By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
One year removed from failing to transfer to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, Donovan Strauss earned his first eNASCAR Road to Pro Contender iRacing Series win.
In 2020, Strauss was one of the 40 hopefuls to make the pinnacle of the eNASCAR ladder. However, a string of bad runs relegated him back to the Road to Pro Qualifying Series for the 2021 season. After making the Contender Series field, Strauss has had a string of strong runs.
The driver of the virtual No. 51 Spacestation Racing Ford Mustang worked his way through the field after starting 13th at the virtual Auto Club Speedway. An early caution pivoted the race into a two-stop strategy, one under the caution, and one just past halfway. Strauss took the lead after a spirited battle with Allen Boes on lap 42.
Strauss quickly pulled away, only relinquishing the lead during green flag pit stops. However, he once again stormed back to the top spot. With 35 laps to go, Strauss made quick work of Ashton Crowder, who was forced onto a different race strategy. From there, Strauss cruised to a 1.090 second victory over Blake Reynolds. Femi Olat, Boes, and Garrett Lowe completed the top-five.
“God, I worked so hard for this, I was just praying for the last 10 laps that there would be no caution,” admitted Strauss. “I was just sitting there taking deep breaths down the straightaways. This is what all of the hard work feels like. This defines everything. I’m glad to come into this and finally show what I have.
“This is such a relief; Homestead was a relief. After the Phoenix race I was down in points. You don’t know what’s going to happen because it’s such a short season. That was my drop and we had to come out to these next few races swinging. We (Legacy eSports) have brought some really strong cars. Boyd Hoggan is the man, this car was all him and he did an amazing job. If it wasn’t for him, Vicente Salas, Chris Hill, we wouldn’t have won this race.”
Jake Nichols, Homestead-Miami Speedway winner Kollin Keister, polesitter Kyle Peddle, Blade Whitt, and Cody Byus rounded out the top-10. Darik Bourdeau ran the fastest lap of the race and finished 21st.
The race was slowed by just one caution about 10 laps in. Contact between Jake Matheson and Phoenix Raceway winner Parker Retzlaff sent the No. 52 spinning on the frontstretch.
Several other on-track incidents hindered the race for Justin Bolton, Blake McCandless, Brian Schoenburg, and Casey Tucker. However, those incidents did not bring out the caution flag.
Crowder was forced off strategy after an issue with his clutch pedal developed around halfway. The driver of the virtual No. 98 Ford pitted and fixed his pedal. As a result, he was several laps short on fuel. Crowder pitted a third time with about 20 laps to go, dropping him to 34th on the running order.
1. 51-Donovan Strauss , 2. 66-Blake Reynolds , 3. 18-Femi Olat , 4. 21-Allen Boes , 5. 6-Garrett Lowe , 6. 24-Jake Nichols , 7. 8-Kollin Keister , 8. 54-Kyle Peddle , 9. 7-Blade Whitt , 10. 27-Cody Byus , 11. 10-Kaden Honeycutt , 12. 41-Brian Mercurio , 13. 46-Collin Bowden , 14. 74-Taylor Hurst , 15. 53-Brandon McKissic , 16. 35-Briad LaPradd , 17. 44-Zack Nichols , 18. 1-Malik Ray , 19. 5-Nickolas Shelton , 20. 31-Derek Justis , 21. 4-Darik Bourdeau , 22. 17-Santiago Tirres , 23. 19-Liam Brotherton , 24. 88-Brad Davies , 25. 90-Daniel Eberhardt , 26. 23-Christian Pedersen , 27. 62-Anthony Burroughs , 28. 2-Jody Lopez Jr , 29. 99-Michael Cosey Jr , 30. 55-Brian Schoenburg , 31. 42-Parker Retzlaff , 32. 52-Jake Matheson , 33. 57-Seth DeMerchant , 34. 98-Ashton Crowder , 35. 40-Dylan Ault , 36. 77-Ryan Doucette , 37. 14-Justin Bolton , 38. 28-Casey Tucker , 39. 15-Blake McCandless .
Lead Changes: Eight among seven drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Kyle Peddle 1-11, Cody Byus 12, Kyle Peddle 13-17, Allen Boes 18-41, Donovan Strauss 42-58, Blake Reynolds 59, Anthony Burroughs 60-61, Ashton Crowder 62-64, Donovan Strauss 65-100.
Laps Led: Donovan Strauss 53, Allen Boes 24, Kyle Peddle 16, Ashton Crowder 3, Anthony Burroughs 2, Cody Byus 1, Blake Reynolds 1.
Hard Charger(s): 10-Kaden Honeycutt (+27).
Caution Flags: One for three laps.
Margin of Victory: 1.090 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 13 minutes, 18.394 seconds.
Average Speed: 163.696 MPH.
Pole Winner: 54-Kyle Peddle, 40.033 seconds (179.852 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 4-Darik Bourdeau, Lap 62, 40.775 seconds (176.579 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,972 Average iRating.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires