Welcome back to the eNASCAR iRacing Playoffs, Mitchell deJong.
23XI Racing will have at least one chance to defend their 2021 championship as their driver deJong was able to defeat Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) and the rest of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series grid at Watkins Glen on Tuesday night (16th August 2022).
Zalenski took the pole position and was also looking for his chance to lock into the playoffs on Tuesday. Unfortunately, he was no match for the multifaceted driver as deJong took the lead on Lap 13 and never looked back.
The win is deJong’s third career win at his third different track, all of which are road courses. There won’t be any road races ahead for the remainder of the season, and he’ll have to fight off some of the best oval drivers to get back to another Championship 4 berth in October.
DEJONG VS ZALENSKI
Claiming it to be one of the best qualifying laps of his career, Zalenski took the pole convincingly over Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix), the defending winner from 2021 at Watkins Glen. Vicente Salas (Williams Esports) qualified third but didn’t get the best start. That allowed deJong in fourth to pounce.
By Turn 1, deJong found himself alongside Bowlin as the rest of the field worked it out. Not too much later, deJong leap-frogged Bowlin into the second spot, setting his sights on his Coanda Esports backend teammate.
For a few laps, deJong looked to have the faster run, taking a few moves on Zalenski entering the passing zones. Zalenski was able to block them off for a while, at some points making contact. Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports), the winner at Road America and the Chicago Street Circuit All-Star race, moved up into third, hoping the two in front would cause each other grief.
Despite the contact, the respect was given between the two. On lap 13, deJong took a dive inside into Turn 1 and made it stick, moving into the lead. Zalenski kept up as much as he could, but after the green flag pit cycle, the race was pretty much decided. After 45 nearly flawless laps, deJong found his way back to virtual victory lane.
TEN WINNERS, NINE LOCKED IN, ONE SPOT LEFT
There were already nine winners entering, but as it stands, there is still one possible points spot left to be decided in the 2022 eNASCAR iRacing Playoffs.
Coming into the night, Zack Novak (Rise Esports) held on to that final spot by a decent margin. Blake Reynolds (Jim Beaver Esports) was his closest competition and Zalenski wasn’t too far behind.
On the opening lap, calamity struck exiting Turn 1. Novak found himself caught up in the melee, as did Nashville Superspeedway winner Ray Alfalla (Joe Gibbs Racing). When the pair finally got going again, both were desperate to gain back as much as they could.
Alfalla needed to keep his margin ahead of 21st in the points while Novak needed to fight for points in the case Alfalla fell out or there wasn’t a new winner on Tuesday night.
The two made contact and it sent 4-Time into a load of virtual barrels, effectively ending his race early. Alfalla was able to get back on track, but he wasn’t able to gain any points. The resulting incident found him 13 points below the Top 20 cutoff, the threshold needed to win and get in to the playoffs.
WIN, BUT ALFALLA IS THE ONLY ONE NOT IN
As deJong took his win, essentially there was no change for the final spot in the standings, but it does raise some interesting scenarios. Nine drivers are officially locked in no matter what – they can’t fall out of the Top 20 or be passed by Alfalla in the case of an 11th winner.
That means Wilson, Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports), Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), Casey Kirwan (XSET), Matt Bussa (Mode Motorsports), Bowlin, deJong, Femi Olatunbosun (Clint Bowyer Racing) and Garrett Lowe (Wood Brothers Racing) can breathe easy entering the Regular Season finale in two weeks.
Zalenski now holds the final spot in the playoffs on points, in 10th on the playoff grid. He holds it by two points over Novak who recovered for a 25th place finish. Reynolds is six points behind Zalenski after finishing in 13th.
Corey Vincent (Team Dillon Esports), Michael Guest (Jim Beaver Esports) and Garrett Manes (Elliott Sadler Esports) all mathematically could point their way in, but they’d need a lot to go wrong for a lot of other people also fighting for the last spot.
Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports), Dylan Duval (Stewart-Haas Esports), the Williams Esports duo of Salas and Donovan Strauss, the defending series champion Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) and Taylor Hurst (Team Dillon Esports) only need to win and they’ll lock in that 10th and final spot, superseding the drivers racing for points.
Ryan Luza (XSET), Allen Boes (Spacestation Racing), Briar LaPradd (JR Motorsports), Liam Brotherton (Elliott Sadler Esports) and Malik Ray (iRacing Motorsports) all mathematically can win and get in as well, but they’ll all need some help points wise one way or another.
As previously mentioned, Alfalla is the most interesting case. He’s 13 points behind 20th place Leahy. He’ll need to gain 13 points on Leahy, 11 points on Hurst and four points on Luza. Alfalla will also need to keep Boes from scoring nine points over him, as well as LaPradd scoring 13 points over him, Brotherton 16, and Malik Ray 17 points. Also, nobody new in front of him can win either.
NEXT UP: DARLINGTON REGULAR SEASON FINALE
The fantastic conclusion to the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Regular Season will take place at a track that’s Too Tough To Tame, Darlington Raceway. Zalenski won it last year, ripping victory out of the hands of deJong in the closing laps. Can Zalenski do it again and make his way back to the playoffs?
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on 2nd August to see another preview at what street course racing in NASCAR might look like next season. The event will kick off with the Countdown to Green for a half-hour before the main cast starts at 9:00 p.m. ET. The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing Social Channels.
RACE #13 – WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||4||23||Mitchell deJong||23XI Racing||45 LAPS||33||40|
|2||1||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+6.842 sec||12||35|
|3||2||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||+9.866 sec||0||34|
|4||7||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||+10.419 sec||0||33|
|5||10||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||+16.016 sec||0||32|
|6||3||19||Vicente Salas||Williams Esports||+16.769 sec||0||31|
|7||6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||+17.119 sec||0||30|
|8||8||41||Dylan Duval||Stewart-Haas Esports||+23.220 sec||0||29|
|9||23||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||+28.201 sec||0||28|
|10||12||40||Dylan Ault||LETARTE Esports||+28.351 sec||0||27|
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER RACE #13 – WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
|1||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||2||347||6||8|
|2||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||2||312||5||8|
|3||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||292||4||6|
|5||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||1||334||2||7|
|6||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||1||309||6||6|
|7||23||Mitchell deJong||23XI Racing||1||290||3||4|
|8||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||280||3||5|
|9||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||1||270||1||4|
|10||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||0||298 (+2)||2||5|
|11||5||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||0||296 (-2)||5||6|
|12||15||Blake Reynolds||Jim Beaver Esports||0||292 (-6)||2||5|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE #13 – WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
|POS||CAR #’s||TEAM||MANUF.||POINTS||BEHIND||TEAM WINS|
|1||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas Esports||FORD||578||LEADER||2|
|2||4 | 95||XSET||CHEVY||560||-18||1|
|3||9 | 15||Jim Beaver Esports||FORD||553||-25||0|
|4||5 | 46||Rise eSports||CHEVY||547||-31||0|
|5||23 | 45||23XI Racing||TOYOTA||503||-75||1|
|6||18 | 51||Joe Gibbs Racing||TOYOTA||498||-80||1|
|7||24 | 75||Mode Motorsports||FORD||497||-81||1|
|8||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||CHEVY||481||-97||2|
|9||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||CHEVY||480||-98||2|
|10||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||CHEVY||478||-100||0|
RACE #13 – WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL – BOX SCORE:
- Zero cautions for zero laps (No cautions on Road Courses)
- 2 lead changes among 2 drivers (Bobby Zalenski 0-12, Mitchell deJong 13-45)
- Most laps led: No. 23 Mitchell deJong (33 laps led)
- Fastest lap: No. 23 Mitchell deJong (Lap 42, 1:08.517 secs)
- Rookie of the race: No. 40 Dylan Ault (10th place)
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|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|