After nobody got the job accomplished at Bristol, Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) was able to get it done after Collin Bowden (eRacr) and Casey Kirwan (XSET) collided coming to the line at Talladega two weeks ago. Zalenski also caught a piece of the fracas, but was far enough ahead to win it.
Zalenski took his place in the 2022 eNASCAR Championship 4, and the way it’s looking with only one race left to decide the other three, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will fill out the remaining spots on the bracket.
ONE LAST CHANCE
There are only three spots left at the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Championship 4 table. Zalenski is one of the only drivers entered in the field that has nothing to worry about, and can run whatever race he wants with no worry.
Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), Kirwan and Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) all enter the penultimate race of the season above the cut line, but it might be a little more complicated than that with a drop week in the equation now.
Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports), Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports), Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports), Mitchell deJong (23XI Racing), Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing) and Garrett Lowe (Wood Brothers Racing) are all below the line if you don’t factor a drop.
DROPPING IN ENTERING HOMESTEAD-MIAMI
The drop only affects one out of the three races in the eNASCAR Playoffs Round of 10. The lowest scored round will be axed and at least the top two drivers on points based on their two best finishes across Bristol, Talladega and Homestead-Miami will advance.
Of course, if we get another non-playoff driver winner like Ryan Luza (XSET) was at Bristol, then they’ll take three drivers on points with Zalenski the lone winner advanced.
Lets go ahead and factor in that drop now. With some quick math, we find that both Kirwan and Bowlin would stay in, but Conti’s drop is a 17th place worth 20 points, and that would put him eight points out. Wilson would be the benefactor, dropping a 31st place finish worth six points at Talladega.
VIRTUAL RACING OR MATHEMATICS PROBLEM?
These drivers will be racing like their drop race was the race eliminated from their point total entering Homestead-Miami. Seven of those drivers (including Talladega winner Zalenski) would have their drop race be the result at Bristol. The other three would drop Talladega.
Lowe’s fifth place effort at Bristol was clutch, as he’s virtually tied at the cutline, the tie breaker currently going to Bowlin for the fourth and final spot. Bowlin took fifth at Talladega and owns a tiebreaker solely on the fact that his drop is a better result than Lowe’s.
The tie would either go to the higher finisher if the results were in the Top 10. An 11th for Lowe would reignite a tiebreaker if Bowlin finishes worse, since that’s Bowlin’s current drop, otherwise all lower results would give it to Bowlin. But there are five other lower ranked drivers that could always win and get in, or outscore both drivers. Not a single driver besides Zalenski is safe.
WHO TO WATCH FOR
Since it was added to the schedule in 2011, this will be the 13th visit to the 1.5-mile oval track located at the bottom tip of Florida. There was a season that saw two races, 2020 which was affected by the pandemic and thus iRacing couldn’t get Phoenix updated in time for a finale to mirror the real-world thing.
2021 was the first season since it was added that the series didn’t conclude its season there, again due to not knowing about Phoenix when the schedule was announced and thus giving the date to Texas. Homestead-Miami instead found its place as the second race on the schedule.
This year, it returns to become a finale track, but not the overall finale. Instead, the Round of 10 will conclude at the intermediate with a chance to race for a championship on the line.
Strangely enough, not a single driver in this year’s playoffs have ever won at the venue. Names of the past like John Gorlinsky, Kevin King, Kenny Humpe, Peter Bennett, PJ Stergios and Chris Shearburn have all won there. Names that will be in the field on Tuesday include Luza, Keegan Leahy, Zack Novak and Ray Alfalla.
Keeping that in mind, I think this will fall into the hands of one of the playoff drivers. Most of the drivers left don’t have to win, but it would be their best case scenario for advancing onward. In reality, three drivers really need to get that win, that being Bussa, Olatunbosun and deJong.
Conti and Ottinger are close on points where it could go their way with some help. But, there’s already four drivers for the three spots ahead of them in Wilson, Bowlin, Kirwan and Lowe. It’s anybody’s guess as to who will have the best strategy, but I think a Deadzone driver like Wilson or Bowlin will likely get it done.
WHERE TO WATCH
The race itself will kickoff at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST following the pre-race festivities, which kick off a half-hour earlier. The Countdown to Green begins at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. BST with the race itself starting at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST. Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless, Alan Cavanna, Camille Salazar Hadaway and even more familiar voices from the industry will be there to bring you all the action.
POINTS ENTERING RACE #17 – HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
|Joe Gibbs Racing
|Graham A. Bowlin
|Wood Brothers Racing
|William Byron Esports
|Clint Bowyer Racing
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|PO3 | 17
|C4F | 18