Casey Kirwan passed Zack Novak with five laps remaining to earn his first eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series victory as the series returned to Bristol Motor Speedway after a several-year hiatus. Kirwan, who started seventh, used lap traffic and the bottom groove to make the winning pass, giving Clint Bowyer Racing its first win in the process.
Kirwan took the lead on Lap 174 and immediately began to pull away from the field, building a lead of nearly two seconds. However, with 50 laps to go, Novak moved into second position and closed the gap to under one second. The gap stayed relatively steady for the next 20 laps until a crash occurred in front of Kirwan. Novak capitalized, taking the lead as the race stayed green and Kirwan dipped to the apron in avoidance.
Despite the setback, Kirwan kept pressing. With Novak committed to the top groove, Kirwan would have to use the bottom to complete his winning pass. With five laps remaining, Novak got caught up behind Dylan Duval, who was racing to stay on the lead lap. Kirwan made the move to regain the lead, and extended the gap to .733 seconds at the finish. Michael Guest joined Novak, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, in the top three, with Blake Reynolds and Taylor Hurst completing the top five.
Bristol marked the end of the regular season and set the playoff field of eight drivers. Team Dillon Esports’ Blake Reynolds earned the distinction of regular season champion despite not winning a race, beating out Ryan Luza, Bobby Zalenski, and Garrett Lowe for the honor. Those four will be joined by Keegan Leahy, Michael Conti, Novak, and Jimmy Mullis, who edged Nick Ottinger by 11 points to earn the eighth and final playoff berth.
Darlington Raceway will play host to the opening race of the 2019 playoffs, with all eight drivers looking to punch their ticket to the finale at Homestead Miami-Speedway. With three wins each, Luza and Novak are the early favorites, but in the playoffs anything can happen, and one bad race is all it takes to potentially fall out of contention.
Coverage from the track dubbed “Too Tough To Tame” kicks off August 27th at 9:00 pm ET on eNASCAR.com.