iRacing Auto Club Recap: Crowder Breaks Through for Second Career Win

PHOTO BY SETH EGGERT for KICKIN' THE TIRES / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Side-by-side racing was the story of the night on Tuesday as Ashton Crowder outlasted his competition after 100 laps at the virtual Auto Club Speedway.

Crowder and his Burton-Kligerman eSports teammate Logan Clampitt dominated the night, leading a combined 29 of the 100 laps in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. The virtual No. 77 Valvoline Toyota Camry didn’t break through for the lead until lap 79. Crowder dueled Garrett Lowe, Jake Nichols, and Bobby Zalenski for the checkered flag.

As the green flag run dragged on, tire wear took its’ toll. Nichols dropped back and out of contention. Followed by Zalenski. That left Crowder just one driver to battle, Wood Brothers Racing’s Lowe. The duo traded the lead and the preferred inside lane several times over the final five laps. Ultimately, Crowder cleared himself to take the checkered with 0.128 seconds to spare.

“That was cool,” said Crowder. “I told Garrett with 10 to go don’t make a move yet, to wait until five to go. I figured we’d get caught by Bobby. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

“Everybody that builds these racecars, frankly we weren’t really that good last year. We got a win mostly off of strategy. The cars overall were just really lacking. We spent a lot of time during the winter testing our butts off. It’s obviously showing because we got out front, had really good speed. It was a bit loose, but overall, we held on well. Considering where we started on the restart.”

Zalenski and Nichols finished third and fourth respectively. Chris Overland rounded out the top-five. John Gorlinsky, Casey Kirwan, Jimmy Mullis, Blake Reynolds, and Jarl Teien rounded out the top-10.

An incident on lap 58 changed the complexion of the race. Early leaders Clampitt, Ryan Luza, and Steve Sheehan were collected in a crash as Michael Guariglia spun off turn four. Christian Challiner and defending eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Champion Zack Novak were also involved.

Prior to two back-to-back cautions, the race was relatively tame and caution free. While the battle for the lead was often two- and three-wide, the Coca-Cola Series drivers were in control.

Two different strategies made themselves known at lap 34. 31 of the 40 drivers ducked onto pit road and opted for a two-stop strategy. Four-time eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Champion Ray Alfalla and eight others stretched out the fuel and tires for a one stop strategy. Alfalla’s strategy came a part when he slid through his box. He finished the night in 11th.

Race three of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series takes place at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 17.

The finish:

Ashton Crowder, Garrett Lowe, Bobby Zalenski, Jake Nichols, Chris Overland, John Gorlinsky, Casey Kirwan, Jimmy Mullis, Blake Reynolds, Jarl Teien, Ray Alfalla, Matt Bussa, Brad Davies, Phillip Diaz, Jeremy R. Allen, Caine Cook, Alex McCollum, Bob Bryant, Santiago Tirres, Nick Ottinger, Brandon Kettelle, Keegan Leahy, Nathan Lyon, Justin Bolton, Corey Vincent, Graham Bowlin, Kollin Keister, Steve Sheehan, Eric J. Smith, Michael Conti, Dylan Duval, Chris Shearburn, Malik Ray, Christian Challiner, Ryan Luza, Bryan Schoenburg, Logan Clampitt, Michael Guariglia, Zack Novak.

Lead Changes: 30 among 13 different drivers

Lap Leaders: Keegan Leahy 1-2, Ryan Luza 3-10, Bobby Zalenski 11, Logan Clampitt 12-15, Chris Shearburn 16, Logan Clampitt 17-18, Chris Shearburn 19, Logan Clampitt 20-22, Chris Shearburn 23-24, Logan Clampitt 25-26, Casey Kirwan 27, Logan Clampitt 28, Keegan Leahy 29-34, Nick Ottinger 35, Ray Alfalla 36-48, Jake Nichols 49, Nathan Lyon 50, Keegan Leahy 51-55, John Gorlinsky 56-57, Jake Nichols 58-66, Bobby Zalenski 67-69, Jake Nichols 70-71, Bobby Zalenski 72, Jake Nichols 73, Bobby Zalenski 74-78, Ashton Crowder 79-81, Casey Kirwan 82, Bobby Zalenski 83-85 , Ashton Crowder 86-95 , Garrett Lowe 96-97, Ashton Crowder 98-100

Laps Led: Ashton Crowder 16, Ray Alfalla 13, Keegan Leahy, Jake Nichols 13, Bobby Zalenski 13, Logan Clampitt 12, Ryan Luza 8, Chris Shearburn 4, John Gorlinsky 2, Casey Kirwan 2, Garrett Lowe 2, Nathan Lyon 1, Nick Ottinger 1

Caution Flags: 2 for 6 laps

Margin of Victory: 0.128 seconds

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