September 29th, 2020 by Chris Leone
In his 63rd try, Superspeedway specialist Brandon Kettelle finally scored his first career eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series victory on Tuesday night at Talladega Superspeedway. Kettelle used a push from Eric Smith to get past Bob Bryant and outrun challenges led by Nick Ottinger and Bobby Zalenski as the field wrecked behind the leaders coming to the checkered flag, while Jimmy Mullis dominated the race’s early stages and survived the drama to punch his ticket into the playoffs.
“This is Talladega—this is awesome!” exclaimed Kettelle, a noted superspeedway specialist who also took the victory in the independently sanctioned Firecracker 400 earlier this year. “Last week, after the great run I had, I posted a win sticker that I really wanted to put on my computer. This week, it’s finally going on there. This is crazy—I’ve always wanted to win one of these things!”
The relatively clean racing of the season opener from Daytona, and not the caution-heavy drama of the series’ second visit to that track, defined much of the night as the series made its third and final superspeedway stop of 2020. Both sets of pit stops came under green flag conditions, jumbling up the field and pinballing drivers on the playoff bubble through the live point standings. Much of the night saw drivers holding two wide in the pack, but as the race approached its closing stages, the third line began to finally establish itself as a player in the dash to the finish.
After a number of close calls throughout the night, calamity finally struck with eight laps to go when the field caught the lapped car of playoff contender Logan Clampitt. Clampitt kept to the inside, trying to get his damaged machine to blend into the pack, but ended up catching Jake Nichols in the process and causing the first caution of the race.
The green flag flew again with four laps to go, and the field would hang on from there. Bryant would move from the inside line to the outside with two laps to go, temporarily blocking the path for Kettelle, but he’d move back to the bottom for the final lap. That ended up making the difference, as clean air for the tandem of Kettelle and Smith in the middle lane allowed them to nose ahead at the finish line. The top 10 crossed the line unimpeded, but a mid-pack incident shuffled much of the field behind them.
In the end, the uneasy proposition of finishing up the regular season on a wild card track proved to only change one name in the playoffs. Mullis, who led a race-high 27 laps and posted the fastest lap of the race, ended up laying claim to a spot at Clampitt’s expense. Bobby Zalenski and Keegan Leahy had already been locked in, while Ottinger, Michael Conti, Ryan Luza, Garrett Lowe, and four-time series champion Ray Alfalla survived the melee.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Talladega Superspeedway were as follows:
|2||26||9||Eric J. Smith||Ford||94||0||-0.054||47.016||39|
|20||19||18||Graham A. Bowlin||Toyota||94||16||-1.285||46.862||22|
|24||36||53||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||94||0||-1.509||47.037||17|
|32||11||36||Chris Shearburn||Chevrolet||93||1||-1 L||46.795||10|
|33||31||79||Brian Schoenburg||Ford||93||0||-1 L||46.845||8|
|34||13||4||Santiago Tirres||Chevrolet||93||0||-1 L||46.928||7|
|35||29||32||Keegan Leahy||Toyota||93||0||-1 L||47.069||6|
|36||8||99||Logan Clampitt||Toyota||93||4||-1 L||47.578||6|
|37||34||10||Justin Bolton||Ford||92||0||-2 L||47.122||4|
The unofficial eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid, and their regular-season points totals, are as follows:
- Bobby Zalenski, 499
- Michael Conti, 475
- Keegan Leahy, 474
- Nick Ottinger, 474
- Garrett Lowe, 458
- Ryan Luza, 430
- Ray Alfalla, 428
- Jimmy Mullis, 422
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series returns to action in two weeks’ time at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. As always, the race can be streamed live at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live and on the iRacing Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube channels. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.