In an unpredictable final race in the playoff Round of 8, a win-or-go-home race for Michael Conti and Keegan Leahy settled in Conti’s favor when the JR Motorsports driver scored the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series win at Texas Motor Speedway on Tuesday night. Conti’s win allowed him to secure an automatic Championship 4 berth for next week’s season finale alongside Charlotte Roval winner Bobby Zalenski and Kansas winner Nick Ottinger.
“This is crazy—I can’t believe that happened!” said Conti. “I’ve never been that excited to win a race before. This was the most intense season by far, to be in the spot we were in after the Roval and almost have it last week but have it ripped away. I thought we were going to walk away with it tonight on that last run, but then it got exciting again. I can’t thank everyone enough. It took two years (with JRM) to get a win, but we did it at the right time.”
During green flag pit stops just before halfway, an incident involving multiple playoff contenders was just the first to dramatically shook up the playoff picture. Ryan Luza, who had been above the cut line before the green flag, took the heaviest damage, leading to a restart where the entire playoff field was separated by six points for the final bubble spot as Conti held the top spot. At one point, Garrett Lowe, Keegan Leahy, and Ray Alfalla were even tied for fourth.
The race appeared to be playing into Conti’s hands after the final planned pit cycle, as Alfalla began sliding back in the pack from the lead. But with 25 laps to go, Chris Overland slapped the wall coming out of Turn 4 and slid into Chris Shearburn, allowing the entire field to come to the pits. That set off a flurry of cautions, none more significant than the one with five laps to go where Keister moved Clampitt out of the way for second and the resulting stack-up caused a massive wreck that affected multiple cars, including playoff drivers Lowe and Jimmy Mullis.
Conti and Keister started side by side for the first attempt at overtime, but Conti pounced to the lead quickly and hung on for dear life. Keister and Graham Bowlin put the pressure on, but Keister lost control coming to the checkered, triggering a massive wreck that also collected Leahy, Nathan Lyon, and others. Conti’s JR Motorsports teammate Brad Davies and Zalenski came home second and third, while Luza improbably hung onto the final playoff spot after surviving the late-race chaos.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Texas Motor Speedway were as follows:
|8||37||14||Brandon Hayse Kettelle||Ford||169||0||-1.924||28.798||33|
|15||1||18||Graham A. Bowlin||Toyota||169||8||-3.100||28.818||27|
|25||8||53||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||169||3||-4.822||28.925||17|
|34||30||33||Michael Guest||Chevrolet||168||8||-1 L||29.128||8|
|35||21||2||Ray Alfalla||Chevrolet||166||0||-3 L||28.736||6|
|36||20||51||Malik Ray||Toyota||164||4||-5 L||28.792||6|
|37||16||9||Eric J. Smith||Ford||162||0||-7 L||28.638||4|
|38||26||66||Jarl Teien||Chevrolet||69||0||-100 L||29.110||3|
Zalenski, Ottinger, Conti, and Luza will now head to Homestead-Miami Speedway for a shot at becoming the first $100,000 championship winner in series history, as the season finale moves up a day to next Monday, November 2. The stream will kick off at 8PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live. The series will also return to television as highlights of the championship race air on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, November 8 at 7:30PM ET, directly after the real-world NASCAR Cup Series champion is crowned at Phoenix Raceway.
For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.