There must be something in the air in southern California right now that breeds excellence. Just a few short days after San Diego Padres pitcher and El Cajon native Joe Musgrove threw the first no-hitter in team history, Temecula’s Vicente Salas set an eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series record on Tuesday night by becoming the first driver to lead every lap of an oval race with a dominant win at Richmond Raceway. The Spacestation Gaming rookie gave the team its first win in its first season of competition in the series, securing his space in the eNASCAR playoffs in the process.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Salas. “We put in thousands and thousands of laps this week. For it to pay off like this, I couldn’t be happier for everybody.”
Elliott Sadler eSports’ Garrett Manes qualified and finished second after running behind Salas all night, while two-time defending Richmond winner Ryan Luza finished third for XSET. In stark contrast to last year’s 16-caution battle of attrition, this year’s Richmond event was marked by long stretches of green flag racing. The first caution didn’t fly until Lap 50, exceeding last year’s high of 36 green-flag laps, and the second didn’t come until roughly halfway. While the final quarter of the race saw a few more incidents as drivers fought for whatever they could get, the final tally still came in at only seven cautions, less than half of the previous year.
The lengthy green flag runs meant that drivers were unable to get out of pit sequence with one another, and an incredibly closely matched field meant most drivers struggled to make passes. Seven of the top 10 starters also finished in the top 10, and of the other three drivers, Roush Fenway Racing’s Steven Wilson had the toughest climb from 17th to eighth. By far the biggest mover on the night was Jim Beaver eSports’ Michael Guest, who overcame a last place starting spot to pass 27 cars and finish 13th.
With six different winners to start the season, the 2021 eNASCAR field is just one race short of tying the record of seven that was set in the series’ inaugural season of 2010. It also means that, in the first year where wins will predominantly set the playoff grid, more than half of the 10 spots are set before the halfway point of the regular season. With multiple 2020 race winners like Ashton Crowder, Jimmy Mullis, Casey Kirwan, Bobby Zalenski, Chris Shearburn, and even defending series champion Nick Ottinger still shut out of the winner’s circle, there’s a very real chance that some big names won’t have the chance to race for a title this fall.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Richmond Raceway were as follows:
|3||5||4||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||203||-0.686||0||21.534||34|
|14||32||10||Graham A. Bowlin||Ford||203||-1.823||0||21.649||23|
|39||33||47||Brian Schoenburg||Chevrolet||196||-7 L||0||21.684||1|
|40||24||1||Ashton Crowder||Toyota||96||-107 L||0||21.836||1|
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid is as follows:
- Keegan Leahy, 1 win
- Logan Clampitt, 1 win
- Ryan Luza, 1 win
- Michael Conti, 1 win
- Vicente Salas, 1 win
- Bob Bryant, 1 win
- Michael Guest, 148 points
- Steven Wilson, 144 points
- Bobby Zalenski, 144 points
- Nick Ottinger, 141 points
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series team points are as follows:
- William Byron eSports, 298
- 23XI, 285
- Letarte Esports, 274
- XSET, 269
- Kligerman Sport, 243
- Team Dillon Esports, 232
- Mode Motorsports, 232
- Roush Fenway Racing, 230
- JR Motorsports, 227
- Jim Beaver eSports, 225
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season continues on April 27 at Kansas Speedway, where Ottinger won last year on the way to his first series title. Coverage will kick off at 8:30PM ET with iRacing Countdown to Green, while the race will begin at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live, iRacing.com/live, and NASCAR and iRacing social media channels.