What had initially looked to be a fuel mileage race turned into a triple-overtime battle of survival as the iRacing eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series made its return to Pocono Raceway.
When all was said and done, seven cautions in the final third of the race turned the event from a typical superspeedway event to feeling like a short track, but it was Letarte Esports’ Bobby Zalenski who hung on to score his first win of the season and finally punch his playoff ticket in the latest twist of a dramatic and unpredictable season on iRacing.
“I wasn’t gonna let that go—I was gonna race hard for that,” Zalenski said after taking his ninth career series win. “Thankfully, I had a friend up front with Mitchell (deJong), we’ve been friends for year. It’s great. It’s been a high pressure year, especially on the road courses with Mitchell. we’re going to have a hell a battle next week for you guys for sure.”
Normally unbeatable on iRacing road courses, Zalenski entered Pocono still looking for a victory after 23XI’s Mitchell deJong broke his perfect record on those tracks at Circuit of the Americas earlier this year. But before next week’s inaugural visit to Road America will likely crown the first repeat winner of the year between one of the duo, the Fresno, California native took away some of the sense of urgency a week early by becoming the series’ record-extending 10th different winner to start the season.
Ironically enough, deJong and Zalenski are also part of the only teams with both drivers having taken wins this season, as deJong’s teammate Keegan Leahy and Zalenski’s teammate Chris Shearburn have already made trips to the winner’s circle.
Pit strategy looked to be the name of the game early on. Many of the front runners would pit on Lap 20 to establish a three-stop gameplan, others would come down on Lap 31 to shoot for two stops, and a small group would attempt to stretch fuel mileage to one stop, with Mode Motorsports’ Matt Bussa making it the longest among them.
But the playing field would reset with 20 laps to go, as Elliott Sadler Esports’ Ashton Crowder would turn Leahy around in Turn 1, with the William Byron Esports pairing of polesitter Nick Ottinger and Logan Clampitt and JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti all involved.
With many of the fastest cars out of the race, Zalenski would settle into the lead and that would essentially close it out. With a succession of six more cautions, basically in a row, Zalenski’s strong restarts would enable him to close the deal, even as deJong would climb to second after getting past Crowder on one of the green flags.
None of the three overtime attempts would make it to the white flag, with another wreck adding insult to injury for Conti among others on the final attempt.
Full results from Tuesday’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race from Pocono Raceway were as follows:
|15||16||10||Graham A. Bowlin||Ford||100||-15.532||1||53.455||22|
|23||17||4||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||100||-24.569||0||53.489||14|
|36||25||79||Ryan Doucette||Ford||96||-4 L||0||53.294||1|
|37||8||97||Logan Clampitt||Chevrolet||96||-4 L||0||52.955||1|
|38||36||3||Corey Vincent||Chevrolet||95||-5 L||0||53.357||1|
|39||22||11||Malik Ray||Ford||92||-8 L||0||53.335||1|
|40||1||25||Nick Ottinger||Chevrolet||81||-19 L||11||53.093||1|
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid through 10 rounds is as follows:
- Keegan Leahy, 1 win, 268 points
- Bobby Zalenski, 1 win, 227 points
- Logan Clampitt, 1 win, 220 points
- Vicente Salas, 1 win, 216 points
- Bob Bryant, 1 win, 215 points
- Ryan Luza, 1 win, 212 points
- Michael Conti, 1 win, 210 points
- Mitchell deJong, 1 win, 206 points
- Chris Shearburn, 1 win, 190 points
- Michael Guest, 241 points
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series returns to action immediately next week with its first-ever visit to Road America.