Racing) in this conversation, as they are within a race of 20th place.
Each driver has shown flashes of brilliance, most recently being Mullis with his fourth place effort at Las Vegas last week. For the most part though, the drivers in this battleground will need to start having more runs near the Top 5 through the rest of the season to have a points shot.
A win would be crucial, if not necessary. Wilson is the only driver who is being talked about in two sections here. He has to find a way to get more consistent finishes to escape the mid.
BELOW THE CUT AND NEED A QUICK TURNAROUND
From Brandon McKissic (Letarte Esports) in 31st and down to the bottom of the standings, these drivers’ seasons have not been pretty by any stretch. More than a race worth of points behind Tinsley in 20th, McKissic and the other nine below him have just been down on luck, pace, or both through seven races.
Cody Byus (Elliott Sadler Esports), Derek Justis (Kansas City Pioneers), Joey Brown (FGR Accel eRacing), Darik Bourdeau (Elliott Sadler Esports), Ryan Luza (XSET), Collin Bowden (eRacr), Daniel Faulkingham (Joe Gibbs Racing), Vicente Salas (Williams Esports) and Femi Olatunbosun (Charlotte Phoenix) are the remaining drivers.
There’s still half of a regular season to go, and for the likes of a past champion like Luza, anything is possible. Byus, Justis and Brown all showed early promise but have been bit by the bad luck bug as of late. Bowden and Faulkingham can’t seem to finish a race without getting caught up in one of the messes. Salas, Bourdeau and Olatunbosun have all missed races for one reason or another, but regardless, the other races they’ve partaken in haven’t been great either.
TRENDS FOR FINAL SEVEN REGULAR SEASON RACES
The second half of the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Regular Season will see the likes of Darlington Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, World Wide Technology Raceway, the Chicago Street Course, Nashville Superspeedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
Darlington Raceway is historically not a place for Rookies. Ottinger, Conti, Leahy, Zalenski and Wilson are all winners at the venue. At Charlotte, Ray wishes he had the last two seasons back, but instead those wins have gone to Ray Alfalla and Bussa. Other Charlotte victors include Ottinger, Brown, Leahy and Keister.
Only one race has been run at WWT Raceway, and that was won by Bowlin last season. Similarly, the series had their All-Star race at the Chicago Street Course last season, and Wilson was the victor there. At the previous season’s All Star at Nashville Superspeedway, that was won by Mullis. The points event last year went to Alfalla.
The final two races in the virtual Northeast are New Hampshire and Pocono. The king of New Hampshire has to be Mullis, a three-time and most recent winner there. Don’t count out Conti who has two wins there, or Luza who won there in his rookie season.
Pocono, meanwhile, has the most winners of the lot in the field, and could prove to be a wild ending with the fixed setup action that is planned. Last year, Kirwan barely beat Novak. Other winners there include Conti, Boes, Byus, Leahy, Mullis and Zalenski. The Tricky Triangle could be the wildcard of the final seven races.
Looking forward, it seems likely that the five winners on the season so far will make it, despite Wilson’s rough start. Ottinger likely has a win in him, as does Leahy. The rest could come down to points or wildcard winners.
While the rookie class has been impressive, the remaining schedule could prove to be difficult for them given the track record of the others in the field. Lopez and Cosey Jr are sitting in a great spot, points-wise. They will likely need there to be fewer winners in these remaining rounds.
The drivers in the midfield are mostly living on the fence through the first half. Who is to say that past champions like Novak, or previous title contenders like Mullis, Bussa, or even the return of the King can’t catch fire in the summer months. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series returns for the eighth race of the 2023 season on 16th May, 2023, at Darlington Raceway. Coverage starts on eNASCAR.com/live at 8:30 pm ET for the Countdown to Green sponsored by Wendy’s.