Round three of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series took place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Tuesday night (March 2) after two consecutive caution-free races to start the 2021 season. Jimmy Mullis of Richmond Raceway eSports led the field to the green for the 134-lap event. Once the green flag dropped, it was obvious it would be a wild race.
Unlike the previous two races, Las Vegas was not as clean. Three cautions in the first 18 laps definitely was not what many expected after the start to the season for these drivers. Ryan Luza survived the madness and scored the win, his first of 2021. He joins Keegan Leahy and Michael Conti in the playoffs this season, as he locks himself in with the new “win and you’re in” rule in the series.
The most incredible statistic of his win is the fact that it is his fourth win at the track, which includes three in a row there a few years back. This is also the first ever series win for XSET Gaming in only their third race.
“We were pretty confident nobody could make it on fuel … Luckily the caution never came out, but it is a huge relief to get a win and lock ourselves into the playoffs,” Luza said following the win.
Luza noted he can take huge risks now, knowing he has that all important playoff spot.
“No reason to go the safe route in any scenario now,” he said.
The first caution of the season(!) came out on lap 6 after Mitchell deJong of 23XI Racing blew a motor in turn 3 and was spun around while running sixth. Luckily, everyone avoided him, and it turned out to be a single car incident.
The biggest accident of the race occurred on lap 11 when Graham Bowlin and Blade Whitt made contact and collected several contending drivers, including Bob Bryant, this season’s two previous winners Leahy and Conti, Garrett Lowe and Zack Novak. Most drivers were able to continue on with their ailing cars and salvaged what they could.
Several drivers exchanged the lead due to pit strategy and the extremely close racing all night long. Luza and Steven Wilson traded the top spot mostly in the early portion of the race, and it looked like they were the two favorites to pull off the victory.
Luza led the majority of laps near the end, even with fuel mileage coming into play. He came to pit road with 35 laps to go and did not look back once things cycled around. However, drama near the end of the race ensued when Malik Ray and Whitt attempted to stretch their fuel to have a chance to win. Unfortunately, the gamble did not pay off for Ray, and he had to give up the lead with six laps to go.
Whitt was forced to pit with five to go, and Luza took over the lead once Whitt peeled off, en route to victory.
Wilson came home in the runner-up spot, new points leader Casey Kirwan wound up third, Caine Cook finished fourth and Nathan Lyon completed the top five on the night.
The next stop on the circuit will be in two weeks on March 16 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coverage will begin at 9 p.m. ET on eNASCAR.com and Twitch.tv/iRacing.