The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series started with a race that will likely go down as one of the finest in the series’ history. An early wreck hobbled the midfield and a crash during green flag pit stops took out a pair of favorites as well as the reigning series champion. Emerging from the dust after 80 laps to claim the win in a three-wide photo finish by just 0.009 seconds was Clint Boyer Racing’s Femi Olat.
This was Olat’s first career win in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, and it comes at the start of his second season in the championship. The 22-year-old from Massachusetts survived one green-white-checkered restart and fended off charges from Garrett Manes and Steven Wilson out of Turn 4 on the final lap to secure the win.
The defining moment of the race came on lap 42 when Nick Ottinger hooked the bumper of his William Byron eSports teammate Logan Clampitt, sending Clampitt spinning into the inside wall before reigning champion Keegan Leahy was also collected and spun sideways into traffic. Olat, who was running three cars behind Clampitt and Ottinger, escaped the crash unscathed.
“Everything happened so quick,” Olat said of the crash. “I wasn’t even looking at Clampitt’s car or Ottinger’s car or whoever caused the crash. I was looking in my mirror to make sure that Kollin (Keister) and I had room to move around, because we were going to be moving around a lot at that point and trying to sort ourselves out after the pit stop.
“All of a sudden I look up and I see Clampitt is facing the inside wall. When you see that, you think the guy is going to fly back up to the track. I remember that I slammed the brakes, and I was going to turn to the apron and for some reason, I just hooked a right at the last second.”
That split-second decision to turn right saved Olat’s race as others behind stayed low and found themselves lost in smoke from Leahy’s spinning 23XI Toyota Camry. Rather than sitting behind a blockade of William Byron eSports and 23XI Racing cars, Olat and others were now in control of the race.
With four laps left in the race, Olat was running second behind Malik Ray before another crash collected Ray and left Olat in the lead for a green-white-checkered finish. On the exit of Turn 4 on the final lap, Manes, who had been pushing Olat, dove to the outside. Steven Wilson, who was running third, gave Olat one more shove before he himself went to the inside.
The trio crossed the line within 0.011s of each other. Wilson was just 0.002s behind Manes for second place.
“it’s unfortunate but I don’t really think there was another way for that to go for me,” Manes said after the race. “I think everything I did there towards the end was as timed as it could have been. I had the lead coming to the tri-oval, but Steven nicked (Olat) and got him ahead of me. It’s close, that’s all you can really ask for coming into Daytona, just get a solid finish. It’s the hardest place to finish but at the same time, I can’t walk away disappointed.”
Olat’s road to this year’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Championship was anything but easy, as he had to earn his spot back into the highest level of NASCAR sim racing after failing to finish in the top 20 in points last season. Olat is now locked into the playoffs provided he remains in the top 20 in this year’s standings.
“I’m excited right now, there is still so much going through my mind,” he said. “My mind is racing right now. I know that after this I’m going to have to sift through a lot of messages.”
The next race of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is on March 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.