Race Weekend Central

Garrett Lowe Gets Redemption Win in eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series at New Hampshire

Two weeks ago, Garrett Lowe was yards away from a win at Nashville and an eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff spot before contact with Jimmy Mullis put him in the wall on the last lap.

Fast-forward to Tuesday, July 25, the win that got away came back to Lowe with a victory in the Maconi Setup Shop 101 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It is the third win of Lowe’s eNCCiS career, and it locks him into his third-ever appearance in the playoffs.

“The mindset was to just go get a win,” Lowe said when asked about his mindset after Nashville. “I showed up, had to use the bumper a couple of times, but that’s the way we’re racing now.”

Zack Novak pulled off a season-best finish of second over Donovan Strauss, who led the most laps before finishing third.

“It was good to be back at the front,” Strauss said post-race. “It’s good that everything’s clicking. I’m almost back in the top 20 to avoid relegation. To lead over half of the race after being almost nowhere all season is just a statement.”

Michael Conti and Wyatt Tinsley completed the top five with finishes of fourth and fifth, respectively.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

Jordy Lopez earned his first career pole, but he only led the opening lap before surrendering the top spot to Strauss. Lowe got around for second, dropping Lopez to third. The race then settled into a long green flag run, with Strauss pulling away to a nearly two-second lead over Lowe.

On lap 44, Lopez worked his way around Lowe and back to the runner-up spot. Slowly but surely, Lopez chipped away at Strauss’s lead, getting within eight-tenths of a second by the beginning of Lap 50.

At the end of lap 50, Strauss and Lopez both came down pit road for tires and fuel to get them to the end. About half the field pitted around the race’s halfway point, while others tried to stretch the fuel as far as they could. As a result of the different pit strategies, Casey Kirwan inherited the race lead, fending off Malik Ray and Corey Vincent.

The first caution finally came out on lap 61 for Dylan Duval going around in turn three following contact from Strauss. The cars that stayed out under the green flag pit cycle came down for service while 11 cars that pitted earlier stayed out for track position, led by Strauss.

After just one lap of green flag racing, a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch featuring Michael Cosey Jr. brought the yellow flag back out with 35 laps remaining. The field lined back up to restart with 30 laps to go, and Lowe took the lead from Strauss two laps later. Shortly after, Femi Olatunbosun and Bobby Zalenski made contact, triggering a big accident on the backstretch for the third caution of the evening.

The pattern of one to two laps of green flag racing broken up by frequent cautions continued through the race’s closing laps, as Lowe kept Strauss and the rest of the pack behind him with each passing restart. The sixth yellow flag of the night with three laps to go brought the race into eNASCAR overtime for an incident in turns three and four between Collin Bowden and Dylan Ault.

On the overtime restart, Lowe fired off well from the restart zone, pulling away by several car lengths over the second-place battle between Strauss and Novak. Lowe took the white flag and then the checkered flag with no pressure from behind.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Paint Schemes of the Week
    • The Jim Beaver eSports Fords of Lowe and Ray were both decked out in black this week, a throwback to a protest scheme Kyle Petty drove for Felix Sabates in 1996. The schemes also included the Spanish saying “todo es justo en amor y carreras” from that 1996 race. In English, that translates to “all is fair in love and races.” This was in response to Mullis putting Lowe into the wall at the end of the previous race at Nashville.  
  • iRacers IRL
    • In an interview during Countdown to Green, Bryan Cook, chief digital officer at Joe Gibbs Racing, credited Zalenski for his help working with JGR’s Cup and Xfinity drivers to prepare for the Chicago Street Race a few weeks ago. “When we came to the Chicago Street Race this year, it was a complete unknown. We actually asked Bobby Z[alenski] to make some walkthroughs, some laps with our real world drivers, especially our Xfinity drivers. That was really exciting to know somebody as talented as Bobby Z getting that recognition he deserved.”

PLAYOFF PICTURE (One Regular Season Race Remaining)

DRIVERWINS/POINTS
Bobby Zalenski3 Wins
Michael Conti2 Wins
Tucker Minter2 Wins
Casey Kirwan2 Wins
Jordy Lopez1 Win
Steven Wilson1 Win
Garrett Lowe1 Win
Jimmy Mullis1 Win
Nick Ottinger+51
Graham Bowlin+24
Malik Ray-24
Parker White-28

New Hampshire saw a huge shakeup of the playoff picture. Not only did Lowe clinch a spot with his victory, but also Mullis broke into the top 20 in points, making him playoff-eligible by virtue of his Nashville win. Mullis is not out of the woods though, as he sits six points ahead of 21st. A bad finish at Pocono will send Mullis stumbling out of championship contention. As for the cutline, that leaves only two spots open on points, and it could only be one if a new winner rises at Pocono.   

NEXT UP

Next week, the eNCCiS playoff field will be set in the regular season finale at Ponoco Raceway on Tuesday, August 1. Coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green presented by Wendy’s, followed by the green flag for 60 laps around the Tricky Triangle 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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