Roush Fenway Racing’s Kollin Keister put the perfect mix of speed and pit strategy to use in Tuesday night’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action, becoming the 52nd winner in series history when he took the checkered flag in the Coca-Cola 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The series rookie pulled away from the field in the race’s closing stages, leading a race-high 84 of 200 laps to take the win in just his first career start.
Charlotte saw a return to the high-caliber racing of the series’ opening rounds, as just one early caution for contact between Phil Diaz and Dylan Duval slowed the field. With Charlotte serving as the longest race of the season, those 192 green flag laps meant that whichever driver nailed the strategy best would likely find himself in victory lane. Some drivers relied on saving fuel in hopes of a late-race caution giving them track position, while others planned around a three-stop strategy and looked to turn as many fast laps as possible. JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti led 75 laps, second most in the field, before shuffling back to 16th at the finish.
In the end, it was Keister who shuffled into the lead for the first time at Lap 104, and for good a second time on Lap 151. Unfazed by points leader Ryan Luza of Williams Esports in his rear view mirror, the series rookie-who had missed the previous round at Dover International Speedway-drove a smooth and consistent final stint, extending his lead to just under two and a half seconds at the finish. He continued a streak dating back to 2010 where Charlotte has produced a different winner every season, and became the fourth driver to earn his first career victory at the track.
Wood Brothers driver Garrett Lowe added yet another top five finish to a stellar 2020 campaign so far, getting around Luza for second, while front row starters Graham Bowlin and Keegan Leahy completed the top five, with Leahy climbing to second in points behind Luza in the process. 28 of the 40 starters finished the race on the lead lap.