Tire strategy leads Casey Kirwan to eNASCAR win at Darlington

With the cars in front of him either staying out or taking two tires, defending series champion Casey Kirwan used a four-tire pit stop under a late caution to overtake the field and win the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race at a virtual Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Tuesday.

When a caution came out with 26 laps to go, race leader Garrett Lowe and second-place driver Malik Ray stayed out to maintain track position. Collin Bowden and Bobby Zalenski took two tires and came out third and fourth, respectively, leaving Kirwan the first car on fresh tires, restarting fifth with 23 laps to go.

After another caution put Kirwan’s No. 95 XSET Chevrolet fourth at the final restart with 17 laps to go, the Matthews, N.C., native was in the lead within two laps then held off a late charge from Nick Ottinger of Claremont, N.C.

“Obviously we came down pit road, tried to loosen this thing up as much as we could without doing too much to try and hold off Nick and (the rest of the top five),” said Kirwan, who won for the second time this season. “I was starting to hang on for dear life those last few laps.”

Ottinger, the 2020 series champion looking for his 20th career win, was closing in on Kirwan as the laps ticked down, but he ultimately finished 0.325 seconds back in his No. 25 William Byron Esports Chevy for second place.

“I could’ve navigated the positions a little bit better, second through fourth,” Ottinger said of his biggest challenge at the end of the race. “Secondly, I just needed to get around the 7 (Ray) a lot quicker. Casey was able to get around him while I was just stuck beside him side-by-side for two laps. So that hurt me a little bit more than I wanted to (and) used a little bit more of (my) tires trying to get by him.”

Michael Conti, another two-time winner this season, finished third in his No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, 1.671 seconds back. Graham Bowlin in the No. 48 Charlotte Phoenix Toyota took fourth, followed by Ray and his No. 7 Jim Beaver eSports Ford in fifth.

Kirwan, sporting a Tony Stewart throwback paint scheme for Darlington, sits third in the season standings at 216 points. Conti leads with 244 points, followed by Ottinger at 230, despite not winning a race yet this season. Ottinger’s eighth-place average finish is tied with Conti for the best mark in the series.

The series will return at virtual Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 30.

–Field Level Media

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