THE VIRTUAL BROOKLYN, Mich. — Casey Kirwan is finally turning his season around, once again a winner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
Kirwan out-dueled Ray Alfalla, out-maneuvered Alex McCollum, and outlasted the rest of the field in Double eNASCAR Overtime to win the second race of his career on Tuesday night at Michigan International Speedway.
“I knew we had a real good piece coming into tonight,” Kirwan said post-race in the virtual victory lane. “It was going to be really hard to one-stop it, and once we had that quick caution, we could all one stop it”
A late couple of cautions mixed up strategies and sent the mostly green event at Michigan International Speedway into an eNASCAR Overtime restart.
Kirwan led at would have been the white flag in regulation, just getting back by Ray Alfalla for the lead moments before Phil Diaz went spinning into Turn 3 after contact with Graham Bowlin.
“I tried to play it smart there,” Kirwan said. “I was kind of trying to wait until twelve to go, and then Ray (Alfalla) started going… I wanted to wait a little bit more… I just drove it in on the top, finally cleared (Alfalla)… and then the caution came out.”
On the first overtime restart, Kollin Keister led the field back to green on older tires, with three other cars of varying tear wear also within the first two rows.
“We pitted, and I thought all my hopes and dreams were crushed,” Kirwan said.
McCollum was able to sprint ahead of Keister, as the majority of the field loomed behind on four fresh tires.
Kirwan broke free from the rest, and just as he set his sights on McCollum for the lead, another caution flew just before taking the white flag once again.
“I just got a big run and pushed McCollum off into (Turn) 3 there, and then we split Kollin (Keister), and then we got another restart,” Kirwan said.
On the second attempt, McCollum led the rest into Turn 1, but by the exit of Turn 2, Kirwan was back in front. McCollum held off Alfalla for the silver, but it was Kirwan winning the gold, his first win of the 2020 season.
“Once we got clear there… that’s when it really set in,” Kirwan said. “It’s unbelievable.”
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) July 29, 2020
Chris Shearburn started on the pole position, and led the first lap. Kirwan took control on the second lap but an early caution ended the race for three hopefuls.
Kirwan’s teammate and Series points leader, Keegan Leahy, got a little twitchy under Jeremy Allen running up near the Top 5. Allen’s No. 47 shot up the track and into Nick Ottinger, sending Ottinger’s No. 25 flipping through the air, collecting Malik Ray in the process.
When the race resumed, the action all around became one of the more competitive races on the year so far. Bowlin, Shearburn, Kirwan. and Keister, as well as Bobby Zalenski, Corey Vincent, Michael Guest, and Jarl Teien, all traded jabs for the lead just before halfway and what was scheduled to be the only pitstop on the race.
Through the cycle, Logan Clampitt was able to grab the lead, but only for a moment, as eventually, Kirwan found his way back to the point. Guest took control on lap 70, but Caine Cook found his way to the front of the field, and led a handful of laps as the race started to wind down.
A few drivers opted to pit for a second time, and with their fresher tires, began to pass the leaders, shaking up the battle for the lead.
Kirwan took it from Cook at lap 88, but Alfalla had worked his way up all the way from 36th starting position, and got to the point with nine laps to go. The 2019 Most Popular Driver stayed in it, and with two laps to go in regulation, Kirwan moved back around Alfalla to take back the lead.
Not a few seconds later, a caution flag flew for the second time on the race, and the strategy calls were about to make or break this race. Kirwan opted for four tires, as most of the field had decided upon as well.
Keister, Justin Bolton, Brian Schoenburg, and McCollum led the field back to the green, all opting to stay out. McCollum had the freshest of the old tires, and utilized his positioning to take the lead from Keister, as Kirwan battled past the others and into the second spot exiting Turn 4.
As Kirwan made the move low, a caution flew just feet before the line, as Bolton, last year’s Michigan winner Garrett Lowe, and others got sent flipping through the air.
A second chance, and Kirwan wasted little time, making his move in the center of Turns 1 and 2. Kirwan played the draft right, and held off the charge from the rest of the field to take the checkered flag.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 29, 2020
NOTES AND NUGGETS:
- Denny Hamlin Racing is the first team in 2020 to have both drivers in victory lane so far. Keegan Leahy won at Daytona and Indianapolis, and Kirwan adds a third win to the team at Michigan.
- There were only three cautions for nine laps, with two at the very end, setting up for the Double eNASCAR Overtime.
- Last week there was only one lead change, and this week, there were 29 of them among 15 drivers. Kirwan led the most laps at 23.
- In the Team Standings, Denny Hamlin Racing moves up to second around JR Motorsports. DHR is now 59 points behind Virtual Racing School.
- Bob Bryant made his debut for Burton Kligerman eSports in the No. 77 on Tuesday night, coming home 18th at race end. Bryant replaces Ashton Crowder, whose relationship with BKeS was ended on July 17th after the New Hampshire race week.
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) July 29, 2020
MICHIGAN 200 RACE RESULTS:
- 23 – Casey Kirwan – Denny Hamlin Racing
- 54 – Alex McCollum – G2 eSports
- 2 – Ray Alfalla – Virtual Racing School
- 36 – Chris Shearburn – Letarte eSports
- 37 – Christian Challiner – JTG Daugherty Racing
- 27 – Corey Vincent – Renegades
- 55 – Caine Cook – Renegades
- 83 – Bobby Zalenski – Virtual Racing School
- 99 – Logan Clampitt – Burton Kligerman eSports
- 33 – Michael Guest – Team Dillon eSports
- 5 – Matt Bussa – Williams eSports
- 88 – Brad Davies – JR Motorsports
- 3 – Blake Reynolds – Team Dillon eSports
- 14 – Brandon Hayse Kettelle – Clint Bowyer Racing
- 8 – Michael Conti – JR Motorsports
- 32 – Keegan Leahy – Denny Hamlin Racing
- 16 – Chris Overland – Wood Brothers Racing
- 77 – Bob Bryant – Burton Kligerman eSports
- 15 – Michael Guariglia – Jim Beaver eSports
- 79 – Brian Schoenburg – Clint Bowyer Racing
- 46 – Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway eSports
- 1 – Steve Sheehan – Independent
- 9 – Eric J. Smith – Jim Beaver eSports
- 90 – Zack Novak – Richmond Raceway eSports
- 41 – Dylan Duval – Stewart-Haas eSports
- 4 – Santiago Tirres – Letarte eSports
- 53 – Ryan Michael Luza – Williams eSports
- 6 – Nathan Lyon – Roush Fenway Racing
- 18 – Graham A. Bowlin – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 17 – Kollin Keister – Roush Fenway Racing
- 24 – Jake Nichols – Mode Motorsports
- 10 – Justin Bolton – Stewart-Haas eSports
- 66 – Jarl Teien – G2 eSports
- 97 – John Gorlinsky – William Byron eSports
- 21 – Garrett Lowe – Wood Brothers Racing
- 75 – Phillip Diaz – Mode Motorsports
- 25 – Nick Ottinger – William Byron eSports
- 51 – Malik Ray – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 47 – Jeremy R Allen – JTG Daugherty Racing
PLAYOFF BATTLE (TOP 8 ADVANCE):
- Keegan Leahy +75
- Ryan Luza +61
- Bobby Zalenski +60
- Michael Conti +49
- Garrett Lowe +48
- Ray Alfalla +42
- Nick Ottinger +10
- Chris Shearburn +0
- Graham A. Bowlin -0
- Logan Clampitt -4
- Jimmy Mullis -12
- Brad Davies -13
- Casey Kirwan -32
- Michael Guest -34
- Corey Vincent -35TOP 20 BUBBLE WATCH:
- Jake Nichols +18
- Matt Bussa +11
- Justin Bolton +4
- Bob Bryant +3
- John Gorlinsky +1
- Blake Reynolds -1
- Caine Cook -11
- Kollin Keister -16
- Alex McCollum -19
- Zack Novak -21
Check out the TReSports Photo Gallery from Race #11 at Michigan International Speedway! All Photos by Justin Melillo via iRacing.com.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com