By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A two-tire stop at the end of the race at Dover Motor Speedway netted Nick Ottinger his second consecutive win in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
The William Byron eSports driver was mired mid-pack after opting for a different strategy early in the race. Under the first caution on lap 17, Ottinger was one of just two drivers that opted not to pit. The 2020 eNASCAR champion was left with a lonely feeling. As the leader, the field likely would have simply done the opposite of whatever he did.
“I will say that it was very lonely, and at that point you’re in the worst spot,” admitted Ottinger. “Being a leader, you have probably 10, 15 laps worth of fuel. You have to save at that point and you’re banking on a longer run at that point. It’s early in the race, like 20 laps. People are trying to get in a groove and understand what the car is capable of. We felt it was plausible, stay out, we’re quick enough for it.”
On the subsequent restart, Ottinger’s virtual No. 25 Logitech G Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE held its’ own. Despite older tires, the veteran driver maintained the lead until he pitted on under the second caution.
In his run back through the field, Ottinger stalled around the top-15. It wasn’t until a caution with about 40 to go allowed his strategy to get him back to the lead. His crew chief, Brandon Hastings, opted for a two-tire stop, skyrocketing Ottinger up the running order.
Ottinger restarted second as this time Malik Ray stayed out on 40-lap old tires. While Ray plummeted down the running order, the North Carolina native took charge. Repeated cautions allowed Ottinger to control the tempo of the restarts, and in turn, control of the lead. As the race was pushed into overtime, Ottinger again controlled the pace, taking the checkered about half a second ahead of Corey Vincent, Steven Wilson, Femi Olatunbosun, and Zack Novak.
“We held our own up there after the restart with 19 lap older tires too, so I think if we got passed, we would have cycled maybe to fourth or fifth and stayed there. Then everybody would have to come back in. So, the feeling wasn’t great, but I trust my crew chief Brandon Hastings. He made a good call in my opinion still and it worked out for us in the end.”
Matt Bussa, Dylan Duval, Taylor Hurst, Casey Kirwan, and Blake Reynolds completed the top-10. Novak ran the fastest lap of the race. Donovan Strauss was the eRookie of the Race in 13th.
The caution with 40 laps to go flipped the running order on its’ head. Michael Conti had pitted under green just before the caution waved. It trapped the JR Motorsports driver a lap down, ending his chances at the victory.
Meanwhile the ‘commentator’s curse’ bit Bobby Zalenski. Moments after talking with the eNASCAR broadcast team, Zalenski’s virtual No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry spun off Turn 2 while running second. The ensuing wreck collect multiple contenders.
In total, the 120-lap scheduled race was slowed eight times for cautions. It also was extended by two laps due to overtime.
1. 25-Nick Ottinger , 2. 3-Corey Vincent , 3. 10-Steven Wilson , 4. 79-Femi Olatunbosun , 5. 5-Zack Novak , 6. 75-Matt Bussa , 7. 41-Dylan Duval , 8. 33-Taylor Hurst , 9. 95-Casey Kirwan , 10. 15-Blake Reynolds , 11. 9-Michael Guest , 12. 21-Garrett Lowe , 13. 20-Donovan Strauss , 14. 55-Allen Boes , 15. 6-Parker Retzlaff , 16. 42-Darik Bourdeau , 17. 8-Michael Conti , 18. 36-Brian Mercurio , 19. 19-Vicente Salas , 20. 17-Kaden Honeycutt , 21. 31-Garrett Manes , 22. 7-Malik Ray , 23. 2-Liam Brotherton , 24. 48-Graham Bowlin , 25. 51-Ray Alfalla , 26. 69-Collin Bowden , 27. 24-Cody Byus , 28. 45-Keegan Leahy , 29. 18-Bobby Zalenski , 30. 16-Blade Whitt , 31. 23-Mitchell deJong , 32. 12-Derek Justis , 33. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 34. 40-Dylan Ault , 35. 88-Briar LaPradd , 36. 4-Ryan Luza , 37. 14-Nickolas Shelton , 38. 43-Kollin Keister , 39. 97-Logan Clampitt , 40. 54-Kyle Peddle .
Lead Changes: Four among four drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Nick Ottinger 1-38, Michael Conti 39-91, Bobby Zalenski 92-101, Malik Ray 102-104, Nick Ottinger 105-122.
Laps Led: Nick Ottinger 56, Michael Conti 53, Bobby Zalenski 10, Malik Ray 3.
Hard Charger(s): 17-Kaden Honeycutt (+20).
Rookie of the Race: 20-Donovan Strauss, 13th, Williams eSports.
Caution Flags: Eight for 31 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.411 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 13 minutes, 58.727 seconds.
Average Speed: 98.9473 MPH
Pole Winner: 25-Nick Ottinger, 22.298 seconds (161.450 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 5-Zack Novak, 22.480 seconds (160.142 MPH).
Race Extended to 122 laps due to overtime.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Justin Melillo.