By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The final NASCAR-sanctioned race at the 1997-layout of Atlanta Motor Speedway saw a new winner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
In a wild double-overtime finish, Stewart-Haas eSports’ Steven Wilson became the 60th different winner in eNASCAR history. The driver of the virtual No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang slipped by Graham Bowlin, Bobby Zalenski, and others to take the lead on the final lap. On the backstretch, Matt Bussa challenged for the lead. Wilson strategically blocked Bussa.
The 30-lap old tires on Wilson’s car severely disadvantaged compared to Bussa’s new tires. The Stewart-Haas driver stayed out when Bussa was spun with five laps to go. Wilson was one of just six drivers that didn’t pit.
That strategic block sent Wilson into Turn 3. It also pinned the Mode Media House driver alongside Bowlin. Exiting Turn 4, Bussa and Bowlin collided. As they pack came apart behind him, Wilson cruised to victory lane. Bussa flew across the line in second, followed by Michael Guest, polesitter Nick Ottinger, and rookie Briar LaPradd.
“To be honest, we all thought we were screwed,” Wilson admitted. “It held on pretty well. I was able to put it in front of Bussa into Turn 3. I cleared myself off his front bumper earlier in the race. He had every right to ship me into 3. Those old tires really held on well for a lap or two, and honestly that was more than we expected.”
Zalenski, Logan Clampitt, Casey Kirwan, Mitchell deJong, and Keegan Leahy completed the top-10.
Although the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series are competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, they are running on a different configuration. Following the 2021 season, the track was repaved. The banking increased from 24 to 28 degrees and the racing surfaced narrowed. With iRacing opting for the 1997 configuration, Wilson is the final driver to win a NASCAR sanctioned race on the surface, albeit virtually.
“I’ll have some good memories of this track,” Wilson reflected. “It’s always been one that I’ve enjoyed on iRacing, fun one to drive. It’s a drivers’ track. I’m going to miss it. Hopefully the new one is going to have some fun things in store.”
The race changed when the caution waved with 42 laps to go. Just after the near completion of green flag pit stops, Derek Justis broke loose attempting to let the leaders by. As he spun, he collected Collin Bowden, Darik Bourdeau, Michael Conti, Garrett Lowe, and Ryan Luza.
Prior to the caution, the race for the net lead had come down to Ottinger and Zalenski. Following the caution, with the field bunched up, Bowlin, Wilson, and Vicente Salas joined the fray. The battle for the lead was dramatic as the five drivers went two and three-wide into the corners as if they were on a superspeedway.
The next race for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is at Richmond Raceway on March 29.
1. 10-Steven Wilson , 2. 75-Matt Bussa , 3. 9-Michael Guest , 4. 25-Nick Ottinger , 5. 88-Briar LaPradd , 6. 18-Bobby Zalenski , 7. 97-Logan Clampitt , 8. 95-Casey Kirwan , 9. 23-Mitchell deJong , 10. 45-Keegan Leahy , 11. 36-Brian Mercurio , 12. 48-Graham Bowlin , 13. 33-Taylor Hurst , 14. 79-Femi Olatunbosun , 15. 14-Nickolas Shelton , 16. 55-Allen Boes , 17. 16-Blade Whitt , 18. 31-Garrett Manes , 19. 15-Blake Reynolds , 20. 20-Donovan Strauss , 21. 19-Vicente Salas , 22. 43-Kollin Keister , 23. 24-Cody Byus , 24. 2-Liam Brotherton , 25. 41-Dylan Duval , 26. 4-Ryan Luza , 27. 40-Dylan Ault , 28. 3-Corey Vincent , 29. 5-Zack Novak , 30. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 31. 6-Parker Retzlaff , 32. 51-Ray Alfalla , 33. 17-Kaden Honeycutt , 34. 21-Garrett Lowe , 35. 42-Darik Bourdeau , 36. 69-Collin Bowden , 37. 8-Michael Conti , 38. 12-Derek Justis , 39. 7-Malik Ray .
Lead Changes: 12 amongst eight drivers.
Lap Leader(s): Nick Ottinger 1-48, Matt Bussa 49-50, Graham Bowlin 51, Blake Reynolds 52, Ray Alfalla 53-57, Allen Boes 58-66, Ray Alfalla 67-69, Bobby Zalenski 70-85, Steven Wilson 86, Graham Bowlin 87-100, Steven Wilson 101, Graham Bowlin 102-106, Steven Wilson 107.
Laps Led: Nick Ottinger 48, Graham Bowlin 20, Bobby Zalenski 16, Allen Boes 9, Ray Alfalla 8, Steven Wilson 3, Matt Bussa 2, Blake Reynolds 1.
Hard Charger(s): 9-Michael Guest and 88-Briar LaPradd (+24).
Rookie of the Race: 88-Briar LaPradd, JR Motorsports Fifth.
Caution Flags: Four for 16 Laps.
Margin of Victory: 0.290 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 19 minutes, 38.087 seconds.
Average Speed: 143.308 MPH.
Pole Winner: 25-Nick Ottinger, 30.338 seconds (182.741 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 10-Steven Wilson, Lap 73, 30.611 seconds (181.111 MPH).
Scheduled for 100 laps, extended to 107 laps due to overtime.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Justin Melillo