Firecracker 400: Brandon Kettelle survives the virtual chaos, wins at Daytona
THE VIRTUAL DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The big winner on Wednesday night was Brandon Kettelle, who outlasted the rest of the 43 car field to win the inaugural eRacr.gg Firecracker 400 at the virtual Daytona International Speedway.
Kettelle restarted third on the final restart, which ended up being a one lap dash to the finish.
Colton Salek and Josh Chin started just in front, and by Turn 3, neither were in contention anymore. Kettelle, Bob Bryant, AJ Henderson, Alek Martinez and John Gorlinsky went into the final turn, and loads of contact was made among them.
Kettelle kept the straightest wheel, and pulled away from the rest out of the corner and across the line first to score the victory. Gorlinsky and Bryant rounded out the virtual podium.
“Oh my God, when I doored Bob Bryant, I thought for sure that I was done for,” Kettelle said to the booth post-race. “They wrecked underneath me, and I got lucky.
“I worked so hard on this setup the last couple days, and told my guys that I was sorry if I ran bad last night in the (eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series) race because we wanted to win Daytona. I dreamt about this last night and I can’t believe that I’m in victory lane. It’s crazy.”
Kettelle’s victory pocketed him a check worth $2,000, something he really wanted for his daughter.
“My little girl’s birthday is next month, and I wanted to make it special. It’s her third birthday… this is awesome man.”
The finale to multiple weeks of preliminary racing, open setup qualifying, and a consolation 200 miler event on Monday, the eRacr.gg Firecracker 400 set itself up to be one of one of the biggest events of the year.
With the build up and anticipation, on top of all the support from various partners and sponsors, this would come to fruition after 400 miles of high intensity.
An event of this magnitude, some drivers had different ways of mentally preparing for it.
“I usually listen to music, like a half-hour before any big races I’m doing, and I either listen to Starset if I want to get pumped up or Ben Howard if I wanna chill and relax,” AJ Henderson said.
Zane Scott said “I like to slam a beer and eat oreos, and that’s not a joke. I also like to listen to Marvin’s Room by Drake, that way I start missing my ex, and I have motivation not to be a failure. That’s not a joke either.”
Tony Ball’s pre-race routine involves a “nice, cold, Fruit Punch Gatorade” and listening to Trophies by Drake.
Those three, along with the 40 others in the main event, all have had a week to think of a strategy, formulate a plan, and perfect a setup. The cream was able to rise to the top, but one wrong move on multiple occasions ended so many driver’s races.
Joseph Gulotta led the field to the green, and the race for survival was on.
Early casualties included eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series drivers Kollin Keister and Malik Ray in the first two cautions, and in the third incident, NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s night was ended after contact with Brad Slaughter Jr. who wasn’t able to find his brake pedal fast enough in making it through the wreckage.
The racing continued, and the field continued to shorten up.
William Byron led the most laps, but was caught up in one of the final incidents. Many of the other eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series led throughout the race, including Casey Kirwan, Michael Conti, Jake Nichols, and Eric J. Smith, but all found misfortune through the later stages.
By the end of the race, only 17 drivers were left on the lead lap, and after 344 signups, eight preliminarie races, two rounds of qualifying, and 159 laps. it all came down to one final circuit.
When Colton Salek went for a ride after making contact with Josh Chin, that setup for one last frantic dash to the checkers.
Essentially four-wide into the final corner, Henderson and Gorlinsky made contact, and then Kettelle got scooted up the track by Bryant.
As Bryant moved back to the bottom, Martinez was there, and both got sideways. Bryant saved it, but lost his momentum. Kettelle regained his, passed him back, and drove across the stripe to win the entire show.
eRacr.gg, led by Community Manager Joshua Mendoza, NASCAR drivers Landon Cassill and Parker Kligerman, and a slew of other talents from across the Sim Racing community, did something special on Wednesday night.
The group brought on the NASCAR Hall of Fame for some in-race history lessons, attracted partners from multiple different facets, and was able to take a group of 344 signups, whittling it down to 43 of the top sim racers, including a current NASCAR Cup Series driver in William Byron, and a recent Hall of Fame Inductee in Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It’s unknown what their next big race will be, but it is expected that the Firecracker races will be a mainstay in the Sim Racing community for years to come.
FIRECRACKER 400 QUICK FACTS:
Race Length: 160 laps (400 miles)
Lead Changes: 68 among 16 drivers
Most Laps Led: William Byron Jr (35 laps led)
Fastest Lap: Brandon Hayse Kettelle (42.130 seconds)
Cautions: 11 for 33 laps
Hard charger: Justin Lisonbee +35 (Start: 42nd | Finish: 7th)
Tough Luck: Nathan Lyon -36 (Start: 3rd | Finish: 39th)
FIRECRACKER 400 RESULTS:
- 14 – Brandon Hayse Kettelle
- 97 – John Gorlinsky
- 42 – Bob Bryant
- 89 – AJ Henderson
- 7 – Kyle Putz
- 00 – Will Cooley
- 31 – Justin Lisonbee
- 75 – Dylan Goodin
- 95 – Adam Gordon
- 9 – Eric J. Smith
- 23 – Casey Kirwan
- 93 – Joshua Chin
- 18 – Alek Martinez
- 81 – Brad Slaughter Jr.
- 43 – Collin Bowden
- 99 – Colton Salek
- 5 – Matt Bussa
- 28 – Alonzo Moralez -1L
- 83 – David L Brown -1L
- 54 – Christian Pedersen -1L
- 49 – Garrett Konrath -1L
- 19 – Briar LaPradd -2L
- 73 – Jake Nichols -2L
- 32 – Bryan Blackford -2L
- 33 – Michael Guest -4L
- 25 – William Byron Jr -4L
- 10 – Tucker Minter -4L
- 84 – Tony Ball -5L
- 98 – Eddie Kerner -5L
- 2 – Jordan Herrley -6L
- 57 – Seth DeMerchant -6L
- 55 – Caine Cook -21L
- 96 – Mitch Rollo -32L
- 88 – Michael Conti – 33L
- 86 – Joseph Gulotta -33L
- 26 – Kevin McAdams -51L
- 46 – Jimmy Mullis -52L
- 199 – Jared Ickes -91L
- 6 – Nathan Lyon -133L
- 37 – Zane Scott -134L
- 8 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. -135L
- 51 – Malik Ray -140L
- Kollin Keister -153L
Check out the TReSports Photo Gallery from the Firecracker 400! All Photos by Justin Melillo via iRacing.com.
Justin Melillo View All
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com
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