By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A dominant performance earned Isaac Gann his first eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series victory at the virtual Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Gann didn’t take the lead until after the first round of green flag pit stops. The Norse Force Racing driver took the lead from 2019 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion Zack Novak during the pit cycle. Gann’s lead over the Richmond Racing eSports driver held at 2.6 seconds until another round of green flag pit stops.
Before Gann, Novak, and about half the field could pit, the caution waved. Eric J. Smith smashed into Jake Matheson and Justin Bolton as Matheson attempted to pit. The caution forced many iRacers including Ashton Crowder, Mitchell deJong, and others to take the wave around.
Cautions Breed Cautions
For Gann, the caution brought another set of challengers forward including Zack Nichols, Nathan Lyon, Steven Wilson, and Brandon Kettelle. Although Gann couldn’t shake Nichols, the duo gapped their competition by several car lengths.
Another late caution brought most of the field down pit road. Alex McCollum took a chance and stayed on track on 42-lap old tires. Although the eThanksgiving Classic and eSnowball Derby winner didn’t spin his tires on the restart, he struggled to get up to speed. Novak and Malik Ray were trapped behind McCollum while Gann slipped away.
One final caution for Eddie Kerner sent the race into overtime. The final restart was relatively tame in comparison to the previous one. Both Gann and Nichols drove away. Meanwhile the battle for fifth through 10th heated up as Wilson, Kettelle, Blade Whitt, Ray and others through massive blocks down the backstretch. While Gann took the checkered flag 0.155 seconds ahead of Nichols, Lyon, Novak, and Wilson completed the top-five.
“(Winning a race), that was a goal of mine heading into the season,” explained Gann. “I was going into the season not just to participate. I’m here to be competitive and make stuff happen. When I get a car like that, it was just unreal, there’s no way to describe it. It was just a matter of me not (making a mistake).
“It was a lot of fun. I feel like it should have gone green, was a little upset that it became difficult the last 40 laps than what it could have been. Overall, it was better than what it could have been. I appreciate my team (Norse Force Racing), and we’ll go get them next week.”
Earning the hard charger award for the race, Kettelle finished sixth in his No. 48 Kickin’ the Tires Ryan Newman throwback Chevrolet Camaro SS after starting shotgun on the field in 39th. Whitt, Ray, Taylor Hurst, and Matheson rounded out the top-10.
While Kettelle was the hard charger of the race, another 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series alum had the tough break of the race. After starting sixth, Stewart-Haas eSports driver Bolton limped to the checkered flag in 37th. His wreck with Smith relegated the driver of the No. 10 Busch Beer Ford Mustang to finish 31 spots behind his starting spot.
Lyon took over the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series points lead and locked himself into the 2021 Coca-Cola Series grid. Matt Bussa, Crowder, deJong, Gann, Michael Guest, Garrett Manes, Nichols, Novak, Femi Olat, Vicente Salas, and Whitt are also projected to have clinched a spot on the Coca-Cola Series grid next year. Of those, Crowder, deJong, Gann, Lyon and Manes have officially clinched a spot.
10 drivers are projected to have been eliminated from contention for a 2021 Coca-Cola Series grid spot. Those drivers include Collin Bowden, Michael Gonzales, Kollin Keister, Kerner, McCollum, Brian Mercurio, Jarl Teien, Smith, Jose Solis Jr., and Donovan Strauss. Currently the 2021 Coca-Cola Series will see seven new drivers joining the grid.
Kettelle, although tied with Bussa when the series one drop week is factored in, has not yet clinched a spot on the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series grid. The Slip Angle Motorsports driver is one of 14 competing for six remaining spots. The final transfer spot is currently held by Stewart-Haas eSports’ Dylan Duval.
1. 22-Isaac Gann , 2. 24-Zack Nichols , 3. 47-Nathan Lyon , 4. 90-Zack Novak , 5. 32-Steven Wilson , 6. 48-Brandon Kettelle , 7. 7-Blade Whitt , 8. 51-Malik Ray , 9. 74-Taylor Hurst , 10. 52-Jake Matheson , 11. 15-Michael Guariglia , 12. 55-Brian Schoenburg , 13. 41-Dylan Duval , 14. 31-Derek Justis , 15. 2-Garrett Manes , 16. 62-Anthony Burroughs , 17. 4-Santiago Tirres , 18. 33-Michael Guest , 19. 16-Chris Overland , 20. 34-Matt Bussa , 21. 98-Ashton Crowder , 22. 12-Mitchell deJong , 23. 72-Michael Gonzales , 24. 14-Vicente Salas , 25. 19-Eddie Kerner , 26. 1-Alex McCollum , 27. 44-Brian Mercurio , 28. 77-Ryan Doucette , 29. 5-Femi Olat , 30. 42-Danny Hansen , 31. 6-Jarl Teien , 32. 75-Jose Solis Jr. , 33. 21-Allen Boes , 34. 17-Kollin Keister , 35. 57-Seth DeMerchant , 36. 9-Eric J. Smith , 37. 10-Justin Bolton , 38. 45-Donovan Strauss , 39. 46-Collin Bowden .
Lead Changes: Nine among nine drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Zack Novak 1-22, Kollin Keister 23-29, Zack Novak 30-55, Nathan Lyon 56, Michael Guariglia 57, Anthony Burroughs 58-61, Brandon Kettelle 62-65, Isaac Gann 66-138, Alex McCollum 139-141, Isaac Gann 142-152.
Laps Led: Isaac Gann 84, Zack Novak 48, Kollin Keister 7, Anthony Burroughs 4, Brandon Kettelle 4, Alex McCollum 3, Michael Guariglia 1, Nathan Lyon 1.
Hard Charger: 48-Brandon Kettelle (+33).
Tough Break: 10-Justin Bolton (-31).
Cautions: Four for 15 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.155 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 33 minutes, 58.658 seconds.
Average Speed: 145.567 MPH.
Pole Winner: 90-Zack Novak, 29.120 seconds (185.440 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 24-Zack Nichols, Lap 143, 29.785 seconds (181.299 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,612 average iRating.
Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires