By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Roush Fenway Racing’s Nathan Lyon dominated the first-ever California Clash featuring iRacing.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver first took the lead in his virtual 1987 No. 6 Ford Thunderbird on lap 18 and never looked back. He briefly lost the lead to NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Anthony Alfredo during a split pit strategy under caution late in the race. However, Lyon made quick work of the real-life pro on the restart.
Lyon led a contingent of Coca-Cola Series drivers including Casey Kirwan and Michael Guest by Alfredo. The iRacers were often slowed by cautions in the Days of Thunder-inspired event. Those cautions aided Lyon as he spent less time on defense from his fellow eNASCAR drivers.
Run to the Finish
The 200-mile race came down to a four-lap shootout at the virtual Auto Club Speedway. Lyon played defense as Kirwan and Guest were challenged by Derek Justis, Eddie Kerner, and Alfredo. By the time the trio broke away, the white flag had waved. Kirwan broke loose off turn two in a final lap blitz. It wasn’t enough and Lyon took the checkered flag with 0.335 seconds back to Kirwan.
“That was awesome, what an event, what a race,” explained Lyon. “Lots of green flag racing early, all those wrecks at the end, it was crazy. The heat races last week helped a lot. That was the time that I had to prepare for this, so I had to save tires after 20 laps. That long green flag run I think I burned them up a little bit. I think everyone did because we didn’t expect it to go green for that long that early on.
“Didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this because of the Coca-Cola Series. I wanted to take a night off after the Coca-Cola race so when that practice session opened at 7:00 pm, I got 20 laps to get used to it again.
“The main strategy was when to come in to take that final set of tires and to get the fuel right. If it was going green to the end, a long green flag stint, we wouldn’t have had enough fuel. When we pitted with 30 or 40 to go, that was the commitment to put enough fuel in to make it too the end.”
Guest, Justis, and Anthony Burroughs rounded out the top-five. Ryan Doucette, Kerner, Landon Huffman, Donovan Strauss, and Michael Cosey Jr. completed the top-10.
Polesitter, and eNASCAR driver Ray Alfalla finished 38th. Fellow eNASCAR driver Kollin Keister finished 13th after being involved in several incidents. Also representing the eNASCAR field, Chris Overland and Malik Ray finished 36th and 37th respectively.
The event, organized in part by NASCAR YouTube personality Eric Estepp, included many others from across the industry. Twitch streamers Spencer E Burns, Justin Botelho, and David Schildhouse were on track as well.
NASCAR media member, and avid iRacer, Justin Melillo was one of three drivers to join the race via the fan vote. eNASCAR Heat Pro League competitor Joey Stone led the fan vote. He finished 23rd after starting 44th.
One of the newest NASCAR fans, and former NFL Super Bowl XLVII Championship winning Safety, Bernard Pollard Jr., made his iRacing broadcast debut. Pollard was involved in an incident early in the race, putting him behind the 8-Ball. When the race ended, he was 32nd, four laps behind the leaders. In a comical moment during the race, Bryan Blackford rear-ended Pollard under caution while trying to scan a QR-code on Pollard’s car.
1. Nathan Lyon , 2. Casey Kirwan , 3. Michael Guest , 4. Derek Justis , 5. Anthony Burroughs , 6. Ryan Doucette , 7. Eddie Kerner , 8. Landon Huffman , 9. Donovan Strauss , 10. Michael Cosey Jr. , 11. Anthony Alfredo , 12. Gary Sexton , 13. Kollin Keister , 14. Michael Frisch , 15. Logan Helton , 16. Justin Botelho , 17. Cayden Rush , 18. Jonathon Caddell , 19. Andrew Fitzgerald , 20. Alex Kolonics , 21. Cody McCawley , 22. Mac McMillan , 23. Joey Stone , 24. Trevor Perry , 25. Spencer E Burns , 26. Justin Melillo , 27. Ron Capps , 28. Travis Martin , 29. Russell Bratka , 30. Brennan Murzda , 31. Bryan Blackford , 32. Bernard Pollard Jr. , 33. Travis Brown , 34. Ricky Hardin , 35. David Schildhouse , 36. Chris Overland , 37. Malik Ray , 38. Ray Alfalla , 39. Andrew Player , 40. Chandler Parsons , 41. Bobby Labonte , 42. Troy Sabott , 43. AJ Henderson , 44. Blake Near .
Lead Changes: Six among four drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Ray Alfalla 1-8, Anthony Alfredo 9-15, Ray Alfalla 16, Casey Kirwan 17, Nathan Lyon 18-68, Anthony Alfredo 69-71, Nathan Lyon 72-100.
Laps Led: Nathan Lyon 80, Anthony Alfredo 10, Ray Alfalla 9, Casey Kirwan 1.
Hard Charger: Michael Guest (+36).
Tough Break: Ray Alfalla (-37).
Cautions: 10 for 32 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.335 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 41 minutes, 58.006 seconds.
Average Speed: 117.685 MPH.
Pole Winner: Ray Alfalla, 42.939 seconds (167.680 MPH).
Fastest Lap: Casey Kirwan, Lap 98, 43.125 seconds (166.957 MPH).
Photo by Justin Melillo / The Racing Experts