It’s been four weeks since the last round of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series took place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the series finally returns for Round 10 at Pocono Raceway.
As a refresher, Ray Alfalla took the victory that night, his 26th career win, passing both Malik Ray and Ryan Luza to get to the top spot in the closing laps.
On that night, Alfalla became the ninth different winner in as many races, but as he is 35 points below 20th in the points standings, he hasn’t quite done enough to both earn the playoff spot and save his season, a season that before Charlotte was completely dismal.
Eight other drivers have victories and are in the Top 20, so if Alfalla can get a second win and make his way into the Top 20, then he’ll be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
Otherwise, there are five more chances for five different drivers to upend his and other winners’ chances at making the playoffs this season.
ITS TRICKY TRICKY TRICKY
Heading to the virtual Pocono Mountains, the 10th race of the 2021 season will pit 40 of the best against one another for the next shot at glory. As the series enters Pocono, there are only five races remaining until the playoffs, and with eight of the ten playoff spots currently held by a race winner, a win may be the only path to fighting for the 2021 title.
In the series’ 12th season, Pocono is back on the schedule for the ninth time in series history and for the first time since 2019. Like it was at Charlotte before Alfalla’s second win there, no driver has won twice at the virtual Tricky Triangle. Steve Sheehan won the first race there back in 2011 while Jon Adams took it in 2012.
Neither Sheehan, Adams, or the 2017 Pocono winner Cody Byus are in the field on Tuesday night, but there are a handful of drivers who will be looking to get a second win at the track, and maybe a second win on the season, neither of which have happened yet.
Ray Alfalla (2013), Michael Conti (2014), Allen Boes (2015), Keegan Leahy (2018), and the most recent Pocono winner Jimmy Mullis (2019) will try to end that streak of different winners. Alfalla, Conti and Leahy will also be looking for their second win in 2021.
2019 POCONO WON BY JIMMY MULLIS
The last Pocono race was a thriller, in retrospect. Many of the front runners were eliminated early on. A long green flag run set up differing strategies, but a later caution mixed up the running order. After a crazy overtime restart, Jimmy Mullis took control and took the victory, which ended up being his first of the 2019 season.
Casey Kirwan and Malik Ray were also in the conversation at that last Pocono event, the pair rounding out the rest of the podium. None of those drivers would make the playoffs that season, but if that finish was any indication, it could mean good things for those who have done well in the past.
Kirwan started his 2021 season strong, leading the points standings for a few weeks. After a couple of tough finishes at Auto Club, Richmond and Kansas, Kirwan slipped back outside of the Top 10. Thankfully, should Kirwan not finish any worse at any point, that 37th place finish will be erased with the drop week that’s been added to the standings for this season after Charlotte’s Chevrolet BoP issues, but even a drop week may not save his season.
DEADZONE DOING WORK IN 2021
Coming off a pair of Top 10 finishes, Kirwan could utilize that momentum to find a spot better at Pocono this time around. For Malik Ray, up until the last race at Charlotte where he finished second, his best finish was that third place run two years ago at Pocono.
With Kirwan just outside of a playoff berth on points and race currently 30 points below the Top 20 relegation line in 27th place, the momentum is in their favor with their backend team, Deadzone Racing, firing on all cylinders as of late.
Rookie contender and fellow Deadzone driver Steven Wilson has been impressive all season, in contention for the Charlotte win last week before a pit road penalty. Wilson and another Deadzone driver, Michael Guest, lead the series in points without a win and currently hold the final two spots on the playoff grid.
Ryan Luza, another Deadzone driver, has a win already on the season and despite three finishes outside of the top 35, sits in eighth in points with a playoff berth in his grasp. Graham A. Bowlin, Dylan Duval, and Nathan Lyon all driver with Deadzone and all sit within the Top 20 in the standings thus far.
VRS COANDA SIMSPORT IS SCARY GOOD
Besides the Deadzone Racing conglomerate, VRS Coanda Simsport has been scary fast all season, three of their four drivers with a win in the bank already as well as six of the nine pole positions on the season. VRS driver and Homestead race winner Keegan Leahy leads the overall points by a convincing margin over Guest.
With a pair of road course races remaining in the regular season, plus the upcoming triangle track that sometimes races like a roadie, one driver without a win who checks all the boxes could be a threat on Tuesday night.
Bobby Zalenski lost his first road course race in his eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series career at Circuit of the Americas to his VRS Coanda Simsport teammate Mitchell deJong. Next week is Road America and he’ll be expected to be a threat therem but Zalenski finished fourth at Pocono two years ago and was in contention the entire race.
His other two finishes at the track haven’t been stellar (23rd in 2017, 32nd in 2018), but I think, in the spirit of keeping things new across the board as far as winner on the season and winners at Pocono, that Zalenski could be a threat to win and continue the trends before Road America next week upsets that balance.
The Countdown to Green kicks off the festivities on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. BST on eNASCAR’s live portion of their website. The racing will commence at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST on the same channel or over on iRacing’s Twitch as well.
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
- 32 Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing – 1 win
- 97 Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports – 1 win
- 8 Michael Conti – JR Motorsports – 1 win
- 4 Ryan Luza – XSET Gaming – 1 win
- 36 Chris Shearburn – LETARTE Esports – 1 win
- 55 Vicente Salas – Spacestation Gaming – 1 win
- 77 Bob Bryant – Kligerman Sport – 1 win
- 23 Mitchell deJong – 23XI Racing – 1 win
- 9 Michael Guest – Jim Beaver Esports – 210 points
- 17 Steven Wilson – Roush Fenway Gaming – 203 points
TEAM STANDINGS – TOP 10 AFTER CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
- 23XI Racing (23, 32) – 415 points
- William Byron Esports (25, 97) – 386 points
- XSET Gaming (4, 38) – 385 points
- LETARTE Esports (36, 83) – 367 points
- Kligerman Sport (44, 77) – 352 points
- Stewart-Haas Esports (10, 41) – 350 points
- Roush Fenway Gaming (6, 17) – 349 points
- Team Dillon Esports (3, 33) – 338 points
- Jim Beaver Esports (9, 15) – 326 points
- MODE Motorsports (24, 75) – 318 points