Malik Ray Finally Earns ‘Sensational’ First Career eNASCAR Win

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

The realism of iRacing’s Motorsports Simulation was on full display once again as the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series mimicked the historic three-wide photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Winning at the virtual Atlanta for the first time in his career, in his 94th start, was Spire Motorsports’ Malik Ray.

Ray Takes The Win

While there were subtle differences between the NASCAR Cup Series race, won by Daniel Suarez and Ray’s victory, the run to the finish was almost identical. Like Suarez, the driver of the virtual No. 7 GGT Energy Solutions Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 knew he needed to make the move. In the second attempt at overtime, Ray lined up along side his teammate, Casey Kirwan. The duo quickly hooked up, though the 2022 champion was collected in a final lap accident.

Malik ray finally scored his first career enascar coca-cola iracing series win at atlanta motor speedway.
Photo by Justin Melillo.

Finding friends where he could, Ray pushed RFK Racing’s Collin Bowden to the lead. Entering Turn 3, he then backed up to Front Row Motorsports’ Darik Bourdeau. The momentum the duo built allowed them to catch Bowden in the tri-oval. Ray swept high as Bourdeau went low.

The veteran iRacer took the checkered flag 0.023 seconds ahead of Bourdeau’s No. 34 Loves Travel Stops Ford Mustang Dark Horse, who channeled his inner Ryan Blaney, and 0.048 ahead of Bowden’s No. 17 Ford, who took on the role of Kyle Busch.

“(It sounds) sensational,” Ray said. “I’m very happy that I finally got a win, and it took me a really long time. But I’m happy that I was that I was able to close it out.” 

Simulating Real-Life

Ray’s win in a three-wide photo finish at Atlanta is just the latest iRacing event that harkens back to iconic NASCAR race finishes in the real world. In 2022 at the virtual Pocono Raceway, Kirwan and Zack Novak emulated Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch’s 2003 Darlington Raceway finish.

Last year Kirwan won at Darlington after crashing early in a throwback to Tony Stewart’s 2011 championship-winning car, after starting around the same spot on the grid and crashing on the same lap as Stewart did at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Ray never imagined that he would replicate a real-life NASCAR finish, and similar to Suarez in the Cup Series, didn’t know he had won until timing and scoring updated.

“No, never,” Ray admitted. “I knew that it was close. I didn’t even know I had won until [about] five seconds after the start-finish line (and the sim) updated. I was like, ‘oh snap, I finally won.’” 

Prior to the scheduled 100-lap race, eventual second-place finish Bourdeau predicted the three-wide photo finish. While he admitted it wasn’t exactly the same as real-life, he was thrilled to be a part of iRacing’s replication of the finish.

“It’s funny because I think I talked about this literally in the warmup,” Bourdeau joked. “I was like,’ what if we just finished this like real life three wide,’ and then people were like I don’t know, it’s kind of hard with the side draft and all that and the runs that happened so fast. But, to actually do it, I don’t know. We weren’t like together door to door, but it’s pretty cool.

“Very, very cool to be in (a finish like that). I mean, in my opinion, it’s probably the second-best side-by-side finish in Coca-Cola Series history. Maybe like top five. I might be forgetting one.” 

Much like their real-world counterparts of Blaney and Busch, neither Bourdeau nor Bowden were upset with the finish. Both were disappointed but were impressed by how closely they matched the real-life race.

“In the moment I didn’t think about it because you’re just like ‘man, we just lost the race three-wide,’” Bowden said. “But then right before I left (the server) I was looking at the picture. Damn, that’s just like real life. I mean, it was a little different circumstance getting there, but when the pictures taken for the finish it, it looks identical. It’s like it’s like taking a different road to get there, but it’s the same result.”

Drive to the Win

Malik ray finally scored his first career enascar coca-cola iracing series win at atlanta motor speedway.
Photo by Justin Melillo.

The victory for Ray is a long time coming. The journeyman driver in eNASCAR competition has driven for a variety of teams including the Professional Sim Racer’s Group (PSRG), Richmond Raceway eSports, Joe Gibbs Racing, iRacing Motorsports, Spacestation Gaming, Jim Beaver eSports, and now Spire. Six years and 94 starts after his first start, Ray finally broke through to get to victory lane. That dedication shows Ray’s work to be successful in the series.

“It just says that like I’m just a tireless worker because I’ve been trying to win one of these things for like six years and I finally got one,” Ray said.

Behind the trio that emulated the real-life photo finish were Michael Guest and Kolling Keister. Rounding out the top-10 were Parker White, Dylan Duval, Briar LaPradd, Donovan Strauss, and Nick Ottinger.

In total, the race was slowed three times by cautions, once on lap 17 and the remaining two pushing the race into overtime. While there were only three cautions, two accidents failed to bring out the caution. It was after one of those incidents that Ray divebombed pit road instead of giving up time simply checking up. In a turn of events, that brought him into the faster pack. It was the merger of that pack and the lead pack that caused the caution that pushed the race into overtime and earned Ray his victory.

Next for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is a history first on Tuesday, March 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET. At the virtual Richmond Raceway, the series will have two 25-lap heat races with a 70-lap feature, a first for a points-paying race for NASCAR’s esports arm. All eNASCAR races are streamed live at and iRacing’s Twitch, Youtube, and social media channels.

The Finish

1. 7-Malik Ray [33], 2. 34-Darik Bourdeau [32], 3. 17-Collin Bowden [40], 4. 45-Michael Guest [20], 5. 66-Kollin Keister [25], 6. 53-Parker White [5], 7. 41-Dylan Duval [3], 8. 88-Briar LaPradd [31], 9. 51-Donovan Strauss [14], 10. 25-Nick Ottinger [27], 11. 20-Wyatt Tinsley [4], 12. 89-Garrett Lowe [9], 13. 90-Jordy Lopez [7], 14. 29-Jimmy Mullis [21], 15. 99-Matthew Zwack [2], 16. 77-Casey Kirwan [15], 17. 62-Matt Bussa [34], 18. 54-Daniel Faulkingham [8], 19. 97-Tucker Minter [6], 20. 14-Seth DeMerchant [13], 21. 42-Tyler Garey [18], 22. 11-Vicente Salas [29], 23. 5-Zack Novak [17], 24. 80-Ryan Luza [1], 25. 18-Bobby Zalenski [37], 26. 38-Michael Cosey Jr. [19], 27. 48-Graham Bowlin [35], 28. 22-Femi Olatunbosun [38], 29. 40-Dylan Ault [28], 30. 33-Taylor Hurst [11], 31. 8-Kaden Honeycutt [39], 32. 10-Steven Wilson [26], 33. 23-Keegan Leahy [36], 34. 12-Garrett Manes [23], 35. 55-Ryan Doucette [22], 36. 27-Cody Byus [24], 37. 6-Timothy Holmes [10], 38. 3-Jonathon Dulaney [30], 39. 36-Quami Scott [16], 40. 69-Ray Alfalla [12].

Lead Changes: 28 among 15 different drivers.

Lap Leader(s): Ryan Luza POLE-0, Matthew Zwack 1, Ryan Luza 2, Dylan Duval 3, Parker White 4, Jordy Lopez 5, Parker White 6-8, Garrett Lowe 9, Jordy Lopez 10-16, Parker White 17, Garrett Lowe 18-27, Kaden Honeycutt 28-30, Casey Kirwan 31-35, Kaden Honeycutt 36-37, Tyler Garey 38-42, Casey Kirwan 43-46, Garrett Lowe 47-48, Casey Kirwan 49-65, Kaden Honeycutt 66, Seth DeMerchant 67-68, Matt Bussa 69-79, Cody Byus 80, Tucker Minter 81-82, Michael Guest 83-89, Seth DeMerchant 90-92, Malik Ray 93-94, Garrett Lowe 95-99, Michael Guest 100-104, Malik Ray 105.

Laps Led: Casey Kirwan 26, Garrett Lowe 18, Michael Guest 12, Matt Bussa 11, Jordy Lopez 8, Kaden Honeycutt 6, Parker White 5, Tyler Garey 5, Seth DeMerchant 5, Malik Ray 3, Tucker Minter 2, Matthew Zwack 1, Ryan Luza 1, Dylan Duval 1, Cody Byus 1.

Hard Charger: 17-Collin Bowden, RFK Racing (+37).

Pole Position: 80-Ryan Luza, M80 esports, 31.100 seconds (178.264 mph), 11th career pole & first of season.

Rookie of the Race: 99-Matthew Zwack, Nitro Sim Team, 15th.

Caution Flags: Three for nine laps.

Winning Team: Spire Motorsports.

Margin of Victory: .023 seconds.

Time of Race: One hour, one minute, 18.772 seconds.

Average Speed: 158.238 mph.

Fastest Lap: 90-Jordy Lopez, BS+ Competition, Lap 74; 28.742 seconds (192.888 mph).

*Race Scheduled for 100 Laps, Extended Due to Overtime.

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