Garrett Lowe led only two laps at the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race at Michigan International Speedway, but those laps just happened to be the final two, as Lowe secured his second win of 2023, the third of his eNCCiS career, and a spot in the Championship 4 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame next month.
“Honestly, it’s a huge relief,” Lowe told Blake McCandless after his win. “After Nashville, we were a little down in the dumps, but we pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and went to work.”
Lowe fended off fellow playoff driver Steven Wilson, who finished in the runner-up spot. Playoff drivers Michael Guest and Jordy Lopez came home third and fifth, respectively. Dylan Duval was the only non-playoff driver in the top five, claiming the fourth spot.
Rookie playoff driver Tucker Minter led the field to green at Michigan, leading the first couple of laps before surrendering the top spot to Keegan Leahy. The first caution came out on lap five, as Collin Bowden somehow saved his No. 69 Chevrolet from a spin, but he could not dodge Michael Cosey Jr.’s No. 38 Ford, part of a big wreck through turn two and onto the backstretch.
Off the lap nine restart, Duval made the move to the outside of Leahy and came back around to the start/finish line for the race lead. Duval held off a hard-charging Casey Kirwan, who had gained 14 spots since the start, for the race lead. Then, yellow flag number two came out on lap 17 for contact between Cody Byus and Joey Brown exiting turn four. The entire field went down pit road under that caution to put on four tires and pack their cars full of fuel, with Duval holding the lead.
The race went back green on lap 21, but the field did not make it a full lap before another wreck off turn four to bring out caution flag number three. This crash had championship implications, as playoff driver Jimmy Mullis sustained serious damage to his No. 46 Rise eSports Chevrolet.
A spin by Kevin King on lap 35 led to the fourth caution of the evening and a split in pit strategy. Many of the drivers in the back half of the field came in for tires and fuel, while those towards the front stayed out to maintain their track position. This strategy call flipped the script of the whole race.
With 25 laps to go, Bowden surged to the lead with 20-lap fresher tires than the race leaders. Four laps later, outside polesitter Leahy dove to the bottom in turns one and two to clear Bowden for the top spot. At 15 laps to go, the lead changed hands once again as Brown passed Leahy on the frontstretch.
Leahy got the lead right back with ten laps to go and began to open up a gap on the field. Leahy seemed all set to take the white flag, but a crash between Corey Vincent, Michael Conti, and Nick Ottinger brought out the caution just before Leahy made it to the line.
As a result, the race went into overtime, and that is when chaos broke loose. With each driver trying to get everything they could get in just two laps, multiple wrecks broke out throughout the field. As the back of the field crashed, Ryan Luza got into the back of Leahy, putting him in the fence. Leahy had too much damage to continue, and Luza cycled to the top spot.
In the second overtime, Lowe restarted on the inside of the second row on significantly fresher tires than Luza, and Lowe made the most of his fresh rubber to pass Luza through turns three and four. Lowe than held off a late challenge from Wilson to take the checkered flag and clinch his spot in the championship four.
ODDS AND ENDS
- Paint Scheme of the Week
- The paint scheme on Conti’s No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet doubled as both a throwback and a tribute. Conti ran this livery back in 2019 in honor of his mother Gina, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer that year. Conti brought back the scheme at Michigan.
|Garrett Lowe||1 Win|
|Casey Kirwan||2,029 (-6)|
|Bobby Zalenski||2,024 (-11)|
|Tucker Minter||2,019 (-16)|
|Jimmy Mullis||2,014 (-21)|
|Nick Ottinger||2,012 (-23)|
|Michael Conti||2,011 (-24)|
It was a feast or famine night for the playoff drivers. While four playoff drivers finished in the top five, five of the remaining six finished outside of the top 20. Thanks to his win, Lowe is the only playoff driver feeling comfortable going into the next two races at Dover and Phoenix.
The eNCCiS Playoffs Round of 10 continues on Tuesday, August 29 with a 120-lap race at Dover Motor Speedway. Coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green presented by Wendy’s, followed by the green flag from the Monster Mile 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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