Two weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff season began with a former series champion in Ryan Luza (XSET) taking the victory and denying a free pass to the Championship 4 for the ten drivers going for it.
The goofy race had a stretch of green, broken up by a string of yellows, concluding with another run of green. The drivers that bet on that last caution being the last caution paid off, with Luza getting the biggest break of them all.
As for the playoff field of Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing), Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports), Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports), Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), Casey Kirwan (XSET), Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports), Mitchell deJong (23XI Racing), Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing) and Garrett Lowe (Wood Brothers Racing) now face what may be their most unpredictable challenge yet – a date with Talladega Superspeedway.
THE BIG ONE AWAITS
Only two races left to decide the four drivers who will race for the 2022 eNASCAR title. Talladega is going to be a pivotal race for possibly one driver to punch their ticket and two more could get in good enough points standing to not worry in two more weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway. For all we know, all four drivers who make the Championship 4 this season could all get in on points and go winless.
Pack racing is the name of the game at the 2.66-mile superspeedway oval in Alabama, and there happen to be a few strategies are on the table. Drivers can opt to be ahead of the danger, controlling the race and the field from the front. They can also opt to race at the back, staying out of danger’s way but with the possibility of having a bad finish in the case of no carnage.
Then there’s the belly of the beast, the main pack which will be three, sometimes even four wide. NASCAR implements a double-yellow-line rule which drivers are not permitted to pass below that during green flag conditions. iRacing doesn’t have that coded in, and it might play a role in deciding the winner on Tuesday night.
WHO TO WATCH FOR
In the six previous races at Talladega, only one driver has won there multiple times and happens to be the only previous winner entered in the race – that would be Nick Ottinger. A winner in 2019 in dramatic fashion and again last season after a stunning strategy call from him and his Team Conti stablemates, Ottinger has to be the one to watch out for if there’s any semblance of statistics to go off of.
That’s just the thing with these Superspeedway races – anyone can win them. Often times, the most strategic and the ones with the most help pull it off, but even the underdogs can have their day, just ask 2020’s winner Brandon Hayse Kettelle about that.
While the Deadzone Racing squad might have the numbers and the early season victory with Femi at Daytona to say they’re the ones to watch, some of the drivers on the team will be sure to point out that they all want to win it as bad as the other and won’t care who they have to work with to do so.
With all of that said, I think it’s anyone’s guess as to who will win. If the odds-makers had to pick a favorite, however, there’s no doubt that Ottinger would be that driver with his Team Conti mates of Logan Clampitt (William Byron Esports), Conti and Bussa right in tow.
WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING
Donovan Strauss, Williams Esports: “Heading into Talladega, some of the guys are going for wins, but I’m wanting to survive and get solid points.”
Vicente Salas, Williams Esports: “I’m looking to grab some good points and continue our climb above the cutline. I’m going to work with Don on the strategy to maximize both of our results!”
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 #16 – TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
|1||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||3||+15||7||10|
|2||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||1||+14||2||5|
|3||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||1||+8||6||6|
|4||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||+5||4||6|
|5||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||0||-5||3||6|
|6||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||-7||3||6|
|8||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||2||-13||5||8|
|9||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||1||-14||2||8|
|10||23||Mitchell deJong||23XI Racing||1||-19||3||4|
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|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|