DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In one of the wildest finishes in the history of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, John Gorlinsky stole an improbable victory in the Coca-Cola Clash on Wednesday night at the virtual Daytona Int’l Speedway.
After taking the white flag in 16th place, Gorlinsky somehow weaved his way through a multi-car crash on the final lap that – quite literally – involved the entire 38-car field at the end of the backstretch.
Gorlinsky slapped the outside wall twice as he was hit by other spinning cars, but kept his foot in the throttle and powered back around to the finish line to become the fourth different Clash winner in the last four years.
It was a finish reminiscent of the 2012 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona, where James Buescher was 11th with a half-lap to go and snaked his way to a victory after the top eight crashed in turn three on the final lap and chaos ensued.
Speaking after the checkered flag, Gorlinsky shook his head and admitted that “I never thought I’d be passing from 16th to first going into turn three like that; obviously, that was pure luck.”
The luck emerged halfway down the backstretch, after Malik Ray got into the outside wall at the same moment contact between Casey Kirwan and four-time series champion Ray Alfalla shot Alfalla down the track into Garrett Lowe and Bob Bryant.
The contact between Alfalla and Bryant sent Bryant up into Blake Reynolds’ path, hooking Reynolds back down the track into the right-rear fender of then-leader Kollin Keister’s Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Keister, loose at that point, then shot up into the JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Michael Conti and sent Conti into the wall – leaving carnage behind and everyone wondering who would come through the smoke to reign victorious.
Gorlinsky, who had already slapped the wall once at that point, was coming into turn four at near-full speed and shot a narrow gap between Conti’s crashing machine and the outside wall, slapping the SAFER Barrier but making it through to win with a bruised and battered No. 97 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
“I did the equivalent of closing my eyes and doing what I could to get through that, and somehow, I managed to pinball correctly off of everybody and get the job done,” Gorlinsky added. “That was tons of fun, though. When you’ve been away from it for a while like I was, you forget how competitive this field was, but you realize it really quickly when you’re out there in a pack at Daytona and everyone is running basically the same speed. It’s chaotic.
“I made a mistake early on and shuffled myself to the back just to catch my breath and regroup … but on that last lap, you know the next flag is going to end it and you’ve got to go,” he noted. “I saw them starting to dice up down the backstretch and chose the line I thought I was going to need to get through that. I still can’t believe the way the whole thing shook out, but it’s a cool deal to win one again.”
Christian Challiner came through the carnage to finish second in a JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, followed by Logan Clampitt’s Burton-Kligerman eSports Toyota in third.
Defending series champion Zack Novak, representing Richmond Raceway eSports, and Virtual Racing School’s Bobby Zalenski completed the top five.
Steve Sheehan finished sixth, ahead of Caine Cook, Alex McCollum, Jimmy Mullis and polesitter Nick Ottinger, Gorlinsky’s teammate who led a race-high 27 laps, filled the remainder of the top 10.
Keister, who led at the white flag, could not limp around to the checkered flag and was scored 35th.
Until the last-lap carnage, the race ran caution-free, with three-wide racing throughout the pack and one pit cycle from laps 33 to 36. The race featured 21 lead changes among nine different drivers.
The point season for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series begins Feb. 11, back at the virtual Daytona Int’l Speedway.
John Gorlinsky, Christian Challiner, Logan Clampitt, Zack Novak, Bobby Zalenski, Steve Sheehan, Caine Cook, Alex McCollum, Jimmy Mullis, Nick Ottinger, Justin Bolton, Michael Conti, Jeremy R. Allen, Ray Alfalla, Dylan Duval, Michael Guest, Ryan Luza, Phillip Diaz, Bob Bryant, Garrett Lowe, Jake Nichols, Jarl Teien, Chris Overland, Keegan Leahy, Santiago Tirres, Graham Bowlin, Brandon Kettelle, Blake Reynolds, Casey Kirwan, Michael Guariglia, Corey Vincent, Matt Bussa, Malik Ray, Ashton Crowder, Kollin Keister, Eric J. Smith, Chris Shearburn, Nathan Lyon.
Lead Change(s): 21 between nine different drivers
Lap Leader(s): Nick Ottinger 1-2, Keegan Leahy 3, Nick Ottinger 4, Steve Sheehan 5, Nick Ottinger 6-9, Steve Sheehan 10, Nick Ottinger 11-15, Brandon Kettelle 16, Steve Sheehan 17, Nick Ottinger 18-32, Brandon Kettelle 33, Dylan Duval 34, Steve Sheehan 35-36, Garrett Lowe 37, Kollin Keister 38, Malik Ray 39, Kollin Keister 40-45, Malik Ray 46, Kollin Keister 47, Malik Ray 48, Kollin Keister 49, John Gorlinsky 50.
Laps Led: Nick Ottinger 27, Kollin Keister 9, Steve Sheehan 5, Malik Ray 3, Brandon Kettelle 2, Keegan Leahy 1, Dylan Duval 1, Garrett Lowe 1, John Gorlinsky 1.
Caution Flags: None for 0 laps
Average Race Speed: 192.719 mph