‘Lucky’ Leahy Steals eNASCAR Victory in Las Vegas Thriller

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

With luck on his side, 23XI Racing’s Keegan Leahy stole his first win in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series since the 2022 season finale.

A long green flag run at the virtual Las Vegas Motor Speedway pitted Cody Byus and Nick Ottinger against one another in the closing laps. The 68-lap run saw about 15 drivers attempt to stretch the fuel to the absolute limit. Slowly, the gamble came up short for Michael Cosey Jr., Michael Guest and others as they ran short on fuel or had a tire go down.

Keegan leahy stole the victory in the enascar coca-cola iracing series at the virtual las vegas motor speedway.
Photo by Justin Melillo.

The treacherous nature of the old tires left both Byus’ No. 27 Pittsburgh Knights and William Byron eSports’ Ottinger’s No. 25 Logitech G Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 sliding side-by-side throughout the final six laps. All the while, Leahy was waiting, planning for the eventuality of contact between the two leaders.

“I had about five laps to think about what was about to happen,” Leahy explained. “There wasn’t anybody catching me, and I wasn’t catching the leaders, so I said to myself, ‘literally the only thing I can do right now is not spin out and prepare myself for those two to wreck.’ Nothing else was going to happen in that race for me.

“I was planning it through my mind, thinking about what was the best position to place my car in case they crashed in Turns 3 and 4 because they’re going to rub doors, they’re going to bang doors off of Turn 4, that’s a given. It happens in every one of these races when there’s two guys in that position racing side-by-side. I decided to take the entry a little bit wide in case they wrecked on the bottom, slow up in the center of the corner in case they wreck out of Turn 4.”

Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened. Byus washed up the track due to the age of his tires. In turn, that forced Ottinger to do the same. The 2020 champion’s car then broke loose going over the bumps. The titlist lost control and clipped Byus, hooking him into the outside wall. Ottinger regained control, but not before 2021 champion Leahy snuck by to steal the win in the final 100 yards.

“To be honest … I still don’t think I should have won that race,” Leahy admitted. “I think Nick didn’t see me at first. I think he was shocked that there was contact, that Cody wrecked, and that he ‘won.’ It didn’t look like he saw me because he didn’t react to me.”

Keegan leahy stole the victory in the enascar coca-cola iracing series at the virtual las vegas motor speedway.
Photo by Justin Melillo.

While Ottinger took the checkered flag in second, Byus crossed the line further down the running order in 16th. Kollin Keister, Matt Bussa, and Parker White completed the top-five. 2022 champion Casey Kirwan, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Kaden Honeycutt, Vicente Salas, Wilson, and Femi Olatunbosun rounded out the top-10.

The 100-lap race at Las Vegas initially started off where the season opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway left off. Two quick cautions waved as Garrett Lowe, Tucker Minter, Dylan Duval and others were swept up in a lap three incident. The caution waved again just 14 laps after the restart when rookie Matthew Zwack spun into the outside wall on the frontstretch.

The caution that allowed Byus, Leahy, Ottinger and others to ‘roll the dice’ waved on lap 30 when Front Row Motorsports driver Darik Bourdeau was spun on the backstretch. The trio of drivers, along with Duval’s damaged No. 41 Nitro Circus Sim Team / Kickin’ the Tires Ford Mustang and others topped off with fuel with one lap to green. That ultimately proved to be the difference to allow them to make it to the checkered flag.

Despite the contact for the win, both Byus and Ottinger maintain a mutual respect. The two veterans of eNASCAR competition know how each other typically races on the virtual track.

“Ultimately, we were battling for a race win there,” said Ottinger. “I was trying to hold my lane in the middle and take away any momentum that [Byus] had, but I broke loose after he washed me up [off Turn 4], hit a bump, and on 70-lap old tires, I got loose.”

Byus, though disappointed, didn’t hold any ill will towards Ottinger.

“It’s tough,” added Byus, who last visited victory lane at Pocono Raceway in 2017. “I haven’t been in that position in a few years. We put a lot of effort into this week. I’ve taken a new mentality into this year, I’m going to go for wins, whatever it takes. They’re so hard to come by and we were in position at the end. I was right there on the final lap and had a shot; it just didn’t end in our favor.”

Byus and Ottinger chatted post-race about the incident and agreed to move forward and maintain their mutual respect.

Next for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is a fixed setup race at the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday, March 12 at 8:00 p.m. ET. All eNASCAR races are streamed live at enascar.com/live. The races are then rebroadcast at 2:00 p.m. ET the following day on iRacing’s Twitch, YouTube, and social media channels.

The Finish

1. 23-Keegan Leahy [19], 2. 25-Nick Ottinger [37], 3. 66-Kollin Keister [20], 4. 62-Matt Bussa [28], 5. 53-Parker White [5], 6. 77-Casey Kirwan [9], 7. 8-Kaden Honeycutt [27], 8. 11-Vicente Salas [13], 9. 10-Steven Wilson [1], 10. 22-Femi Olatunbosun [7], 11. 14-Seth DeMerchant [17], 12. 48-Graham Bowlin [10], 13. 12-Garrett Manes [30], 14. 29-Jimmy Mullis [31], 15. 51-Donovan Strauss [3], 16. 27-Cody Byus [23], 17. 7-Malik Ray [15], 18. 80-Ryan Luza [26], 19. 5-Zack Novak [33], 20. 88-Briar LaPradd [34], 21. 20-Wyatt Tinsley [2], 22. 18-Bobby Zalenski [6], 23. 17-Collin Bowden [21], 24. 33-Taylor Hurst [39], 25. 55-Ryan Doucette [35], 26. 3-Jonathon Dulaney [38], 27. 42-Tyler Garey [32], 28. 45-Michael Guest [36], 29. 99-Matthew Zwack [4], 30. 54-Daniel Faulkingham [8], 31. 6-Timothy Holmes [12], 32. 36-Quami Scott [29], 33. 40-Dylan Ault [40], 34. 69-Ray Alfalla [25], 35. 41-Dylan Duval [16], 36. 38-Michael Cosey Jr. [22], 37. 90-Jordy Lopez [14], 38. 34-Darik Bourdeau [24], 39. 97-Tucker Minter [18], 40. 89-Garrett Lowe [11].

Lead Changes: Six among seven drivers.

Lap Leader(s): Steven Wilson 1-65, Parker White 66-67, Bobby Zalenski 68-70, Michael Cosey Jr. 71-81, Michael Guest 82-88, Nick Ottinger 89-99, Keegan Leahy 100.

Laps Led: Steven Wilson 65, Michael Cosey Jr. 11, Nick Ottinger 11, Michael Guest 7, Bobby Zalenski 3, Parker White 2, Keegan Leahy 1.

Hard Charger: 25-Nick Ottinger (+35), William Byron eSports.

Rookie of the Race: 14-Seth DeMerchant, 11th, FGR Accel eRacing.

Caution Flags: Three for 11 laps.

Margin of Victory: 0.061 seconds.

Time of Race: One hour, one minute, 57.534 seconds.

Average Speed: 145.258 mph.

Fastest Lap: 8-Kaden Honeycutt, 29.984 seconds (180.096 mph), JR Motorsports.

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