By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Norse Force Racing’s Isaac Gann goes back-to-back and wins the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series championship.
In a largely uneventful race at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, Gann dominated for the second week in a row. He led 52 of the 134 laps at the 1.5-mile track, picking up where he left off at the virtual Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he led 84 circuits.. Gann took the lead shortly after the only caution of the 201-mile race.
During a round of green flag pit stops, Justin Bolton collided with Jake Matheson. The wreck collected Garrett Manes, Steven Wilson, and several others in the incident. It effectively eliminated the Stewart-Haas eSports driver from a possible return to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2021. The caution forced several contenders to take the wave-around.
Taking the Win
On the restart, Brian Schoenburg led the way before Taylor Hurst and Anthony Burroughs both jumped to the point for a couple laps each. On lap 64 Gann took the lead with ease and never looked back.
Although Gann relinquished the lead during green flag pit stops just after lap 100, he utilized his fresh tires to sweep by Mitchell deJong, Derek Justis, Burroughs, and Hurst to retake the lead. When the checkered flag waved, the virtual No. 22 Splash N’ Go Graphics Chevrolet Camaro SS had gapped Hurst by 0.585 seconds. Justis, deJong, and Ryan Doucette rounded out the top-five.
“I want to try to stay humble, but after all the work we put into this Pro Series, I’m not surprised (we won back-to-back races),” Gann humbly explained. “When you’ve got cars like that, if you don’t perform with them, there is something wrong. That was awesome.
“I didn’t get a very good qualifying lap. When I started out the race, I just rode it out on the outside, fell back, and it just wasn’t the start of the race I was hoping for. We caught a break with that caution. It trapped a bunch of people on old tires or a lap down. That is what did it. Once I got track position that thing was a rocket. I just drove nice straight and smooth. I’m ready to go.”
2019 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion Zack Novak, Ashton Crowder, Burroughs, Kollin Keister, and 2020 Road to Pro Series champion Allen Boes completed the top-10.
Justis ran the fastest lap of the race after his final pit stop. On lap 108, the driver of the virtual No. 31 Baskin Robbins Toyota Supra ran a 167.162 MPH lap.
Malik Ray, who won the season opener at the virtual Daytona International Speedway, was the hard charger of the race. After starting 34th, he climbed up 23 spots to finish 11th.
After the one drop week was factored in for the six-race schedule, 10 of the drivers from the 2020 class of eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers had missed transferring back in. Joining Bolton are Michael Guariglia, Keister, Brandon Kettelle, Alex McCollum, Chris Overland, Steve Sheehan, Eric J. Smith, Jarl Teien, and Santiago Tirres.
Each of these drivers will now have to compete in the eNASCAR Road to Pro iRacing Series beginning in March for a chance to make the 2022 Coca-Cola Series grid.
Also not returning to the grid is Christian Challiner who now works for iRacing.
Returning and Rookie Drivers
Returning to the Coca-Cola Series after being on the 2020 grid are Matt Bussa, Crowder, Dylan Duval, Michael Guest, Nathan Lyon, Novak, Ray, and Schoenburg. Both Boes and Hurst also return to the series after missing the grid in 2020.
In total, 11 rookies will make up the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series grid. deJong, Doucette, Gann, Justis, Manes, Matheson, Zack Nichols, Femi Olat, Vicente Salas, Blade Whitt, and Wilson make up the 2021 Coca-Cola Series rookie class.
1. 22-Isaac Gann , 2. 74-Taylor Hurst , 3. 31-Derek Justis , 4. 12-Mitchell deJong , 5. 77-Ryan Doucette , 6. 90-Zack Novak , 7. 98-Ashton Crowder , 8. 62-Anthony Burroughs , 9. 17-Kollin Keister , 10. 21-Allen Boes , 11. 51-Malik Ray , 12. 41-Dylan Duval , 13. 45-Donovan Strauss , 14. 5-Femi Olat , 15. 55-Brian Schoenburg , 16. 1-Alex McCollum , 17. 14-Vicente Salas , 18. 4-Santiago Tirres , 19. 52-Jake Matheson , 20. 44-Brian Mercurio , 21. 34-Matt Bussa , 22. 7-Blade Whitt , 23. 15-Michael Guariglia , 24. 24-Zack Nichols , 25. 9-Eric J. Smith , 26. 42-Danny Hansen , 27. 47-Nathan Lyon , 28. 19-Eddie Kerner , 29. 48-Brandon Kettelle , 30. 16-Chris Overland , 31. 72-Michael Gonzales , 32. 46-Collin Bowden , 33. 33-Michael Guest , 34. 75-Jose Solis Jr , 35. 57-Seth DeMerchant , 36. 32-Steven Wilson , 37. 2-Garrett Manes , 38. 10-Justin Bolton .
Lead Changes: 15 among nine drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Zack Novak 1-10, Anthony Burroughs 11-26, Zack Novak 27-49, Taylor Hurst 50, Brian Schoenburg 51, Jake Matheson 52-53, Brian Schoenburg 54-59, Taylor Hurst 60-61, Anthony Burroughs 62-63, Isaac Gann 64-103, Derek Justis 104, Michael Guariglia 105, Danny Hansen 106-112, Michael Guariglia 113-114, Taylor Hurst 115-122, Isaac Gann 123-134.
Laps Led: Isaac Gann 52, Zack Novak 33, Anthony Burroughs 18, Taylor Hurst 11, Danny Hansen 7, Brian Schoenburg 7, Michael Guariglia 3, Jake Matheson 2, Derek Justis 1.
Hard Charger: 51-Malik Ray (+23).
Tough Break: 32-Steven Wilson (-26).
Cautions: One for four laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.585 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 18 minutes, 47.812 seconds.
Average Speed: 153.052 MPH.
Pole Winner: 90-Zack Novak, 31.413 seconds (171.903 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 31-Derek Justis, Lap 108, 32.304 seconds (167.162 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,625 Average iRating.
Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires