Kollin Keister earns first victory in eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series

Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN' THE TIRES / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Charlotte Motor Speedway continued its’ trend of different winners as Kollin Keister scored his first career eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series victory at the track.

Keister, along with the majority of the field in the Coca Cola 300, opted for a two-stop strategy in the longest race of the season. After the final pit stop, the Roush-Fenway Racing driver found himself battling former champion Ryan Luza. The 15-time winner hounded the rookie lap after lap.

Unfazed, Keister kept his cool in the virtual No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang, even when Luza pulled alongside. The Williams eSports driver battled with the rookie for several laps before slipping. Keister never looked back and slowly extended his lead to 2.457 seconds over Garrett Lowe when the checkered flag waved. Luza finished third.

“That was awesome,” Keister said in disbelief. “Even before the race we figured if it went green all the way that we’d do the two-stop strategy. We thought that was faster. I actually got mired back in traffic because I messed up my pit stop. I had to drive up from 18th. At the beginning of those runs I was out of control loose, but I was good on the long run, that’s for sure.

“That was crazy. I thought he (Luza) was saving tires behind me. We were really close for a while, but I was able to drive away with about 30 laps to go and I just kept on going.”

Graham Bowlin finished fourth. The rest of the top-10 was completed despite a massive crash coming to the checkered. Brad Davies had been running fifth, battling with pole sitter Keegan Leahy, when he clobbered Chris Overland. Leahy spun across the line in fifth as the mayhem ensued.

That allowed Corey Vincent to take sixth. Davies was launched across the line in seventh by Jeremy R. Allen. Eric J. Smith finished eighth with Justin Bolton piling into the wreck in ninth. Casey Kirwan avoided the carnage in 10th.

Michael Conti was one of the few drivers on a three-stop strategy. Despite being the class of the field, the speed of the JR Motorsports driver was not enough. He unlapped himself under green after his final stop, but only made it back to 16th after leading 75 laps.

The only caution of the race took place on lap seven when contact between Dylan Duval and Phil Diaz sent the Mode Media House driver spinning into the outside wall.

One other incident saw defending champion Zack Novak be forced to pit road with damage. Contact between Matt Bussa and Brian Schoenburg caused the Clint Bowyer Racing driver to come to a virtual stop ahead of Novak. Schoenburg retired from the race with damage while Novak dealt with overheating issues.

Dover International Speedway race winner Nick Ottinger was a non-factor after he fell out of the race with connection issues. He lost eight laps as a result of the connection issue.

Next up for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers is Atlanta Motor Speedway in two weeks on May 26.

The Finish

1. 17-Kollin Keister [8], 2. 21-Garrett Lowe [17], 3. 53-Ryan Luza [12], 4. 18-Graham Bowlin [2], 5. 32-Keegan Leahy [1], 6. 27-Corey Vincent [18], 7. 88-Brad Davies [31], 8. 9-Eric J. Smith [25], 9. 10-Justin Bolton [29], 10. 23-Casey Kirwan [11], 11. 51-Malik Ray [14], 12. 83-Bobby Zalenski [10], 13. 15-Michael Guariglia [19], 14. 24-Jake Nichols [32], 15. 2-Ray Alfalla [24], 16. 8-Michael Conti [15], 17. 46-Jimmy Mullis [30], 18. 6-Nathan Lyon [5], 19. 97-John Gorlinsky [35], 20. 99-Logan Clampitt [20], 21. 42-Bob Bryant [36], 22. 55-Caine Cook [9], 23. 36-Chris Shearburn [4], 24. 33-Michael Guest [6], 25. 66-Jarl Teien [3], 26. 77-Ashton Crowder [16], 27. 14-Brandon Kettelle [34], 28. 1-Steve Sheehan [33], 29. 37-Christian Challiner [23], 30. 47-Jeremy R. Allen [38], 31. 54-Alex McCollum [13], 32. 3-Blake Reynolds [7], 33. 41-Dylan Duval [27], 34. 5-Matt Bussa [40], 35. 90-Zack Novak [39], 36. 16-Chris Overland [28], 37. 75-Philip Diaz [22], 38. 4-Santiago Tirres [21], 39. 25-Nick Ottinger [26], 40. Brian Schoenburg [37].

Lead Changes: Nine among five drivers.

Lap Leader(s): Keegan Leahy 1-19, Michael Conti 20-56, Keegan Leahy 57-65, Ryan Luza 66-75, Brandon Kettelle 76, Michael Conti 77-103, Kollin Keister 104-137, Ryan Luza 138-139, Michael Conti 140-150, Kollin Keister 151-200.

Laps Led: Kollin Keister 84, Michael Conti 75, Keegan Leahy 28, Ryan Luza 12, Brandon Kettelle 1.

Hard Charger: 88-Brad Davies (+24)

Cautions: One for three laps.

Margin of Victory: 2.457 seconds.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 44 minutes, 44.517 seconds.

Average Speed: 171.851 mph.

Pole Winner: 32-Keegan Leahy, 27.969 seconds (193.071 mph).

Fastest Lap: 8-Michael Conti, Lap 155, 28.574 seconds (188.983 mph)

Strength of Field: 6,863 average iRating.

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