The 12th race of the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season takes the series to Pocono Raceway on Tuesday night.
Pocono Raceway will be host to the twelfth race of the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season on Tuesday night (19th July 2022). After eleven races so far, eight of the ten eNASCAR Playoff spots are spoken for. However, with three races left in the regular season, some drivers aren’t fully locked just yet.
Two weeks ago, Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) made a statement at Road America, leading all 25 laps and holding off the likes of Mitchell deJong (23XI Racing), Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), and Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing), the only three winners on the road since 2016. That’s mostly Zalenski’s doing, winning them all between 2017 and 2020, but all three were a threat through the night.
Wilson is one of three drivers now with two wins on the season, having already won at Atlanta earlier on. Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) and Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) are the other two drivers, and all three can consider themselves locked and loaded for playoff competition sitting well above the 20th place threshold. Everyone else with only a single win is hoping nobody else joins them at Pocono.
IT’S TRICKY (TRICKY)
Located in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, Pocono Raceway is one of the most unique oval tracks on the NASCAR schedule year in and year out. It is a 2.5-mile venue, but unlike Daytona which measures the same distance, Pocono doesn’t provide pack, or superspeedway-style racing.
The Tricky Triangle officially has three corners based on three different ovals that existed or still exist in the United States. Turn 1 is based on the high-banked corners which used to be found at Trenton Speedway. Turn 2 is an ode to the corners found at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Finally, Turn 3 is reminiscent of the long, sweeping corners found at The Milwaukee Mile.
Setting up a car for Pocono, in turn, can be a nightmare for any setup builders out there. Pocono is one of those places where if you’re good in one corner, it could be a compromising setup to the other two.
On top of that, drivers will be looking for top end speed on both the frontstretch and the Long Pond Straight, a logistical nightmare.
In the world of eNASCAR, Pocono Raceway has been on the schedule for nine of the previous 12 seasons. The first event was in 2011 and was won by Steve Sheehan. The following season, Sheehan won the pole but it was Jon Adams scoring the win. Since then, seven more drivers, all of which will be in the field on Tuesday night, have added their names to the virtual Pocono winners list.
2013 went to Ray Alfalla (Joe Gibbs Racing), 2014 was won by Conti, 2015 went to Allen Boes (SpaceStation Racing), 2017 was dominated by Cody Byus (Mode Motorsports), 2018 had Keegan Leahy’s (23XI Racing) name all over it, 2019 belonged to Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports), and finally, last year’s finish came down to Zalenski holding off Alfalla and deJong.
WHO TO WATCH FOR
Could there be a tenth different winner after 60 laps, or will one of the seven drivers listed above become the first multi-time Pocono winner? My gut feeling says we’ll get a new Pocono winner tonight, but not a new winner on the season to date.
Right now, the hottest driver has to be Wilson after his dominance two weeks ago. Wilson’s been bad fast just about every week, sometimes coming up short due to strategy or poorly timed cautions. The same can be said for his Deadzone Racing backend teammate Bowlin, who finally scored his first win of the season in May at Gateway.
The Deadzone duo is fast just about every week, and I expect Pocono to be no different. However, if there were any drivers looking to be a second time Pocono winner, it would have to be either of the Joe Gibbs Racing duo.
Zalenski won this race last season, and while this will be a new challenge to all in the new NASCAR NEXT Gen, Pocono is often referred to as the oval that races like a road course. Zalenski struggled in his first two visits to the track, but scored a fourth in 2019 before finally winning it last year.
Alfalla, meanwhile, needs a good run to solidify his place in the playoffs after a miserable outing at Road America. A determined Ray Alfalla is always a threat. Although I don’t have the numbers in front of me, he’s likely one of the all-time leaders at the triangle in most categories, that’s just how it is for 4-Time.
Then there’s Team Conti, and while Ottinger, Conti and Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports) are all looking good for the playoffs, Logan Clampitt (William Byron Esports) needs a miracle to make his way back to the Championship 4. Clamp’s scored a fourth here before in 2017, but other than that it’s been misery. It’s also been an upside down season for Driver 97, so who knows, maybe his luck turns altogether.
PLAYOFF BUBBLE WATCH
As already mentioned, there are only two spots left on the dance floor for the 2022 playoffs. Wilson, Ottinger and Conti have two wins while Bussa, Bowlin, Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing), Garrett Lowe (Wood Brothers Racing) and Alfalla all have one win.
The final two spots currently belong to the two highest in points without a win, that being Casey Kirwan (XSET) and the 2019 champ Zack Novak (Rise Esports). Blake Reynolds (Jim Beaver Esports) and Corey Vincent (Team Dillon Esports) just sit outside the cut, three and five points out respectively.
Should there be no new winner this week, the points battle will continue to be the focus, as well as Alfalla’s gap above 21st in points, or possible deficit to 20th with another bad week. If Alfalla, or any driver with a win falls out of the Top 20, their win won’t be counted towards a playoff berth. That in turn would open up another points position, which right now Reynolds is that first driver out.
If there is a new winner, the line shifts to right below Kirwan, who is 35 points ahead of Novak. Honestly, if there are no new winners, Kirwan looks like a sure bet. However, with drivers like himself, Novak, Mullis, Zalenski, deJong, Clampitt, and even the defending champion Leahy without a win this far into the season, anything is bound to happen.
We had 13 drivers with wins by the start of the playoffs last season, and Ryan Luza (XSET), Alfalla and Chris Shearburn all missed out because of it. Guys with points but no wins, like Ottinger, Kirwan and Wilson also missed out after having statistically superb seasons to that point.
Whatever happens, it’s sure to be a compelling final three races to end the Regular Season. Pocono will be followed up by a non-points event in two weeks, then it will finish out the schedule with Watkins Glen and Darlington Raceway. Be sure to tune in for all of it!
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 featuring Camille Salazar Hadaway, Alan Cavanna and Brandon Kettelle. Once the race kicks off, you’ll hear the voices of Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless in the booth and James Pike down on pit road.
POINTS ENTERING RACE #12 – POCONO RACEWAY
|1||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||2||312||5||7|
|2||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||2||279||5||7|
|3||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||246||4||5|
|4||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||1||296||2||7|
|5||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||1||271||5||5|
|6||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||245||3||4|
|7||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||1||221||1||4|
|8||51||Ray Alfalla||Joe Gibbs Racing||1||196||2||2|
|9||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||0||284 (+38)||3||7|
|10||5||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||0||249 (+3)||4||5|
12th – #3 Corey Vincent (-5 points from Top 10)
2022 eNASCAR COCA-COLA iRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|16-Aug-22||13||Watkins Glen Int’l||35|
|13-Sep-22||PO1 | 15||Bristol Motor Speedway||175|
|27-Sep-22||PO2 | 16||Talladega Superspeedway||70|
|11-Oct-22||PO3 | 17||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|
|25-Oct-22||C4F | 18||Phoenix Raceway||110|