By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
For the second race in a row, Jim Beaver eSports driver Michael Guest was the hard charger in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
The driver of the virtual No. 9 Big Green Egg Ford Mustang started last amongst the 40 eNASCAR drivers at the virtual Richmond Raceway. Despite starting deep in the field, the package allowed for multi-groove racing throughout the field. Lengthy green flag runs aided Guest’s climb through the field, despite the risk of getting caught in dirty air.
However, struggles in qualifying hampered the strong run for Guest. At Richmond and at the virtual Auto Club Speedway, he climbed 27 positions through the field from start to finish. At Auto Club, which went caution-free, that resulted in a top-10 finish. Meanwhile, at Richmond, Guest took the checkered flag in 13th.
“I think I’ve always struggled a bit in qualifying,” admitted Guest. “With our current package, everyone is so close in qualifying right now that any difference from your best lap can be the difference from starting 1st or 40th.
“An average starting spot for me over the last four years would be between 15th-25th. With how important qualifying and track position has become with the newly implemented aero effects, I would really like to improve that number to be starting top 10-15 consistently.”
In the closing laps of the race at Richmond, Guest battled with Corey Vincent, Graham Bowlin, and Bob Bryant. He maneuvered his way forward after avoiding several late race incidents. Guest passed Bowlin and Bryant, before taking the checkered flag just behind Vincent.
The short length of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series created a dual reality for Guest. Quick races hamper his ability to use his speed to work his way through the field to reach the top-10, top-five, or even victory lane. However, his ability to make up as much ground as he has been able to consistently also shows the talent both he and his team, Deadzone Racing, have.
“I believe I’ve had the speed in races to be up there,” stated Guest. “Our races are short compared to NASCAR’s Cup series and starting in the back really puts you behind the 8-ball. There’s just not enough time to get through our field in a race when it goes green.
“If I start in the back and have got the race pace to be up front, I’ll often think at the end ‘if only I had x more laps.’ Every driver would agree, track position is the most important thing when it comes to getting good results in our series.”
“There are 12 drivers on our setup team for this year at Deadzone. Not only do our setups have to be quick, but so do I in order to beat them. Dustin Lengert and Huston Hamer do an amazing job in setting us up each week to be competitive. They certainly have a big part in me being in the points position I am in now.”
Although he finished outside the top-10 at Richmond, Guest still looks at being the hard charger as a win. Of the eNASCAR drivers without a win, he has scored the most points this season. After six races, Guest is just seven points above the playoff cutoff, and 47 above the relegation line.
“In a way, yes (it is a win),” explained Guest. “I know how hard it is to get through the field with our current package, and I think anyone starting outside the top 20 in our series in any race knows it’ll be a long day. The fear is not being able to move and being stuck in dirty air, which a lot of drivers have been vocal with since our last aero update. Being able to rebound and still get solid points for the day feels great, but I know what I’m leaving out on the table when I start in the back.”
Next up for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is the virtual Kansas Speedway on Tuesday, April 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET.