Race Weekend Central

Wyatt Tinsley Victorious in 2024 Coke Series Opener at Daytona for First Career Win

Two weeks ago, Wyatt Tinsley won the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series exhibition Clash at Daytona. As it turns out, that race proved to be a harbinger of things to come because Tinsley followed it up with a win in the regular season opener at Daytona to earn his first career eNCCiS win and likely clinch a spot in the playoffs in the No. 20 Quiktrip/Kansas City Pioneers Toyota.

“It feels amazing man,” Tinsley told eNASCAR’s Blake McCandless post-race. “The Clash was honestly a learning experience. I can’t thank Pioneers and Quiktrip enough, and I’m so proud of everyone and everything.”

Defending eNCCiS champion Steven Wilson began his title defense on a high note, securing the runner-up spot in his No. 10 M80 Ford despite being on the verge of engine failure on the last lap.

“I was trying to help out Wyatt [Tinsley] pretty much that whole last run,” Wilson reflected afterwards. “I was committed, and whatever happened at that point happened.”

The two Spire Motorsports Chevrolets took up the next two spots as Malik Ray and Casey Kirwan finished third and fourth, respectively. Bobby Zalenski completed the top five in his No. 18 Interstate Batteries/Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

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TONIGHT’S ACTION

Nick Ottinger earned the right to lead the 40-car field to green with his 26th career eNCCiS pole. Ottinger led the opening lap, but he then quickly surrendered the lead to Michael Cosey Jr. on lap two.

The race settled into a long green-flag run, with most drivers choosing to run in either the top or bottom line and a little bit of three-wide racing towards the back of the pack. All the while, Cosey Jr. led the way in his red No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford from the top lane until Parker White inherited the point on lap 25.

As the race approached the halfway point, the teams began to think about green-flag pit stops with a projected pit window of 38-42 laps. The first takers came in on lap 41 with a group of about 10-12 cars entering their pit stalls for service. Over the next four laps, the remainder of the field came down for tires and fuel, and the pack ultimately formed back together into one big three-wide pack.

As the laps wound down, tensions began to rise throughout the field, with several near-crashes. With 30 laps remaining, the yellow flag finally flew for the first time in 2024 after contact between Daniel Faulkingham and Darik Bourdeau led to a chain reaction that involved several drivers, including defending Daytona winner Tucker Minter.

Jordy Lopez led the field back to green with 26 to go, but his time out front proved to be short-lived. Four laps later, Lopez got shoved into the outside wall on the backstretch, plummeting through the field. Everyone else was able to drive around Lopez, allowing the race to remain green.

All was quiet again until Graham Bowlin got turned near the front of the pack coming to 11 laps left, triggering the Big One and the second caution of the night. The wreck damaged several cars and set up a late race restart, with Tinsley emerging as the leader.

Tinsley took the green flag with just seven laps left and Spire Motorsports teammates Ray and Kirwan to his outside. Tinsley got a big enough jump on the restart to move up to the outside lane in front of Ray and Kirwan, opening the door for Zalenski to lead the inside lane. Later that lap, a wreck towards the back brought the yellow flag right back out. Zalenski was out front at the moment of caution to grab the top spot.

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The race went back green with three circuits remaining in regulation, but it would not stay green for long as another wreck towards the back slowed the cars back down and led to eNASCAR overtime.

Ray was the race leader to start overtime with teammate Kirwan in tow, but it was Zalenski on the top lane that took the white flag up front, with Tinsley right on his rear bumper. Tinsley made his winning move on the backstretch, ducking to the inside of Zalenski with draft help from Wilson. Tinsley hung on to the lead as Wilson pursued and the field wrecked behind him to take the checkered flag.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Paint Scheme of the Week
    • Driving for Letarte eSports, rookie Quami Scott sported a tropical paint scheme on his No. 36 Sunoco Chevrolet, fitting the setting at Daytona.  
      • What’s New
        • Organizational Shakeup
          • Six new teams have joined the grid for 2024: Kevin Harvick Inc., BS+ Competition, Oxygen Esports, Nitro Circus, Spire Motorsports, and M80.
          Seasons Within the Season
          • In addition to trying to make the playoffs with a win or on points, drivers will have a chance to win bonus playoff points and money by being first in points at the end of three regular season segments. Segment one covers the first four races, segment two consists of race five through nine, and segment three goes through the final five races of the regular season.
      • Return of the G.O.A.T.
        • After a one-year absence, Ray Alfalla, the four-time champion and winningest driver in series history, is back in the eNCCiS driving the No. 69 Chevrolet for eRacr. “Falling out of the [Coke] Series was a big blow,” Alfalla remarked during a segment on the Countdown to Green pre-race show. “It just means that I had to get back in it. I’m not done by any means. I just have to do a better job of adjusting to everything.”

NEXT UP

The 2024 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will return to the virtual track in two weeks on Tuesday, Feb. 27 for 100 laps around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Race coverage starts at 8 p.m. on enascar.com/live and youtube.com/iracingofficial.

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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