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Matt Bussa’s Last Drops of Fuel Secure Charlotte iRacing Victory

Going into the eighth race of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, Matt Bussa — driver of the #75 Ford for Kyle Long & Mode Motorsports — had had a good season, sitting fourth in the points standings with four top 10s in seven races.

However, there was one thing missing from his 2022 resume: a race win.

That’s no longer the case, as Bussa utilized fuel strategy to capture the checkered flag in the Coca-Cola 150 at virtual Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday night (May 24). It is the third victory of Bussa’s Coca-Cola iRacing Series career, and it secures his spot in the playoffs as the sixth different winner of the season in eight races.

“It feels amazing,” Bussa said. “Last year, I probably had five races in the bag based on fuel mileage if the caution did not come out. With this one, I had it at the back of my head it would be all yellows, but thankfully, it went green and here we are in victory lane.”

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For the first half of the race, it seemed as if it was Michael Conti’s race to lose. Starting from the pole, Conti dominated early on in his JR Motorsports No. 8 Chevrolet, one of several cars decked out in a patriotic paint scheme for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. In total, Conti led 69 of 100 laps, but ultimately settled for a 23rd-place finish after being on the wrong end of the late-race pit strategy call.

It was a mostly clean race, with only two cautions for accidents out on the racetrack. The first yellow flag came on lap 25 when Collin Bowden in the No. 69 got loose in turns 3 and 4, leading to a stack-up that collected three or four cars, with the No. 97 of Logan Clampitt getting the worst of the damage. Garrett Manes’ No. 31 and Brian Mercurio’s No. 36 also sustained minor damage in the accident. The other caution came on the ensuing restart on lap 30, when Dylan Ault was hit from behind by Corey Vincent after an accordion effect back in the pack.

The first caution led to a round of pit stops, which set the stage for the fuel strategy that changed the course of the race. At around lap 68, about half of the field began making green flag pit stops, while the other half of the field attempted to stretch their fuel to the end. Some drivers were unable to save enough fuel and were forced to pit in the waning laps, including Malik Ray, who pitted from the lead with only three laps left. Others, like Bussa, successfully stretched their fuel tank for over 70 laps.

In winning the race, Bussa held off runner-up Zack Novak in the No. 5 Sunoco/Rise eSports Chevrolet. Novak, the 2019 series champion, was hoping to cash in on the same fuel strategy.

“I knew Bussa was on the same strategy as us. I kind of tried to play defense that whole run and keep him behind me, and I think I just went a little too hard at some points in the run trying to do that,” Novak said.

Michael Guest, Jimmy Mullis and Ray Alfalla rounded out the top-five finishers for the Coca-Cola 150.  Other notable finishers include Steven Wilson in sixth, who becomes the new series points leader, and defending series champion Keegan Leahy in eighth.

Odds and Ends

  • Kaden Honeycutt found himself behind the eight ball early due to internet connection issues. He finished 36th.
  • Leahy’s finish puts him back above the crucial top 20 in points cutline to guarantee a spot in the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
  • Kollin Kiester, in the No. 43 Toyota for Charlotte Phoenix, did not participate in this race. Kiester served a one-race suspension for incident points accumulated in previous races.
  • The race was 100 laps/150 miles long, only half the length of last year’s race, which went 200 laps/300 miles.

Playoff Picture (Six Races Until the Playoffs)

Nick Ottinger 2 Wins
Michael Conti 2 Wins
Steven Wilson 1 Win
Matt Bussa 1 Win
Femi Olatunbuson 1 Win
Garrett Lowe 1 Win
Casey Kirwan +21 points above cutline
Michael Guest +14
Blake Reynolds +5
Corey Vincent +4
Taylor Hurst -4 below cutline
Garrett Manes -6
Graham Bowlin -8
Jimmy Mullis -11

Next Race

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will make history next Tuesday, May 31, with its first-ever race at the virtual World Wide Technology Raceway, located just outside of St. Louis. The race start is at 9 p.m. ET, and it can seen on eNASCAR.com/live, YouTube.com/iRacing or Twitch.tv/iRacing.

About the author

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Richmond. He is a high school history teacher and cross country/track & field coach for his day job.

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