When it comes to the ‘Magic Mile,’ Jimmy Mullis knows how to make the magic happen.
Mullis drove his Richmond Raceway eSports Toyota to victory for the third time in a row at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Tuesday night in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, putting him in the playoffs and closer to a six-figure payday.
Chris Shearburn started on pole position for the fourth time of his career and the veteran held serve at the front of the field in the opening laps.
The caution flew for the first time on Lap 25 when Ashton Crowder and Ryan Doucette tangled, forcing drivers to make the difficult decision of whether or not to use one of four available sets of tires early; the leaders opted to stop and Shearburn held on to the lead.
Shearburn retained the lead until the race’s one-third point, later giving way to a hard-charging Michael Conti, the 2014 series champ. Seconds after the pass, Brian Schoenburg went for a spin deep in the field, bringing out the race’s second caution.
Two drivers, Vicente Salas and Logan Clampitt, used the caution as an opportunity to snag track position by virtue of a two-tire pit stop while most drivers opted for four fresh tires. Salas held onto the lead briefly, until the speed of Conti’s fresh rubber moved him back to the top spot. Clampitt wasn’t quite as fortunate, on the other hand, dropping positions immediately on the restart.
On Lap 88, the complicated championship picture got a little more interesting. Steven Wilson, who entered the race with a loose grip on the final playoff spot—and without a win necessary for qualification—went for a spin after contact with Garrett Manes while running in the top 10, damaging the front end of Wilson’s Roush Fenway Racing Ford and dashing his hopes of a win.
Mullis, winner of the last two New Hampshire races, made his way to the lead after the Wilson caution—and for ‘Jimmy July,’ who’s won more races in July than any other month, it seemed inevitable to find the Sunoco Toyota at the point.
Once Mullis was out front and the lap count dwindled, it seemed the only driver who could lead the No. 46 was the pace car, a contrast to the first half of the race where the caution only flew twice.
The leaders pitted for the final time after a 30-to-go caution slowed the field. And, as the saying goes, cautions went on to breed cautions: the race slowed for crashes eight times total, including a late caution that sent the race to overtime.
The late-race restarts—including the one that extended the race by a lap—were no match for Mullis, however, who raced to his third-straight victory at New Hampshire after leading 54 laps.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 14, 2021
The win for Mullis was his first of the year and handed him a spot in the playoffs, which kick off next month. Driver No. 46 became the 11th different winner in 12 races; it was his fifth-career victory, and fourth in the month of July.
Mr. 3 Peat himself, congratulations @jmullisracing with this legendary performance!!! First, win since the partnership with @VSU_1882 and first win with the @SunocoRacing paints scheme. You deserve it 💯🏆#RReSports x @SunocoRacing pic.twitter.com/4ClGd8yiKs
— Richmond Raceway eSports (@RReSports) July 14, 2021
Jake Nichols picked up a career-best finish of second, while Conti, Zack Novak and Graham Bowlin rounded out the top five.
With more winners (11) than playoff spots (10), it’ll mean a win is required to race for the championship—and that won’t include at least one race winner. Right now, that’s four-time champ and Charlotte winner Ray Alfalla, who sits deep in points after a slow start to 2021.
That means—for now, at least—that tonight’s magic win for Mullis might make him closer to racing for a championship.
3-TIME WINNERS AT @NHMS!! So proud of this group, and so thankful. Thank you to everyone that has reached out after the race, it's extremely appreciated. What a car, what a team, and what a race! I love the month of July!@RReSports x @SunocoRacing pic.twitter.com/aIHbG7Ba45
— Jimmy Mullis (@jmullisracing) July 14, 2021
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series returns to action in two weeks for the non-points All-Star Race at Nashville Superspeedway. The next points race—the second-to-last of the regular season—is Aug. 3 at Watkins Glen International.