Tale of Two Races: William Byron eSports leads team standings after wild race at Kansas
After seven races in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, William Byron eSports leads the team standings after a wild race at Kansas Speedway.
The team holds a 23-point advantage over 23XI Racing in the team title race after a majority of the field was collected in a crash with under 60 laps to go.
Defending series champion Nick Ottinger was involved in the incident and finished in 23rd place. His teammate, Logan Clampitt, survived the carnage and went on to finish fourth.
“It feels good,” said Clampitt. “Nick and I have been working great as a team so far this season and I think we’ll be there by the end of it. The two teams behind us are very competitive though, so we’ll have to be on top of our game.”
Qualifying would be super tight at Kansas. The top eight drivers would be separated by 0.04 seconds. Clampitt would qualify in 14th place while Ottinger would start in 24th.
“I put a lot of stock into improving our qualifying program and I feel we have. We brought a very similar qualifying package from California, where we qualified third and we improved on that qualifying base,” said Ottinger. “Sometimes it's just a hassle at guessing the wind and hoping for the best outcome. One MPH difference of wind speed and direction really changes the landscape of the qualifying order in this series. We have fast qualifying cars, but there is always room for improving to find that extra little bit.”
Track position was very important early on in the race. Clampitt would battle for 13th place for a majority of the opening laps. Ottinger would pass several drivers on the top line to get to 18th position by Lap 23.
On Lap 30, Clampitt and his crew chief Jason Lofing eventually decided to take a chance. On the radio during the race, Clampitt and Lofing said they felt they could gamble on the call with their win at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Several other competitors started following Clampitt into the pits a couple laps after. Both Clampitt and Lofing were in disbelief on the radio at the time.
The call would cycle Clampitt into the top five by Lap 50.
“Knowing that I’m locked in I wanted to try something different,” Keegan (Leahy) did the same thing at Auto Club Speedway. I feel the call worked out pretty well.”
Ottinger stayed on the track until Lap 40 for his scheduled pit stop from 14th place. He found himself in 11th position as one of the fastest cars on the track at that same point.
“I was very happy with how our strategy went,” said Ottinger. “Logan short-pitted with trying to force other drivers' hands, but we knew our best strategy on our 25 team and it positioned ourselves really well. We're hitting our stride as far as bringing race-winning cars and the strategy from (crew chief) Brandon Hastings has been exceptional.”
Things would change on Lap 78. John Gorlinsky of Wood Brothers Gaming attempted to go in-between Stewart-Haas eSports drivers Graham Bowlin and Dylan Duval coming out of Turn 2. Gorlinsky came across the front end of Duval’s car and spun down the track, collecting Kligerman Sport’s Bob Bryant.
Clampitt and Ottinger were running seventh and eighth respectively at the time of the caution.
After the restart however, a big crash would strike.
Mitchell DeJong and Clampitt appeared to make contact heading into Turn 3 while battling for second place. Clampitt drove to the inside of DeJong along the white line before the 23XI car started to slide on entry.
DeJong then slid sideways for several seconds before snapping to the right and into Bobby Zalenski and Ryan Luza. Luza bounced into Jimmy Mullis, who spun into Ottinger’s right front fender.
Ottinger and Mullis then slammed doors before the rest of the field crashed hard into the track-blocking incident.
Overall, 18 drivers were involved in the wreck.
DeJong said in an in-race interview he had felt a lot of little things could have gone differently in the incident, but that he felt was not fully in the wrong. He said he thought there would be a bit more patience at the time.
“As always, I want to try and get myself into the best position to win especially when you’re that close to the leader getting up to speed. Mitchell opened up the bottom and I decided to take it since I thought that would’ve been the best position to try and get to (race leader Chris) Shearburn out in front first,” said Clampitt. “It was an aggressive move, but I was on the inside of him way before the entry of the corner.
“I’ve been put three wide in that situation many times and usually give the person room on the bottom. I feel I wasn’t really in the wrong there since I never went below the white line, held the white line and simply got pinched down.”
The crash left Ottinger looking directly at the carnage. He said he felt inexperience and lack of awareness led to the crash.
“Sometimes in racing you just have to live to fight another day,” said Ottinger. “You're trying to position yourself the best you can to win the race, but that was a wreck that could have been avoided with thinking past the corner entry. The emotions were not great. Tough on to get past when you bring a great car and pass so many quality racers to just get caught up in the first restart of the race.”
On the following restart, Clampitt joined the conversation for the race win. The Concord, N.C.-based driver would start second on Lap 88 alongside Chris Shearburn. The next lap, he poked to the outside of the Letarte eSports driver, going three-wide as Issac Gann drove hard to the inside of the tri-oval.
The three drivers ran next to one another for two laps before Clampitt got shuffled to third.
Clampitt eventually was passed by Leahy on the bottom on Lap 96. He then battled with Gann throughout the rest of the final run.
“I tried to get to the lead as soon as possible for clean air and man we were so close,” said Clampitt. “The clean air really matters from Lap 10 on. I just couldn’t get the job done.”
For Ottinger, he said the final laps of the race were really rough.
“The wreck gave us a big deal of damage. We ended up fixing all we could but it pushed the right edge of the splitter up and hurt our overall downforce on the car,” said Ottinger. “We were sideways trying to race guys the last 40ish laps, with a lot of straight line speed lost as well. To finish 23rd and run quicker than some guys at the end of the race, guys that were not damaged really spoke volumes to how prepared we were.”
The next race of the season heads to the Circuit of the Americas for the first time in series history. Ottinger said he was excited to go to the track.
“The track presents a lot of ability to be consistent,” said Ottinger. “I'm ready to get ourselves a win for TSM, William Byron and Logitech G. They deserve it and what better way to do it at a new track for our series. I produce very well at a road course, but that's a testament to how well our team works together. I'm ready to roll.”
Clampitt felt the exact opposite about the track. He felt it was a “very interesting” circuit to compete in the series at.
“Not many braking points for a stock car,” said Clampitt. It’s going to be very hard to be consistent.”
Race 8 of the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season takes place at COTA on May 18th. Coverage can be seen live on iRacing’s social media platforms and eNASCAR.com starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.