In a thrilling opening race of the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday night, rookie Tucker Minter beat Malik Ray to score his first career victory. With his triumph, Minter becomes the third driver in eNASCAR history to win in their debut race.
“It’s unbelievable, I’ve been thinking of this race all off-season about what I was going to do and how it was going to turn out,” Minter said of his emotions after the race.
Minter explained that the win far and away exceeded the expectations he had set for himself before the season started.
“Rookies generally don’t win Coke Series races — I’d like to get a few top fives and avoid relegation. Now to have a win and lock myself into the playoffs, it’s huge.”
Casey Kirwan led coming to the white flag, and into the tri-oval until a late block caused him to get turned head-on into the wall. The defending champion settled for a fourth-place finish.
“You’re just kind of a sitting duck out front in this package. Nothing else I could’ve done, but Tucker timed it perfectly,” Kirwan said about his last lap move.
The anticipation for this season has been extremely high after the way 2022 ended. The series looks to be even more competitive this season with a mix of talented newcomers and experienced veterans.
Tonight’s 80-lap event began with Stewart Haas eSports driver Dylan Duval on the pole. The anxious field of 40 drivers was unable to make it to turn one before we saw a crash in the back of the field. Eight cars were involved in the incident but none had to retire from the race.
One aspect of iRacing that has become more realistic in the last year is racing on superspeedways. In real life, we see how the top line is mostly the place to be at Daytona and Talladega. Tonight, it was the place to be when you had a well-formed line, although that didn’t happen all that often in the early goings.
With the lap one wreck behind them, the field settled in for a mostly calm outing as the first pit stops approached. The race reached halfway and there were only 25 cars in the lead pack with many of them being in a single file line.
It was very difficult to form the top line once the pack broke into two. Michael Cosey Jr. took over the race lead with help from Minter around lap 30 in a two-car tandem which is something we’re able to see with this Next-Gen car on iRacing.
Pit stops took place at lap 40 for the leaders and once everything cycled around with 35 to go, Minter took over the race lead, making it four different leaders on the night.
As we approached the end, two lines formed once again, but the bottom line remained the place to be with Minter and Cosey Jr. dominating. Boes and Nick Ottinger made a run to the front with 25 to go but their pursuit could not progress further than third as the bottom line remained strong.
A caution for Cody Byus with 23 to go would change everything. Now we had an even playing field once again with a restart coming with just under 20 laps to go.
A near wreck on the restart caused the lead pack to split up, with the top nine breaking away from the field. Boes continued to pace the field over Kirwan, Minter, and Cosey Jr., with those four proving they were going to be tough to beat for the win.
eNASCAR overtime would ensue after the Big One took place with three to go. The wreck was started by Kaden Honeycutt hitting Kevin King, which created a chain reaction in the middle of the pack.
On the second attempt at a green-white-checkered, Kirwan would take the white flag with Minter and Ray in pursuit behind him. Minter would make his move coming into the tri-oval but a big block from Kirwan caused him to turn himself off of Minter’s nose and into the wall. That left Minter alone to take home the win on his debut for Team Dillon eSports.
ODDS & ENDS
There are a few notable drivers making their return to the series. Kevin King is likely the most notable name if you have watched the series in the past. Driving for JR Motorsports, King will be a force all season, especially uniting with his old buddy from the DMP days on NR2003, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
One name missing from this season’s field is Ray Alfalla. Arguably the greatest driver of all time in the series, Alfalla failed to qualify for the series through the Contender Round. This will be the first season ever without Alfalla in an eNASCAR field. Crazy to think about, right?
This 2023 season will mark the last one for 2014 series champion Michael Conti. Conti has been a competitor in this series for over 10 years now, and has been a championship threat every year he’s been in it. He is back for one last season though with JR Motorsports, hoping to go out on top.
Minter would take the win with Ray behind him in second, Darik Bourdeau finished a quiet but impressive third place, Kirwan would salvage fourth, and Cosey Jr. would come home fifth. Surprisingly after all those late-race wrecks, no car failed to finish.
The next race will take place in two weeks (February 28) at the Milwaukee Mile, the first-ever race for the series at the track. Coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET on Twitch.tv/iRacing, YouTube.com/iRacing, and eNASCAR.com.
About the author
Brandon is a 22-year-old from NY and has been a passionate follower of motorsports for 14 years now. He recently graduated from Molloy College on Long Island with a BA in Communications. Working within NASCAR has been a dream for Brandon for a while, and he hopes to be able to live out the dream in the very near future.
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