March 31st, 2021 by Chris Leone
Without a single caution flag in sight, Tuesday’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action from Auto Club Speedway came down to whoever could execute the eventual winning strategy. When all was said and done, that strategy was a single pit stop, and no driver pulled that off more effectively than Kligerman Sport’s Bob Bryant.
The sim racing veteran made his only pit stop after the halfway point of the 100-lap race, ensuring he’d have more than enough fuel to make it to the finish without needing to save. He led JTG Daugherty Racing’s Derek Justis and fellow Kligerman Sport driver Isaac Gann as the trio scored the best finishes of their respective eNASCAR careers on the one-stop strategy. Bryant’s first career eNASCAR victory also marked the second year in a row that the #77 car took the checkered flag at the two-mile California speedway, and made him the fifth different winner in five races to start the 2021 season.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Bryant. “We just had an incredible car, and they don’t give these things away. This series is unbelievably difficult, and I’m honestly kind of shocked at the moment. I was sweating it at about Lap 10 when we were 36th and going backwards, but we started going forward about 20 laps into the run, and I knew if we could go a couple more laps than the competition on the first run, it was going to allow us to open the car up the entire second run, and that’s exactly how it played out.”
At the green flag, 23XI’s Keegan Leahy appeared to have the car to beat, pulling away from teammate Mitchell deJong, Letarte Esports’ Bobby Zalenski, William Byron Esports’ Nick Ottinger, and JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti, before making the surprising decision to pit well before the field around Lap 20. By making his two stops well off cycle from everybody else, Leahy’s best shot at a win was to have track position on the rest of the two-stop drivers, and fresher tires than the one-stop drivers.
But it wasn’t meant to be. The Homestead winner’s tires evened off with the rest of the field in the closing laps, and a lack of wrecks meant that the on-track drama would be limited to the chess match of strategy calls. Six of the top 15 finishers, including Bryant, gained 20 or more spots from their starting position thanks to the one-stop gamble.
Full results from Tuesday’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race at Auto Club Speedway were as follows:
|23||24||10||Graham A. Bowlin||Ford||100||-13.117||0||39.429||14|
|39||10||4||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||99||-1 L||0||39.663||1|
|40||39||79||Ryan Doucette||Ford||99||-1 L||0||39.538||1|
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series points through five rounds are as follows:
- Keegan Leahy, 140
- Casey Kirwan, 127
- Logan Clampitt, 126
- Michael Conti, 125
- Michael Guest, 124
- Steven Wilson, 115
- Chris Shearburn, 113
- Nick Ottinger, 113
- Bobby Zalenski, 112
- Matt Bussa, 108
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series takes next week off before returning to action from Richmond Raceway on April 13. After early contact at Auto Club relegated him to the back of the pack, XSET’s Ryan Luza will look to become the first two-time winner of 2021 by defending his triumph in last year’s event. Coverage will kick off at 8:30PM ET with iRacing Countdown to Green, while the race will begin at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live, iRacing.com/live, and NASCAR and iRacing social media channels.