By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Two cautions shook up the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series race at the virtual Dover International Speedway.
Caution During Pit Stops
A caution in the middle of green flag pit stops left just four cars on the lead lap. Chris Overland spun into the outside wall off turn four in his virtual No. 16 Ride Spin Ford Mustang. Ashton Crowder, who had dominated the race to that point, was forced to take the free pass in his virtual No. 98 RTIC Cat Coolers Ford Mustang.
Norse Force Racing’s Brian Schoenburg assumed the lead with Seth DeMerchant and Brandon Kettelle as the only other drivers on the lead lap. 32 of their competitors were forced to take the wave around and lined up behind those that had good fortune.
Schoenburg easily gapped DeMerchant on the restart. Meanwhile, Crowder made quick work of Overland, Kettelle, and DeMerchant. What followed over the ensuing 30 laps was a ‘cat and mouse’ battle between the two virtual Ford Performance drivers. As Schoenburg would diamond the corners, Crowder closed in on entrance before falling back on exit.
It appeared that the No. 55 driver would pull away until a caution with 18 laps to go. Collin Bowden spun on the frontstretch, changing the race once again. As everyone ducked onto pit road, Crowder took advantage of his pit stall to win the race off pit road. The Elliott Sadler eSports driver pulled away from his competitors on the restart. As DeMerchant and Isaac Gann battled for second, Crowder cruised to victory with 0.410 seconds to spare.
“That wasn’t the best car that we’ve ever had,” admitted Crowder. “We were lacking a lot of exit turn for the long run. The gains that we had on entry I think made us the best car in those phases of the corner. It evened out and negated the exit. The wheel spin is what we were fighting all week. I was like no grip; wheel spin every lap. I don’t think I’ve ever put together a decent Dover car in my life, except maybe with Jarl Teien in 2018.
“My first ever Pro win, I’m really happy with the result. Honestly kind of speechless. I didn’t expect to win, much less do halfway decent. We felt quite bad (throughout the week). It’s just awesome.”
DeMerchant and Gann finished second and third with Taylor Hurst and Schoenburg completing the top-five. Zack Nichols, Zack Novak, Jake Matheson, Kettelle, and Nathan Lyon rounded out the top-10.
All three of the previous winners from this season finished outside the top-10. Mitchell deJong was 12th with Crowder’s teammate, Garrett Manes in 17th. Malik Ray finished 35th after sliding into the barrels entering pit road during green flag pit stops.
Aside from the single car incidents of Bowden and Overland, only one other incident slowed the race. On lap three, Teien spun in the back of the field. Anthony Burroughs was swept up in the incident.
In the closing laps both Alex McCollum and Eric J. Smith both lost their engines. Several more incidents took place in the closing laps between Michael Gonzales, Allen Boes, Derek Justis and others, but none brought out the caution. A wreck on the final lap coming to the checkered dropped several down the running order including Kollin Keister and Eddie Kerner.
Points Picture Takes Shape
With two races remaining, and one drop week at their disposal, in the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series season, Ashton Crowder, Mitchell deJong, and Garrett Manes have likely locked themselves into the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series field.
Three drivers, Gonzales, Donovan Strauss, and Steve Sheehan likely have seen their chances at making the 2021 Coca-Cola Series grid come to an end. Sheehan, who competed for JTG-Daugherty Racing in the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series did not compete at the virtual Richmond Raceway or Dover.
1. 98-Ashton Crowder , 2. 57-Seth DeMerchant , 3. 22-Isaac Gann , 4. 74-Taylor Hurst , 5. 55-Brian Schoenburg , 6. 24-Zack Nichols , 7. 90-Zack Novak , 8. 52-Jake Matheson , 9. 48-Brandon Kettelle , 10. 47-Nathan Lyon , 11. 44-Brian Mercurio , 12. 12-Mitchell deJong , 13. 32-Steven Wilson , 14. 14-Vicente Salas , 15. 7-Blade Whitt , 16. 10-Justin Bolton , 17. 2-Garrett Manes , 18. 33-Danny Hansen , 19. 41-Dylan Duval , 20. 34-Matt Bussa , 21. 5-Femi Olat , 22. 77-Ryan Doucette , 23. 4-Santiago Tirres , 24. 6-Jarl Teien , 25. 15-Michael Guariglia , 26. 16-Chis Overland , 27. 31-Derek Justis , 28. 62-Anthony Burroughs , 29. 72-Michael Gonzales , 30. 75-Jose Solis Jr. , 31. 46-Collin Bowden , 32. 33-Michael Guest , 33. 21-Allen Boes , 34. 17-Kollin Keister , 35. 51-Malik Ray , 36. 19-Eddie Kerner , 37. 45-Donovan Strauss , 38. Eric J. Smith , 39. 1-Alex McCollum .
Lead Changes: Seven among seven drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Ashton Crowder 1-71, Isaac Gann 72-73, Zack Nichols 74, Zack Novak 75, Michael Guariglia 76-77, Nathan Lyon 78, Brian Schoenburg 79-123, Ashton Crowder 124-140.
Laps Led: Ashton Crowder 88, Brian Schoenburg 45, Isaac Gann 2, Michael Guariglia 2, Nathan Lyon 1, Zack Nichols 1, Zack Novak 1.
Hard Charger: 57-Seth DeMerchant (+33).
Tough Break: 19-Eddie Kerner (-32).
Cautions: Three for 11 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.410 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, four minutes, 45.024 seconds.
Average Speed: 129.729 MPH.
Pole Winner: 98-Ashton Crowder, 21.768 seconds (165.380 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 98-Ashton Crowder, Lap 129, 22.406 seconds (160.671 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,607 average iRating.
Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires