Keegan Leahy wins season-opener at Daytona in photo finish
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The virtual banks of Daytona International Speedway have been busy in the past week, getting ready to host one of the biggest races of the season.
The stars of the newly coined eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series have been working out all the bugs during preseason thunder, and when it came time to put on the main event on Tuesday night, not a single one of those drivers disappointed.
Keegan Leahy wound up victorious on Tuesday night, as he held off Nick Ottinger by only 0.004 seconds to win the opening race of the 2020 season at Daytona.
Last season, Leahy was the bridesmaid in the title race, but this year, he’s already on top of the world in his new No. 32 Direct Force Pro Toyota Camry.
“That was incredible,” Leahy said to Evan Posocco after winning the event. “I can’t believe we pulled that off. We had a game plan from the start. We short pitted, we got ahead of the pack, just trying to play it safe. We wanted to be there at the end, and somehow, we pulled it off.”
The win is the first for new team owner, Denny Hamlin, of Denny Hamlin Racing. Hamlin, with the Jordan brand, joined the series during the offseason, and the Jordan brand is featured on the car of Leahy’s teammate, Casey Kirwan.
In a 100 lap, caution-free event, the race saw 33 lead changes among 14 different drivers. Leahy led the most on the day, with a quarter of the race, 25 laps led, in his pocket at the end of the day. The most important one was the final one, and Leahy can say he’s the first to lead that in the 2020 season.
The No. 83 Virtual Racing School Chevrolet of Bobby Zalenski started on the pole on Tuesday night, and battled back and forth with the defending series champion, Zack Novak, in the opening laps.
Novak is another face in a new place, now driving the No. 90 Sunoco Toyota Camry for Richmond Raceway eSports.
Zalenski eventually gave way to LETARTE eSports driver, Chris Shearburn, driver of the No. 36 Chevrolet. Shearburn led often before the pits finally opened up around Lap 30.
During the second stint of the event, the field got ‘Rowdy’ as Malik Ray and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Graham A. Bowlin, found themselves at the front of the pack.
Kollin Keister, Chris Overland, Casey Kirwan, and more all traded the lead many times over this stint, but there was still one more round of pit stops to go.
Unfortunately for Ray, a glitch disabled his No. 51 Rowdy Energy Toyota Camry from receiving fuel during the final stop, and essentially took him out of contention for the remainder of the event.
Meanwhile up front, the pack started to condense following the final round of stops. Leahy was the leader of the bottom line, while the William Byron eSports driver, Nick Ottinger, had taken his No. 25 Logitech Chevrolet to the lead of the middle.
The outside lane was unable to get fully formed, even though Brandon Kettelle, driving the No. 14 Clint Bowyer Racing / iRacing Ford Mustang, was giving it his all.
Coming off the final corner, the field wrecked behind the leaders, and at the line, it was Leahy by inches over Ottinger for the win.
The Daytona victory is Leahy’s sixth career victory in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, and first at a Superspeedway.
The series returns to action in two weeks, as they head west to the virtual Auto Club Speedway for the second round of the season.
KEEGAN LEAHY WINS AT DAYTONA!
The @DennyHamlin Racing driver survives a photo finish & pure chaos behind him to win the Coca-Cola @iRacing Series opener.🏁 pic.twitter.com/te7kt8tyF6
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 12, 2020
- 32 – Keegan Leahy – Denny Hamlin Racing
- 25 – Nick Ottinger – Williams Byron eSports
- 83 – Bobby Zalenski – Virtual Racing School
- 99 – Logan Clampitt – Burton Kligerman eSports
- 37 – Christian Challiner – JTG Daugherty Racing
- 97 – John Gorlinsky – William Byron eSports
- 2 – Ray Alfalla – Virtual Racing School
- 77 – Ashton Crowder – Burton Kligerman eSports
- 14 – Brandon Hayse Kettelle – Clint Bowyer Racing
- 53 – Ryan Michael Luza – Williams eSports
- 18 – Graham A. Bowlin – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 88 – Brad Davies – JR Motorsports
- 33 – Michael Guest – Team Dillon eSports
- 17 – Kollin Keister – Roush Fenway Racing
- 36 – Chris Shearburn – Letarte eSports
- 47 – Jeremy R Allen – JTG Daugherty Racing
- 46 – Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway eSports
- 27 – Corey Vincent – Renegades
- 9 – Eric J. Smith – Jim Beaver eSports
- 90 – Zack Novak – Richmond Raceway eSports
- 3 – Blake Reynolds – Team Dillon eSports
- 23 – Casey Kirwan – Denny Hamlin Racing
- 6 – Nathan Lyon – Roush Fenway Racing
- 8 – Michael Conti – JR Motorsports
- 21 – Garrett Lowe – Wood Brothers Racing
- 54 – Alex McCollum – G2 eSports
- 16 – Chris Overland – Wood Brothers Racing
- 15 – Michael Guariglia – Jim Beaver eSports
- 24 – Jake Nichols – Mode Motorsports
- 10 – Justin Bolton – Stewart-Haas eSports
- 66 – Jarl Teien – G2 eSports
- 75 – Philip Diaz – Mode Motorsports
- 5 – Matt Bussa – Williams eSports
- 4 – Santiago Tirres – Letarte eSports
- 42 – Bob Bryant – KLR eSports
- 1 – Steve Sheehan – KLR eSports
- 51 – Malik Ray – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 79 – Brian Schoenburg – Clint Bowyer Racing
- 41 – Dylan Duval – Stewart-Haas eSports
- 55 – Caine Cook – Renegades
Justin Melillo View All
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com
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