By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Clint Bowyer Racing driver Brandon Kettelle was at the front of the lead pack at the right time to win at Talladega Superspeedway.
Moving into Position
The virtual No. 14 iRacing.com Ford Mustang didn’t take the lead until 17 laps to go. Just after the final round of green flag pit stops, Kettelle used the momentum to follow Nick Ottinger and Michael Conti to the front of the pack.
With the chaotic nature of superspeedway pack racing, Kettelle traded the lead with Ottinger and Bob Bryant throughout the next 10 laps. The drivers were often separated by hundredths of a second at the line. A late caution for an incident sparked when the field lapped Logan Clampitt left Kettelle in second.
Four Lap Showdown
On the restart, Bryant and Kettelle stormed into turn one in a dead heat. Slowly Bryant pulled ahead until he was forced out of line by Ottinger. When the Burton-Kligerman eSports driver pulled back down into the low lane, Kettelle surged forward. With a push from Eric J. Smith, Kettelle pulled ahead on the final lap.
Kettelle and Smith continued forward into the tri-oval. Further back, Matt Bussa’s engine failed causing a massive pileup. Kettelle took the checkered flag to earn his first eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series victory in his 63rd career start before the dust had settled behind him. Smith, Bryant, Bobby Zalenski, and Jimmy Mullis completed the top-five.
“This is Talladega man!” exclaimed Kettelle. “This is awesome dude. Last week after that great run I had that I had this win sticker and I really wanted to put it on my computer. This week it’s finally going on there. This is crazy. I always wanted to win one of these things.
“Eric, he’s my teammate, he helps build the SlipAngle Motorsports setups, and he was pushing me so hard there off of turn four. I knew if he could stick with me that we had it won. Bob just kept staying to the bottom and I knew if I controlled the middle lane it was done. I knew we were going to have it. I still can’t believe this, this is awesome.”
Ottinger, Michael Guest, Michael Conti, Zack Novak, and Kollin Keister rounded out the top-10. Polesitter Christian Challiner limped across the line in 23rd.
Smith shared hard charger of the race with Steve Sheehan as both drivers gained 24 positions from where they started. Clampitt had the tough break of the race, finishing 28 positions behind his starting spot.
The first two fuel runs of the race saw two teams dominate. The first run was dominated by Richmond Raceway eSports as Mullis and Novak swapped the lead back and forth, with Clampitt occasionally taking the spot. The second fuel run saw Joe Gibbs Racing’s Malik Ray and Graham Bowlin lock down the top-two spots.
Serving as the regular season finale for eNASCAR, Talladega also determined the eight-driver Playoff grid. Keegan Leahy, Zalenski, Ottinger, Conti, and Garrett Lowe were already locked in entering the 2.66-mile track. Ryan Luza, Ray Alfalla, and Mullis earned the final three spots to compete for the eNASCAR title.
The first race that the eNASCAR Playoff drivers will face is the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The journey to Homestead-Miami Speedway is now a win-and-in scenario.
1. 14-Brandon Kettelle , 2. 9-Eric J. Smith , 3. 77-Bob Bryant , 4. 83-Bobby Zalenski , 5. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 6. 25-Nick Ottinger , 7. 33-Michael Guest , 8. 8-Michael Conti , 9. 90-Zack Novak , 10. 17-Kollin Keister , 11. 88-Brad Davies , 12. 2-Ray Alfalla , 13. 47-Steve Sheehan , 14. 27-Corey Vincent , 15. 41-Dylan Duval , 16. 66-Jarl Teien , 17. 55-Caine Cook , 18. 6-Nathan Lyon , 19. 21-Garrett Lowe , 20. 18-Graham Bowlin , 21. 3-Blake Reynolds , 22. 75-Phillip Diaz , 23. Christian Challiner , 24. 53-Ryan Luza , 25. 23-Casey Kirwan , 26. 97-John Gorlinsky , 27. 24-Jake Nichols , 28. 16-Chris Overland , 29. 51-Malik Ray , 30. 5-Matt Bussa , 31. 54-Alex McCollum , 32. 36-Chris Shearburn , 33. 79-Brian Schoenburg , 34. 4-Santiago Tirres , 35. 32-Keegan Leahy , 36. 99-Logan Clampitt , 37. 10-Justin Bolton .
Lead Changes: 42 among 14 drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Jimmy Mullis 1, Christian Challiner 2-3, Jimmy Mullis 4-5, Logan Clampitt 6, Chris Shearburn 7, Jimmy Mullis 8-13, Zack Novak 14, Jimmy Mullis 15, Logan Clampitt 16, Jimmy Mullis 17-31, Graham Bowlin 32, Jimmy Mullis 33-34, Graham Bowlin 35, Bobby Zalenski 36, Graham Bowlin 37-38, Dylan Duval 39, Logan Clampitt 40-41, Graham Bowlin 42-43, Malik Ray 44-45, Graham Bowlin 46, Malik Ray 47-49, Graham Bowlin 50, Malik Ray 51-52, Graham Bowlin 53-54, Malik Ray 55-58, Graham Bowlin 59, Kollin Keister 60-62, Graham Bowlin 63, Kollin Keister 64-67, Malik Ray 68-69, Graham Bowlin 70-72, John Gorlinsky 73-75, Bob Bryant 76, Nick Ottinger 77, Brandon Kettelle 78-80, Bob Bryant 81, Nick Ottinger 82, Bob Bryant 83-84, Brandon Kettelle 85-86, Bob Bryant 87-91, Nick Ottinger 92, Bob Bryant 93, Brandon Kettelle 94.
Laps Led: Jimmy Mullis 27, Graham Bowlin 16, Malik Ray 13, Bob Bryant 10, Kollin Keister 7, Brandon Kettelle 6, Logan Clampitt 4, Nick Ottinger 3, Christian Challiner 2, John Gorlinsky 2, Bobby Zalenski 1, Chris Shearburn 1, Dylan Duval 1, Zack Novak 1.
Hard Charger(s): 9-Eric J. Smith and 47-Steve Sheehan (+24).
Tough Break: 99-Logan Clampitt (-28).
Cautions: One for three laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.054 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 20 minutes, 59.107 seconds.
Average Speed: 185.249 MPH.
Pole Winner: 37-Christian Challiner, 49.825 seconds (192.193 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 46-Jimmy Mullis, Lap 79, 46.727 seconds (204.935 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,853 Average iRating.
Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires.