By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Dominating the second half of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season finale, Keegan Leahy captured the win and this first championship.
Battling for the Title
Leahy took the lead from his 23XI Racing teammate and fellow eNASCAR Championship Four competitor Mitchell deJong with 75 laps to go. His virtual No. 32 Virtual Racing School Toyota Camry pulled away as the laps clicked off.
After a round of pit stops with 55 laps to go, Leahy retained the lead at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway. Further back, Logan Clampitt jumped ahead of deJong during the pit stops. The William Byron eSports driver worked his way by Steven Wilson and then set his sights on Leahy.
Clampitt’s heroic drive started with a 31st-place qualifying effort. He climbed up to be inside the top-10 before lap 50. During the final run, Clampitt started out just over three seconds behind Leahy. By virtue of pitting one lap after Leahy, the virtual No. 97 Logitech G / Sim Seats Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had a very slight tire advantage.
Clampitt chased down Leahy. The lead shrunk down to just over three tenths of a second. However, Clampitt burned up his tires and stalled out just behind his championship rival. He did hold off Michael Conti, Wilson, and deJong to take the runner-up spot in the race.
“I had asked for (Clampitt’s) pace because my spotter didn’t want to tell me how it was going to go,” explained Leahy. “Mitchell was right behind him and had fresher tires so I thought they would be racing and hold each other up. But Mitchell didn’t get to him, and he got around Steven Wilson for second. So, it was just a straight up fight at the end. I knew he was faster than me, knew the lap times.
“Just had to keep some discipline and not push the car beyond what the tires were capable of. I actually went a little bit beyond that and went a little bit slower than I could of until he got to me. Then I picked up the pace. It’s better to save until he gets to you than it is to just run your ultimate pace the whole time. Wanted to play it that way, rely on the dirty air.”
When the checkered flag waved, Leahy was 0.517 seconds ahead of Clampitt. Leahy’s win marks 23XI Racing’s and his first championship. He’s the ninth champion in eNASCAR history and netted the $100,000 prize.
Clampitt walks away with a $25,000 prize. Conti, Wilson, and deJong completed the top-five. deJong’s third place run in the championship netted him $15,000. Caine Cook, Casey Kirwan, Graham Bowlin, Ryan Luza, and Dylan Duval rounded out the top-10. Duval also ran the fastest lap of the race on lap 115.
While Clampitt qualified the deepest of those in the Championship Four, Bobby Zalenski faced his own challenges. Issues in qualifying left him ninth on the starting grid. Zalenski struggled to break into the top-five and eventually settled for a 12th place finish.
The race went caution-free. The only on-track incident came when Nathan Lyon spun on pit entrance. Garrett Lowe also experienced internet connection issues early, costing him six laps and relegating to the eNASCAR Road to Pro Contender iRacing Series. He was the only driver that entered inside the top-20 to fall out.
Among those that moved into the top-20 to avoid relegation was four-time eNASCAR champion Ray Alfalla. Alfalla finished 11th and led three laps en route to jumping into the top-20. That locks him into the 2022 eNASCAR grid.
Alfalla joined Duval, Luza, Zack Novak, and Garrett Manes as the final five drivers to avoid relegation. Of those that had a chance avoid relegation, Jake Nichols was the first driver on the outside, looking in, four points behind the cutline. Blake Reynolds and Chris Shearburn were also mathematically close to avoiding relegation but will now move into the eNASCAR Road to Pro Contender iRacing Series.
In the Team Championship, 23XI Racing claimed the title. William Byron eSports finished in second, 68-points behind. Stewart-Haas eSports, XSET Gaming, and LETARTE eSports rounded out the top-five in the team standings.
The eNASCAR Road to Pro Contender iRacing Series starts Tuesday, November 2 on Podium eSports.
1. 32-Keegan Leahy ($100,000) , 2. 97-Logan Clampitt ($25,000) , 3. 8-Michael Conti , 4. 17-Steven Wilson , 5. 23-Mitchell deJong ($15,000) , 6. 15-Caine Cook , 7. 38-Casey Kirwan , 8. 10-Graham Bowlin , 9. 4-Ryan Luza , 10. 41-Dylan Duval , 11. 51-Ray Alfalla , 12. 83-Bobby Zalenski , 13. 75-Matt Bussa , 14. 90-Zack Novak , 15. 66-Blake Reynolds , 16. 3-Corey Vincent , 17. 18-Femi Olat , 18. 2-Garrett Manes , 19. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 20. 24-Jake Nichols , 21. 9-Michael Guest , 22. 67-Allen Boes , 23. 25-Nick Ottinger , 24. 11-Malik Ray , 25. 14-Blade Whitt , 26. 88-Brad Davies , 27. 55-Vicente Salas , 28. 33-Taylor Hurst , 29. 77-Bob Bryant , 30. 37-Derek Justis , 31. 16-John Gorlinsky , 32. 1-Ashton Crowder , 33. 29-Zack Nichols , 34. 44-Anthony Burroughs , 35. 79-Ryan Doucette , 36. 36-Chris Shearburn , 37. 47-Brian Schoenburg , 38. 52-Jake Matheson , 39. 21-Garrett Lowe , 40. 6-Nathan Lyon .
Lead Changes: 11 among eight drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Mitchell deJong 1-56, Steven Wilson 57, Vicente Salas 58-63, Ray Alfalla 64-65, Mitchell deJong 66-91, Keegan Leahy 92-111, Mitchell deJong 112-113, Bobby Zalenski 114-115, Ray Alfalla 116, Allen Boes 117-118, Nathan Lyon 119-126, Keegan Leahy 127-167.
Laps Led: Mitchell deJong 84, Keegan Leahy 61, Nathan Lyon 8, Vicente Salas 6, Ray Alfalla 3, Allen Boes 2, Bobby Zalenski 2, Steven Wilson 1.
Hard Charger(s): 97-Logan Clampitt (+29).
Rookie of the Race: 17-Steven Wilson, Roush-Fenway Racing, Fourth.
Caution Flags: None.
Margin of Victory: 0.517 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 27 minutes, 26.310 seconds.
Average Speed: 171.892 MPH.
Pole Winner: 23-Mitchell deJong, 28.899 seconds (186.858 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 41-Dylan Duval, Lap 115, 29.323 seconds (184.156 MPH).
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Justin Melillo.