By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
eNASCAR driver Jimmy Mullis maneuvered his way to the lead to win the eRacr Carnomaly 500 at the virtual Daytona International Speedway.
The Richmond Raceway eSports driver lined up sixth under caution with about 20 laps to go. The caution had waved in the middle of a round of green flag pit stops. That allowed NASCAR driver Garrett Smithley and Collin Bowden, who short pitted, to stay out and take the lead. A brief timing and scoring error delayed the green for several laps. That seemed to be a blessing for Bowden and Smithley’s worn tires.
On the restart with 16 to go, both Bowden and Smithley started backtracking. The unrestricted speeds of the virtual Gen 5 NASCAR stock car were melting the virtual Goodyear rubber. Contact between the duo sent the Spacestation Racing driver into the outside wall. Bowden then spun down the track into oncoming traffic.
The ensuing wreck swept up contenders Adam Gilliland, Brandon Kettelle, Blake Reynolds and others. Kettelle nearly avoided the incident, swerving to avoid Bowden. However, the virtual No. 80 Patrick / Kickin’ the Tires Chevrolet climbed over Garrett Manes’ nose and rolled in turns three and four.
That wreck set a chain of cautions in motion. Through each caution, eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver Mullis methodically moved up the running order. Coming to a restart with six to go in the scheduled distance, the Hard to Drive 300 winner lined up second in his virtual No. 46 Sunoco Toyota Camry. The yellow waved as a massive wreck occurred behind Mullis, Nicholas Morse, and the other leaders.
In overtime, Mullis jumped ahead of Michael Cosey Jr., Morse, and fellow eNASCAR driver Matt Bussa. Despite a lack of short run speed, the Midland, N.C. native held off both Cosey and Morse. As another crash took place off turn four, Mullis took the checkered flag with 0.078 seconds to spare over Cosey. Morse finished third with Bussa and Spencer E Burns completing the top-five.
“Man, I don’t know what to say or if I can even find the right words,” a shocked Mullis explained. “This is incredible. I want to give a huge thank you to Nick Ottinger, he helped me all day, dialed this car in. We had something we could race with, but it didn’t have much short run speed. I’m surprised we held on. This thing was a rocket on long runs. It just feels real good to finally win a race.
“When we got the caution around lap 180, I thought that I had messed myself up. I had just come off pit road when the caution came out. Didn’t want to have a tire disadvantage so I came down. That put me 15th or so and there were a lot of wrecks that I got through. That’s all thanks to Zack Novak spotting me through everything. I don’t know how it all worked out.”
Sneaking through the wreck on the final lap, Blake McCandless, Liam Brotherton, Smithley, Timmy Holmes, and Kettelle rounded out the top-10. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch finished 17th. Pole sitter and defending eNASCAR champion Ottinger finished 40th after an early wreck.
Despite the unrestricted speeds, the Carnomaly 500 was only slowed eight times for cautions. The first caution waved on lap 21. In that wreck, Ottinger’s Whitz Racing Last to First Challenge came to an end. After winning the pole, the William Byron eSports driver forfeited his first place starting position for a chance at a $15,000 bonus.
In addition to Bussa, Mullis, and Ottinger, seven other eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers competed in the Carnomaly 500. Four-time champion Ray Alfalla led the most laps, 48, before getting wiped out in a wreck. Blake Reynolds, Garrett Manes, Ryan Doucette, Graham Bowlin, Jake Nichols, and Caine Cook also competed.
Each time the field reached the end of a fuel run, the intensity picked up. Several big blocks on the backstretch sent Fake 500 winner Seth DeMerchant, McCandless, and others through the bus stop for the road course. Somehow, each driver that hit the grass and curbing maintained control.
The Carnomaly 500 is the last eRacr event that was created and promoted by Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill.
1. 46-Jimmy Mullis  ($3,000), 2. 99-Michael Cosey Jr. , 3. 12-Nicholas Morse , 4. 75-Matt Bussa , 5. 006-Spencer E Burns , 6. 166-Blake McCandless , 7. 010-Liam Brotherton , 8. 53-Garrett Smithley , 9. 67-Timmy Holmes , 10. 80-Brandon Kettelle , 11. 63-Logan Helton , 12. 66-Blake Reynolds , 13. 70-Aaron Smith II , 14. 82-James D. Gibson , 15. 35-Shawn Butler  16. 3-Mac McMillan , 17. 51-Kyle Busch , 18. 33-Bryan Blackford , 19. 8-Kollin Keister , 20. 014-Justin Bolton , 21. 47-Chris Overland , 22. 08-Adam Gilliland , 23. 2-Garrett Manes , 24. 79-Ryan Doucette , 25. 81-Brad Slaughter Jr. , 26. 10-Graham Bowlin , 27. 413-Steven M Norman , 28. 57-Seth DeMerchant , 29. 42-Dylan Ault , 30. 83-David L Brown , 31. 44-Santiago Tirres , 32. 97-Collin Bowden , 33. 61-Daniel Roeper , 34. Markus Ruckman , 35. Kyle Putz , 36. 24-Jake Nichols , 37. 18-Ray Alfalla , 38. 15-Caine Cook , 39. 41-Christopher Weil , 40. 25-Nick Ottinger , 41. 55-Will Rodgers , 42. 17-Cayden Rush , 43. 510-Blake Cisneros .
Lead Changes: 43 lead changes among 16 drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Ray Alfalla 1-10, Seth DeMerchant 11-12, Chris Overland 13, Ray Alfalla 14-30, Jake Nichols 31-39, Ray Alfalla 40-44, Brandon Kettelle 45-56, Garrett Manes 57-58, Ray Alfalla 59-73, Jake Nichols 74-76, Graham Bowlin 77-81, Seth DeMerchant 82, Graham Bowlin 83-84, Seth DeMerchant 85, Adam Gilliland 86-94, Graham Bowlin 95, Caine Cook 96-101, Chris Overland 102-105, Graham Bowlin 106-107, Brandon Kettelle 108-112, Michael Cosey Jr. 113-115, Graham Bowlin 116-121, Brandon Kettelle 122-125, Graham Bowlin 126-131, Brandon Kettelle 132, Michael Cosey Jr. 133-137, Brandon Kettelle 138, Nicholas Morse 139, Matt Bussa 140, Seth DeMerchant 141, Brandon Kettelle 142, Shawn Butler 143-144, Brandon Kettelle 145-147, Adam Gilliland 148-157, Kollin Keister 158, Brandon Kettelle 159-171, Nicholas Morse 172, Jimmy Mullis 173, Matt Bussa 174-175, Adam Gilliland 176-177, Garrett Smithley 178-183, Seth DeMerchant 184-192, Nicholas Morse 193-195, Jimmy Mullis 196-202.
Laps Led: Ray Alfalla 48, Brandon Kettelle 40, Graham Bowlin 22, Adam Gilliland 21, Seth DeMerchant 14, Jake Nichols 12, Michael Cosey Jr. 8, Jimmy Mullis 8, Caine Cook 6, Garrett Smithley 6, Nicholas Morse 5, Chris Overland 5, Matt Bussa 3, Shawn Butler 2, Kollin Keister 1, Garrett Manes 1.
Hard Charger: 75-Matt Bussa (+37).
Tough Break: 25-Nick Ottinger (-39).
Cautions: Eight for 28 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.078 seconds.
Time of Race: Two hours, 46 minutes, 21.034 seconds.
Average Speed: 182.146 MPH.
Pole Winner: 25-Nick Ottinger, 38.597 seconds (233.179 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 31-Kyle Putz, Lap 59, 37.746 seconds (238.436 MPH).
Feature Photo Credit: Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires