Race Weekend Central

Tucker Minter Emerges From Thrilling Charlotte Finish With Second Coca-Cola iRacing Win

Tucker Minter may be a rookie in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, but he is certainly not racing like one. Minter was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on a late wreck to secure the second victory of his young eNCCiS career.

“Going into the year, I was hoping to get three top fives. To have two wins, and one coming at a mile and a half is amazing.” Minter said in his post-race interview with Blake McCandless.

Garrett Manes came home second, followed by defending Charlotte winner Matt Bussa in third, Michael Conti in fourth, while Corey Vincent completed the top five.

“Man, I’m kicking myself,” a disappointed Manes said afterward. “I feel like I had a good opportunity. I let [Minter] turn away from me going into three. I needed to get that side draft, but I couldn’t quite get there.”

“If it went green, I think we had a good shot of winning,” Bussa said.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

Garrett Lowe led the field to green from the pole and spent the first four laps out front before conceding the top spot to Keegan Leahy. On lap 7, the first caution came out for Kevin King losing control and spinning in turns 1 and 2.

Following the lap 11 restart, the race settled into a long green-flag run. Leahy led 23 circuits around the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval before surrendering the point to Vincent. Vincent stayed out front a while, but Bussa steadily closed in and eventually took the lead himself.

A couple of laps after Bussa’s pass for the lead, the race went back under the yellow flag for a multi-car wreck in the tri-oval that started with contact between King and Joey Brown. Bussa maintained the top spot during a round of pit stops under caution, as everyone took tires and fuel to make it to the end.

The green flag waved again on lap 52, and Jimmy Mullis began his ascent through the top five, snatching the lead from Bussa on lap 60 after starting the race 18th. Shortly after that, the race’s third caution came out for contact between Graham Bowlin and Ryan Luza which ignited a big crash on the backstretch and into turn 3.

The ensuing round of pit stops saw a split in pit strategy, with four cars taking two tires, led by Vincent on the restart. Vincent held the lead for a few laps before Casey Kirwan and Mullis got by on four fresh Goodyears. This set the stage for a fierce duel between Kirwan and Mullis for the lead, as they raced each other side-by-side for several laps, with neither one giving the other an inch.

The battle between Kirwan and Mullis came to a head with four laps to go when the two made contact off of turn four, keeping it together before they both wound up in the turn one wall after Minter got a huge run on the top two and bumped Mullis in the left rear. As a result of the crash, Mullis and Kirwan fell back to finishes of 37th and 38th, respectively.

Jimmy Mullis and Casey Kirwan crash wile battling for the lead in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race from Charlotte Motor Speedway
Jimmy Mullis and Casey Kirwan crash wile battling for the lead in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race from Charlotte Motor Speedway (Credit: eNASCAR/iRacing)

This turn of events put Minter in the race lead for overtime, and he was able to fend off challenges from Manes and Bussa to take the checkered flag.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Paint Schemes of the Week
    • With it being the day after Memorial Day, there were quite a few patriotic paint jobs in the 40-car field. Both Darik Bourdeau and Cody Byus honored the troops with new looks for their Elliott Sadler eSports Chevrolets.
  • For the first time this season, Bobby Zalenski swapped out his familiar Interstate Batteries scheme for a purple and orange livery with Virtual Racing School on the hood of his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
  • iRacers In Real Life
    • Vicente Salas has taken his virtual driving skills to the real world, driving late models at Hickory Motor Speedway. So far, Salas has racked up eight top-10s and sits seventh in the track standings.
    • Kaden Honeycutt has made the most of opportunities in the Craftsman Truck Series, scoring two top-10s in seven starts.

PLAYOFF PICTURE

DRIVERWINS/POINTS
Michael Conti2 Wins
Tucker Minter2 Wins
Casey Kirwan2 Wins
Bobby Zalenski2 Wins
Steven Wilson1 Win
Nick Ottinger+50
Jordy Lopez, Jr.+32
Malik Ray+27
Michael Cosey, Jr.+26
Graham Bowlin+15
Garrett Manes-15
Matt Bussa-29

With five regular season races to go, the battle for the playoffs is heating up. Minter’s victory continues a trend of multi-race winners, with four drivers claiming more than one win so far in 2023. That leaves five spots open in points, with Bowlin currently holding the last spot. Mane’s runner-up finish, coupled with Bowlin’s 32nd-place showing, allowed Manes to close the gap to 15 points below the cutline.

NEXT UP

The Coca-Cola iRacing Series resumes in two weeks Tuesday, June 13, when the drivers take on World Wide Technology Raceway for 120 laps. Coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green presented by Wendy’s, followed by the green flag shortly after 9 p.m. ET on Twitch.tv/iRacing, YouTube.com/iRacing, and eNASCAR.com.

About the author

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

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