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Casey Kirwan Wins 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Title in Live Finale at NASCAR Hall of Fame

In his first-ever eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff appearance, and the series’ first-ever live finale from the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, XSET driver Casey Kirwan claimed the $100,000 series title and inaugural Dale Earnhardt Jr. Trophy by outdueling his Championship 4 rivals on Tuesday night on the virtual Phoenix Raceway. Finishing behind race winner and defending eNASCAR champion Keegan Leahy of 23XI, Kirwan withstood pressure from Joe Gibbs Racing driver and title contender Bobby Zalenski to earn the title.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Kirwan, one of eNASCAR’s most popular drivers and Twitch streamers, said at the trophy presentation. “I’ve always joked, with streaming, that I need a nice trophy for the backdrop. I’ve won a lot of big races, but they never come with trophies, and this thing’s even bigger than a stream backdrop, so I may have to work on the camera angle to make sure it all gets in there!”

All four Championship 4 qualifiers made the trip to Charlotte, racing in front of a select crowd of industry luminaries and invited guests in the shadow of the Hall’s famous Glory Road. But if the environment or any alterations from their normal setup were bothering them, none would show it; Charlotte Phoenix driver Graham Bowlin and Zalenski would take the front row in time trials, Stewart-Haas eSports’ Steven Wilson would qualify next to Leahy in fourth, and Kirwan would remain within striking distance in seventh.

Immediate back-to-back cautions were an early source of stress for the field, but when the race got going, Zalenski quickly took the hilt from Bowlin and hung on through the first half of the race. Back-to-back cautions would happen again at the midway point of the race, forcing the only pit stops of the night and shuffling up the field. Of the title contenders, Wilson would make the biggest gamble, trading two tires for track position and restarting in second.

Leahy would take the lead out of what turned out to be the final green flag of the night, and the entire Championship 4 would be making contact in the fight for second behind him soon after. But Wilson’s two-tire call and adjustments by Bowlin would cause them to falter, leaving Kirwan and Zalenski to settle it between themselves. The top three would put a huge gap on the field with Leahy firmly out in front, but Kirwan successfully defended second throughout the breakaway. 

As he approached the checkered flag, Kirwan slid across the line to the cheers of those gathered in Charlotte, including his dad, who helped him relocate his sim setup from nearby Matthews, NC for the event. Kirwan accepted the champion’s trophy from Earnhardt Jr. and fielded congratulations from numerous others, from his playoff rivals to NASCAR and iRacing officials and other key figures in sim racing who made the trip to Charlotte.

In the teams’ championship, Wilson’s slide through the field still wasn’t enough to knock Stewart-Haas eSports out of the top spot. Wilson and Dylan Duval gave SHR an 18-point lead coming in over Jim Beaver eSports, but a top-10 from Duval kept them on top. Ryan Luza joined Kirwan in the top five for XSET, which snuck past JBeS into second by a single point; the three teams were separated by just six when the dust settled.

Finally, in the battle for the 20th spot in points and the final guaranteed spot in next year’s series, Leahy’s win elevated him to 19th, while top rookie Donovan Strauss of Williams Esports claimed the final spot above the cutoff by nine over four-time series champion Ray Alfalla of Joe Gibbs Racing. Alfalla will head up the drivers who will compete in the eNASCAR Road to Pro Contender Series over the next two months for a spot on the 2023 grid.

eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Championship Finale presented by the NASCAR Hall of Fame results were as follows:

Fin. St. No. Name Team Laps Interval Led Best Pts
1 3 45 Keegan Leahy 23XI 110 0 57 27.327 40
2 7 95 Casey Kirwan XSET 110 -1.239 0 27.151 35
3 2 18 Bobby Zalenski Joe Gibbs Racing 110 -1.761 43 27.296 34
4 8 97 Logan Clampitt William Byron eSports 110 -7.801 0 27.478 33
5 36 4 Ryan Luza XSET 110 -7.938 0 27.479 32
6 11 15 Blake Reynolds Jim Beaver eSports 110 -8.020 0 27.390 31
7 24 8 Michael Conti JR Motorsports 110 -8.111 0 27.324 30
8 29 31 Garrett Manes Elliot Sadler eSports 110 -8.264 0 27.695 29
9 5 41 Dylan Duval Stewart Haas Racing 110 -8.544 0 27.509 28
10 17 79 Femi Olatunbosun Clint Bowyer Racing 110 -8.548 0 27.579 27
11 22 3 Corey Vincent Team Dillon Esports 110 -8.564 0 27.465 26
12 21 75 Matt Bussa Mode Motorsports 110 -8.803 0 27.459 25
13 25 9 Michael Guest Jim Beaver eSports 110 -8.855 0 27.506 24
14 30 23 Mitchell deJong 23XI 110 -9.456 0 27.545 23
15 31 16 Blade Whitt Wood Brothers Racing 110 -10.086 0 27.403 22
16 35 42 Darik Bourdeau eRacr 110 -11.708 0 27.543 21
17 15 43 Kollin Keister Charlotte Phoenix 110 -12.038 0 27.490 20
18 1 48 Graham A. Bowlin Charlotte Phoenix 110 -12.689 10 27.275 19
19 10 24 Cody Byus Mode Motorsports 110 -12.730 0 27.588 18
20 23 51 Ray Alfalla Joe Gibbs Racing 110 -13.589 0 27.573 17
21 34 40 Dylan Ault Letarte Esports 110 -13.748 0 27.576 16
22 4 10 Steven Wilson Stewart Haas Racing 110 -14.712 0 27.314 15
23 20 21 Garrett Lowe Wood Brothers Racing 110 -14.863 0 27.340 14
24 16 5 Zack Novak Rise eSports 110 -15.000 0 27.629 13
25 37 17 Kaden Honeycutt Roush Fenway Keselowski 110 -15.976 0 27.600 12
26 26 36 Brian Mercurio Letarte Esports 110 -17.157 0 27.576 11
27 32 2 Liam Brotherton Elliot Sadler eSports 109 -1L 0 27.552 10
28 18 88 Briar LaPradd JR Motorsports 109 DNF 0 27.624 9
29 14 33 Taylor Hurst Team Dillon Esports 104 -6L 0 27.536 8
30 28 20 Donovan Strauss Williams eSports 100 -10L 0 27.740 7
31 27 46 Jimmy Mullis Rise eSports 93 -17L 0 27.690 6
32 6 25 Nick Ottinger William Byron eSports 64 -46L 0 27.762 5
33 33 12 Derek Justis iRacing Motorsports 63 -47L 0 27.773 4
34 12 6 Parker Retzlaff Roush Fenway Keselowski 56 -54L 0 27.658 3
35 13 7 Malik Ray iRacing Motorsports 56 DNF 0 27.788 2
36 9 55 Allen Boes Space Station Gaming 4 DNF 0 59.870 1
37 19 69 Collin Bowden eRacr 1 DNF 0 ——— 1
38 38 14 Nickolas Shelton Clint Bowyer Racing 1 DNF 0 ——— 1

 

Full eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver and team standings for the 2022 season can be found here.

For more information on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit www.enascar.com or www.iracing.com/enascar. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.

Images via Justin Melillo