The history books will say that the inaugural eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race at the new Chicago Street Course was won by Bobby Zalenski.
Its always a great sim racing series and event, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola series in iRacing always puts on a fantastic show, the new Chicago Street Course was all set for its inaugural race where Bobby Zalenski stood on the top virtual step.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series rolled into Chicago on Tuesday night for the first-ever points paying race at the new Chicago Street Course. A winner at the other road course earlier in the season, it was Bobby Zalenski making it a perfect score on the 2023 calendar as he won his third race of the season, but it wasn’t your usual Bobby Z eNASCAR road course whooping. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was challenged by the likes of both Steven Wilson from Stewart-Haas Racing and rookie Parker White from Tony Kanaan Esports, and for a time, it looked as though the latter was in store for his first career win.
Wilson grabbed the pole position, starting alongside White with Zalenski starting in third. All eyes were on the first corner, a left hander at 90 degrees, as 40 NASCAR Next Gen machines barreled into the heavy braking zone. Zalenski made a dive that initially worked out, but White made a crossover that put him up front as they exited Turn 2 and started to head down Lake Shore Drive. The rest of the field also managed to survive, for the most part, as all 40 drivers made it around during the initial lap with only minor scrapes and bruises.
White, Zalenski and Wilson, however, were gone. They pulled away from the rest of the field, planning out their strategy in the 40-lap event. There would have to be one pit stop for fuel anywhere from Lap 10 to Lap 30. Many drivers in the middle of the pack got it out of the way earlier to try and undercut, opting for cleaner track to gain more time.
The leaders waited for as long as they could, with Wilson striking first at the end of Lap 26. The call worked out to where he was able to close back in and had the warmest tires, but he still had to settle for third.
At the end of Lap 29, White decided to roll down pit road and top off. Zalenski kept going, hoping an overcut and a little less fuel on his stop would pan out. There was a little traffic in play for White as he re-entered the course ahead of Wilson. The chase was on to beat Zalenski out of the pits to maintain the lead.
However, with approximately a full second saved on pit road between entrance, box time and exit, Zalenski managed to re-enter ahead of White and Wilson with the lead. The ability to stay out an extra lap combined with a little less fuel intake enabled the switch.
But even with a little less virtual fuel mixed with clean air for the first time for Zalenski, the battle was not over. He still needed to make sure his smaller fuel amount would make it while trying to keep two fast drivers in his rear-view. White kept the pressure on, knowing the win could lead to a playoff berth in his first season, but he had to settle for second. Zalenski’s fuel lasted just past the second turn before the engine cut off following the checkers.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series points through 11 rounds are as follows:
Michael Conti, 340, 2 wins
Jordy Lopez Jr., 302, 1 win
Nick Ottinger, 288
Tucker Minter, 281 2 wins
Graham Bowlin, 274
Michael Cosey Jr., 274
Casey Kirwan, 261, 2 wins
Malik Ray, 250
Parker White, 242
Matt Bussa, 240
Bobby Zalenski, 238, 3 wins
Steven Wilson, 233, 1 win
Garrett Manes, 231
Only three races remain in the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series regular season. The playoff field is beginning to take shape, as the six winners on the season so far are all in good points standing. The battle for the final four spots on the Playoff grid is currently between seven drivers, with Jim Beaver eSports’ Malik Ray on the bubble and White, following his runner-up finish, now only eight points out.
The next eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series event will be at Nashville Superspeedway on July 11, and a new point-paying winner at the venue will be guaranteed. The 4-Time Champion Ray Alfalla won here last season in the inaugural race. Like Chicago, Nashville made its series debut by hosting the All-Star race in 2021, which was won by Rise eSports’ Jimmy Mullis.
Race coverage will start on Tuesday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET at eNASCAR.com/live. The Countdown to Green, presented by Wendy’s, will kick things off at 8:30 p.m. ET.