The eNASCAR College iRacing Series officially brought excitement to the college esports ranks in its debut race as fuel became a factor late for the leaders, leading to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Colton Salek capitalizing for the win in the final corner.
Salek made a move to the outside behind the soon-to-be ailing Kenneth Talbott (University of Alabama in Huntsville) and Daniel Buttafuoco (Rutgers University), who each ran into fuel issues on the final lap of The Playfly Sports 60 at Daytona.
“That’s unbelievable, that all happened so fast,” Salek said in Victory Lane after the virtual race. “I’m still trying to process what happened. It was the longest lap of my life, I think.”
More than 250 drivers from 190 schools attempted to qualify for the inaugural race.
The eNASCAR College iRacing Series brings the excitement of virtual NASCAR racing to the college esports ranks. The fastest collegiate iRacers representing colleges/universities in the United States and Canada will attempt to qualify for each event through iRacing’s Time Attack sessions before going wheel to wheel on the most iconic tracks in the world of racing.
The event was exciting from the outset as side-by-side racing at the front kept the racing intense throughout the race. It was only when the first caution came out that things played into Salek’s hands.
The first caution on lap 25 was for a massive wreck at the front of the field that caught several drivers up and shortened the field’s numbers tremendously. Until that wreck, Santiago Tirres from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte paced the field.
After the race restarted, trouble struck the field again as a connection error, commonly referred to as blinking, occurred with one of the trucks in the middle of the field and led to another chain reaction wreck. Fuel mileage would come into play as a few drivers decided to put track position at the forefront and stay out rather than pit.
In the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Buttafuoco threw a block down the backstretch, causing another wreck at the back of the field as others continued to battle for position, leading to Buttafuoco earning the lead at the scoring loop.
With fuel coming into play late in Turn 2 on the final lap, Talbott’s truck bobbled right in front of Salek, who powered to the outside of Buttafuoco in Turn 4 for the lead and win.
“No one knew that was going to happen,” Salek said of Talbott running out of fuel on the last lap. “I had absolutely no clue. I just kinda thought he locked the brakes up. That was crazy, I barely remember half of the white flag.”
The next event for the eNASCAR College iRacing Series powered by NACE Starleague is March 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.