Nick Ottinger’s headed to Miami to race for six figures.
After a wild overtime finish, Ottinger, the William Byron eSports driver, brought home the checkered flag in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff race from Kansas Speedway, clinching a spot in the series’ championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 2.
Ottinger started on pole and looked to have the speed needed to secure his place in the title battle — but Keegan Leahy had other ideas.
Leahy, the Denny Hamlin Racing driver, quickly established himself as the car to beat, wasting no time finding the top spot after starting on the outside pole. Leahy held the lead for the majority of the race, which went without caution or major incident for much of the distance and included two rounds of green-flag pit stops.
What was shaping up to be a battle of tire conservation between Leahy and Ottinger was soured in the final laps when Brandon Kettelle and Justin Bolton tangled deep in the field to bring out the race’s first caution with seven laps to go, bunching up the field and setting up for an unpredictable finish.
Michael Guariglia, who led a trio of off-strategy cars with Phil Diaz and Jarl Teien throughout the evening, opted to stay on the track in search of his first-career victory. The plan looked like it was a solid one after the restart as his Jim Beaver eSports machine led the way ahead of hungry playoff drivers on new tires — namely Leahy and Ottinger — behind him.
While Leahy started his charge back to his spot atop the leaderboard, Ottinger made contact with Leahy’s car, sending the No. 32 hard into the outside wall. The crash ended a promising night that could have otherwise ended up with Leahy’s name on the list of Championship 4 contenders, and also set up the race for an overtime finish.
After the restart for the Leahy crash, Ottinger wasted no time charging to the point on new tires past the strategy contrarians. The typical four- and five-wide Kansas Speedway restarts stifled a solid run for playoff contender Michael Conti, who found himself shuffled out of line on the final lap; Conti ended up 12th at the end of the night and now finds himself in a must-win scenario.
Ottinger went on to win the race — the 16th of his career, breaking a tie with Ryan Luza — and clinch a spot in the Championship 4 alongside Bobby Zalenski, who won last week’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
We are going to battle for a CHAMPIONSHIP at Homestead! So proud of this @LogitechG team! Can't believe we are going to battle for a championship! So much of the credit goes to everyone @WBeSports_ including my teammate @john_gorlinsky!
What a feeling! The job is not finished! pic.twitter.com/QYdl4B2GXG
— Nick Ottinger (@NickOttinger) October 21, 2020
Logan Clampitt, a non-playoff driver, surged late to finish second, while Zalenski, Luza, and Guariglia (non-playoffs) rounded out the top five. Other playoff contenders included Jimmy Mullis (sixth), Ray Alfalla (seventh), Garrett Lowe (eighth), and Conti (12th). Keegan Leahy finished 32nd.
For the playoff drivers, only one opportunity remains to advance to the Championship 4 in Miami: 167 laps at Texas Motor Speedway next Tuesday. Bobby Zalenski and Nick Ottinger have already claimed their spots, while Jimmy Mullis and Ryan Luza currently find themselves in position to advance on points.
Garrett Lowe (-8), Keegan Leahy, (-19), Ray Alfalla (-21), and Michael Conti (-43) currently sit below the cut line with one race left before the championship finale.
— William Byron (@WilliamByron) October 21, 2020
Find out which two drivers will advance to the Homestead-Miami Speedway championship race — and compete for a shot at $100,000 — next Tuesday (Oct. 27, 9 p.m. ET) at eNASCAR.com/live.