Vicente Salas dominated the eNASCAR iRacing Coca-Cola Series race at Richmond Raceway last week, leading all 203 laps of the race en route to his first career win. It was the first time a driver has led every lap of an oval race in iRacing’s premier NASCAR series, and marks a breakout win for the rookie from California.
Salas entered the race with one top 10, no poles, no laps led, and no top-five finishes through the first five races of the year. That made his performance at Richmond all the more remarkable as he burst onto the scene at the first short track race of the season.
“I think we definitely made a statement, but as for my mentality in these races, I don’t think I’m really trying to prove myself,” Salas told RACER. “If people want to think about me as a top tier driver they can and if they want to think about me as a low tier driver, they can. I’m just there to do what I need to do and to perform for my team.”
— Spacestation Gaming (@SpacestationGG) April 14, 2021
Salas started the race from pole position and spent much of the evening with good friend and teammate Garrett Manes behind him in second. The presence of Manes at times made things more difficult, though.
“On a racing level, I think it made things a little tougher because we’ve raced so much that Garrett knows the way I race, the way I drive, and I know the way he races,” Salas said. “Whenever we make a mistake, we each know the way to set up the move. We each had the run near-perfect so that he didn’t get by me, or vice versa. If he was in front of me, I wouldn’t have gotten by him.”
Manes, Salas, and their teammates spent much of the week practicing and honing their setups together. The pair recognized they had a good car the night before the race when they ran in one of iRacing’s regularly scheduled races that are open to the public.
“I think we really felt [like we had a something] as a team the night before,” Salas said. “Before every race, there’s a race where all the Coke [series] drivers go in and test their setups. [Garret and I] both ran and when Garrett was running super-solid leading the race in the top split, and I was leading the race in the second split, we kind of just had this gut feeling like, ‘OK, we have a pretty good car, let’s work on it a little bit, and we’ll see what we have tomorrow.’
“Then the next day on Tuesday when we got in the race it kind of hit us even harder like ‘OK, we really got a shot at this, let’s close this out.’
“We tried to make the car as neutral as possible because if we could be good short, middle, and long run, then we kind of have the best of all three worlds. We didn’t really try and focus on short and mid versus long, or long versus short and mid. I think the way we had the car set up was perfect because it worked really well in all three of those scenarios.”
Provided he remains in the top 20 in points standings, Salas is locked into the playoffs and is also guaranteed a spot in next season’s eNASCAR iRacing Coca-Cola Series. That means he does need to battle his way through the qualification process like drivers in the bottom 20 are required to do.
Despite starting the race from pole position, Salas was not bothered by nerves.
“I would say I didn’t really have any nerves,” he insisted. “In real-life racing, (ED: Salas races shifter karts) I always feel super comfortable starting from the lead. (Starting from pole gives you) the chance to go out there and lead the race.
“Somebody can’t get in my way and I don’t have to pass people. Starting from the pole actually really calmed me down because I knew if I could hit my marks and hit my restarts correctly, then we could lead the show.”