Race Weekend Central

Jordy Lopez Jr. Fends Off Michael Conti For First Career Coke Series Win

Jordy Lopez Jr. went into the tenth race of the Coke Series having a great rookie season already under his belt. He sat fourth in points but was still searching for his first career win. Lopez filled that hole in his rookie resume, collecting his first career eNCCiS win in dramatic fashion at World Wide Technology Raceway, making a last-lap pass on Garrett Manes and fending off series veteran Michael Conti in a side-by-side finish reminiscent of last year’s Pocono finish between Casey Kirwan and Zack Novak.

For Lopez, the win marks the culmination of years of hard work to make it to the top series of eNASCAR.

“I started [iRacing] in 2013, always trying to get to this series,” an emotional Lopez said. “So many years of frustration, and it’s finally paying off.”

Conti came up four one-thousandths of a second short of what would have been a series-leading third win of the season, settling for second.

“I just wanted to give Jordy [Lopez] a nudge into three to get him a little upset on those old tires,” Conti said, talking through the last lap. “We just locked together down the front stretch like Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven, Darlington-style.”

Parker White emerged from last-lap chaos with third place, Garrett Lowe came home fourth, and defending Worldwide Technology Raceway winner Graham Bowlin completed the top five.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

Nick Ottinger led the field to green following his 21st career pole, but the 40-car field did not make it a full lap before the first caution of the race came out after Derek Justis spun out at the exit of turn two.

After the restart on lap five, the drivers logged twenty green flags, with Ottinger and Jimmy Mullis separating themselves from the rest of the field by over a second. Their advantage, however, vanished with the second yellow flag of the night for a wreck that started in turn one with contact between Malik Ray and Joey Brown and ended with Brown and Kevin King wrecked off of turn two.

When most of the field pitted for fresh tires under the caution, Matt Bussa stayed out to inherit the race lead, with Ray and Collin Bowden also not pitting. Bussa’s lead was short-lived, with Ottinger taking back the top spot on lap 30, two laps after the restart. Lap 34 marked the race’s third caution for Bobby Zalenski in the No. 18 spinning out off the front bumper of Michael Cosey Jr., collecting Bowlin in the process.

With the ensuing restart on lap 39, the race got back into a rhythm of green-flag racing. Ottinger maintained the lead past the halfway point on lap 60, but Conti and Mullis both stayed within a second of him.

Shortly after halfway, the drivers began to cycle through green flag pit stops, starting with Lowe on lap 65. Four laps later, Ottinger pitted for four tires and fuel, surrendering the lead to Conti. This sequence led to a split in pit strategy, with four cars that pitted about ten laps later than the rest of the field trying to stretch it on fuel, led by Bowden in the No. 69.

However, Bowden’s gamble did not pan out, as Ottinger reassumed the point with 30 laps remaining. It looked as though Ottinger might ease his way to victory with a two-second gap to second place, but an accident involving Bowden and Wyatt Tinsley on the backstretch brought out the race’s fourth caution with only 18 laps remaining.

Things would get from bad to worse for Ottinger during pit stops under yellow, with Manes staying out and six other drivers taking only two tires, relegating Ottinger to seventh on the restart. A check-up on the restart led to an accordion effect and a mid-pack wreck involving Kaden Honeycutt, Mullis, and several others with 13 laps to go, allowing Manes to stay out front on his older rubber.

The race went back green with eight laps left, but again it was less than a lap before the sixth caution of the night for contact between Justis and Darik Bourdeau off-turn four. The yellow came just in time for Manes to keep the lead, as Jordy Lopez was peeking to the inside of Manes for a pass.

Manes led the field back to the green with three laps remaining, getting a good jump to the start line. Behind him, Tucker Minter got loose before contact with Ottinger sent him around, triggering a huge wreck on the backstretch for the seventh yellow flag, sending the race into overtime.

In overtime, Manes once again got a good restart, but Lopez got to his outside coming to the white flag. Lopez then bumped Manes up the race track in turn one, and came off turn two the leader. Manes was unable to save his car, setting off another huge crash. Back out front, Lopez was not out of the woods, as Conti used the bump-and-run to get alongside him off of turn four. The rookie Lopez and the veteran Conti drag raced back to the line, with Lopez taking the checkered flag.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Paint Schemes of the Week
    • eRacr.gg entries driven by Bowden and Kollin Kiester were decked out in new purple paint schemes, with sponsorship from the Firecracker 400 iRacing event and The Money Lap podcast, hosted by NASCAR drivers Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill.
    • Mullis made his way around Gateway with the St. Louis skyline on each side of his red and yellow No. 46 Rise eSports/Sunoco Chevrolet.
  • iRacers In Real Life
    • With his retirement from full-time eNCCiS competition right around the corner, Conti appears to be exploring opportunities to hit the pavement in real life. Conti is scheduled for a test session at Oswego Speedway in New York on July 7th to turn laps in a Small Block Supermodified for Haynes Racing.  
    • Donovan Strauss won Round 1 of the US Legends Cars Thursday Thunder Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

PLAYOFF PICTURE

DRIVERWINS/POINTS
Michael Conti2 Wins
Tucker Minter2 Wins
Casey Kirwan2 Wins
Bobby Zalenski2 Wins
Jordy Lopez1 Win
Steven Wilson1 Win
Nick Ottinger+41
Michael Cosey Jr.+40
Malik Ray+33
Graham Bowlin+31
Matt Bussa-31
Garrett Manes-39

Lopez became the sixth different winner of the 2023 season, leaving four playoff spots open on points with just four regular season races remaining. Bowlin’s margin over Bussa at the cutline grew from 15 points to 31. Finishing 31st after a dominant performance, Ottinger’s gap on the cutline shrunk from 50 points to 41.

NEXT UP

The Coca-Cola iRacing Series hits the track again in two weeks on Tuesday, June 27, when the drivers take on the Chicago Street Course. 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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