KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Chris Shearburn pulled away over the second half of Tuesday’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series stop at Kansas Speedway to become the seventh winner in as many races this year.
Shearburn, who fought tooth-and-nail with polesitter Ryan Luza during the first green-flag run at the virtual 1.5-mile oval, took control of the top spot with a short-pit strategy early and then dominated following a multi-car pileup in turn three that eliminated most of his competition near the front.
The Springfield, Ill., native led the final 40 laps after a short tussle with Isaac Gann and took his second career series victory by 1.838 seconds over runner-up Keegan Leahy.
“This is huge,” said Shearburn in victory lane. “This is by far my biggest win ever. First, I have to thank Steve Letarte and Letarte eSports for believing in me; he’s stuck with me ever since I got into this series, and ASUS North America for being onboard with us the last couple of weeks. Everyone at Coanda (Simsport) … Keegan, Mitchell, Bobby (Zalenski) and everyone put a ton of work into the setup.
“I can’t believe what we did tonight. This is, by far, my best race ever.”
Shearburn’s race-winning move came when he pitted on lap 41 of 134, two laps sooner than Luza, who gave up several seconds of on-track time due to tire fall-off and Shearburn’s pace after his pit stop.
When the green-flag cycle finally ended on lap 62, Shearburn found himself ahead of Luza and in the race lead. His road to victory wasn’t quite secure at that point, but Shearburn called it a pivotal moment.
“I really didn’t think I was ever going to be able to pull off a pass [for the lead],” Shearburn admitted. “I got close a couple of times. I was a lot closer than I thought I would be. I was glad I tried to short pit on Luza to get in front of him and get into clean air. That was the key, and it worked out.
“I was able to get the clean air on the pit stops and started pulling away from him before the yellow.”
A caution flag with 57 laps left, when John Gorlinsky made contact with Graham Bowlin exiting turn two, spun and collected Bob Bryant, re-stacked the field and led to the first of two restarts on the night.
Shearburn easily controlled the first restart, but behind him, Mitchell deJong got turned in front of the field from third after contact from behind by Logan Clampitt – sparking an 18-car pileup in the banking.
The crash eliminated deJong, Luza, Bobby Zalenski and numerous other frontrunners from contention, while Shearburn was ahead of the chaos and escaped unscathed along with Logan Clampitt, Isaac Gann and Leahy.
DeJong, however, could not continue and finished a disappointing 35th after qualifying second.
“Very unfortunate. That was a lot of little things gone wrong there,” said deJong. “I thought we’d have a little bit more patience … but I guess not. It’s a hard one to swallow, but we’ll take the positives from this and move on to the next race.”
The final restart of the night came with 47 laps to go and featured a three-wide battle for supremacy at the front of the field, with Shearburn and Clampitt firing off from the front row and Gann sticking his nose into the fray as well.
Gann used the inside lane to poke ahead on lap 91 and actually cleared Shearburn two laps later, pacing a total of four laps altogether before Shearburn reclaimed control for good in turn one on the 95th lap.
Leahy got past for second shortly after that and could only watch as Shearburn pulled out a 1.838-second lead by the time the checkered flag waved to conclude the 201-mile event.
“I needed clean air,” admitted Leahy of his 23XI Racing Toyota. “It’s such an advantage [being] up front. Chris and I work together, so we were on the same setups and practiced all week together. He’s very competent at this track, to say the least, and I just didn’t have anything for him at the end.”
Gann crossed third in a solid day for Kligerman Sport, followed by Clampitt’s William Byron eSports Chevrolet and the Stewart-Haas eSports Ford of Graham Bowlin.
Jim Beaver eSports’ Michael Guest, JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti, McLaren Shadow’s Blake Reynolds, the second Stewart-Haas car of Dylan Duval and Roush Fenway Racing’s Nathan Lyon closed the top 10.
Blade Whitt attempted a one-stop strategy call and led 14 laps near the midpoint of the race before the two cautions past halfway scuttled his plan.
Whitt finished 13th, but was still the hard charger after starting last.
Luza, who led qualifying to kick off the night, was scored 36th after his involvement in the lap-83 pileup.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season continues in three weeks at the virtual Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. It’s the series’ inaugural appearance at the 20-turn permanent road course.
1. 36-Chris Shearburn , 2. 32-Keegan Leahy , 3. 44-Isaac Gann , 4. 97-Logan Clampitt , 5. 10-Graham Bowlin , 6. 9-Michael Guest , 7. 8-Michael Conti , 8. 66-Blake Reynolds , 9. 41-Dylan Duval , 10. 6-Nathan Lyon , 11. 21-Garrett Lowe , 12. 24-Jake Nichols , 13. 14-Blade Whitt , 14. 75-Matt Bussa , 15. 51-Ray Alfalla , 16. 77-Bob Bryant , 17. 3-Corey Vincent , 18. 1-Ashton Crowder , 19. 11-Malik Ray , 20. 79-Ryan Doucette , 21. 52-Jake Matheson , 22. 55-Vicente Salas , 23. 25-Nick Ottinger , 24. 88-Brad Davies , 25. 2-Garrett Manes , 26. 15-Caine Cook , 27. 37-Derek Justis , 28. 16-John Gorlinsky , 29. 90-Zack Novak , 30. 47-Brian Schoenburg , 31. 29-Zack Nichols , 32. 33-Taylor Hurst , 33. 67-Allen Boes , 34. 83-Bobby Zalenski , 35. 23-Mitchell deJong , 36. 4-Ryan Luza , 37. 38-Casey Kirwan , 38. 17-Steven Wilson , 39. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 40. 18-Femi Olat .
Lead Changes: 13 among nine drivers
Lap Leaders: Ryan Luza 1-17, Chris Shearburn 18, Ryan Luza 19-42, Zack Nichols 43, Zack Novak 44, John Gorlinsky 45, Bob Bryant 46, Matt Bussa 47, Blade Whitt 48-61, Chris Shearburn 62-89, Isaac Gann 90, Chris Shearburn 91, Isaac Gann 92-94, Chris Shearburn 95-134
Laps Led: Chris Shearburn 70, Ryan Luza 41, Blade Whitt 14, Isaac Gann 4, Zack Nichols 1, Zack Novak 1, John Gorlinsky 1, Bob Bryant 1, Matt Bussa 1.
Hard Charger: 14-Blade Whitt (+27)
Caution Flags: Two for eight laps
Margin of Victory: 1.838 seconds
Time of Race: One hour, 17 minutes, 17.198 seconds
Average Speed: 156.043 mph
Pole Winner: 4-Ryan Luza, 29.449 seconds (183.368 mph)
Fastest Lap: 8-Michael Conti, Lap 45, 29.828 seconds (181.038 mph)