Whether he believes in it or not, Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) has huge momentum on his side.
Zalenski’s NASCAR Heat “Momentum Bar” would be absolutely pegged right now following his latest eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series result, and that was yet another victory on the season after a dominant showing in the inaugural Autodromo Nazionale Monza event on Tuesday night (11th April).
Zalenski took the pole and drove away in the 30 lap feature. Tack that on to his win at Richmond in the series two weeks ago plus his third place finish in the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup on Saturday (8th April), and you’ll be able to tell that good fortune is on the side of the seventh year driver out of Fresno, California.
It’s Zalenski’s first road course victory since 2020. The former and possibly re-coronated eNASCAR Road Course King was winless in his last five attempts over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, losing out on multiple occasions to current Porsche factory sim driver Mitchell deJong in three of those five races.
With no deJong in the field for the first time since 2020 (since he’s off competing in ESL R1 these days), Zalenski was able to easily score his 13th career series victory. Zalenski is now the sole possessor of fifth place all-time on the eNASCAR wins list, surpassing Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing) for the spot.
ZALENSKI: “I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH I BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM…”
“It’s just really great to be this fortunate,” said Zalenski in eNASCAR victory lane post-race. Hard work definitely paid off for the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry on Tuesday night. From the get-go, Zalenski was quick, setting the fastest lap in Final Practice before crushing the field for the pole position.
Starting alongside Leahy, who he tested with as part of the Coanda Esports backend team, Zalenski was able to pull ahead right away, eventually leaving Leahy and the rest of the field in the dust.
Tucker Minter (Team Dillon Esports) eventually managed to make his way around Leahy for the runner-up spot, his best finish since his opening win at Daytona back in February.
Casey Kirwan (XSET) recovered from an early race spin to finish fourth, just ahead of Jordy Lopez (Team Dillon Esports) who picked up his first career Top 5 and Top 10 finish when it was said and over with.
The race was only 30 laps long with no cautions, even for incidents. There were incidents aplenty, but none affected the podium finishers. There was one pit stop on the night, with drivers opting to take it at various points between Lap 5 and Lap 25. Tires were unnecessary once again as drivers all opted for fuel only pit stops.
RACE 5 AT MONZA – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||1||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||30 LAPS||30||40|
|2||3||33||Tucker Minter||Team Dillon Esports||+3.618 secs||0||35|
|3||2||23||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||+4.447 secs||0||34|
|4||4||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||+10.829 secs||0||33|
|5||5||3||Jordy Lopez Jr||Team Dillon Esports||+11.346 secs||0||32|
|6||7||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||+12.739 secs||0||31|
|7||11||11||Parker White||Kanaan Esports||+13.115 secs||0||30|
|8||15||12||Garrett Manes||FGR Accel eRacing||+13.243 secs||0||29|
|9||9||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||+13.754 secs||0||28|
|10||13||40||Dylan Ault||Letarte Esports||+17.260 secs||0||27|
MONZA EDITION: HOT OR NOT SO FAR?
Now five races into the Regular Season and with nine to go in the race for the Playoffs, the Top drivers are starting to separate from the rest of the field. Winners such as Michael Conti (JR Motorsports), Minter and Zalenski are at the front of the field on a weekly basis. Win or not, they sit Top 5 in the points thus far.
Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports) hasn’t had the start to the season he would have hoped for, but now as he’s moved back into the Top 20 in the standings once more, his win once again counts for a Playoff spot at the moment.
Winless to this point are both Graham Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix) and Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports). They lead the way on those without a win, also in the Top 5 in the points. Either could’ve been winners in a few of the races so far.
There are some champions trending upward in Leahy and Kirwan, now both perched inside the Top 10 in the standings. They are mixing it up with a pair of rookies out of the Altus Esports camp, both Michael Cosey Jr (Front Row Motorsports) and Lopez are in that conversation as well.
On the not so hot side of the points sheet, two 2022 Playoff drivers in Femi Olatunbosun (Charlotte Phoenix) and Garrett Lowe (Jim Beaver Esports) are not having the start to the season that they would have hoped for. Monza was a prime example for both. They and the rest of the drivers towards the back of the field still have nine races to turn it around in the Regular Season.
PLAYOFF SEEDING AFTER RACE 5 AT MONZA
|1||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||144||WIN||2||2||3|
|2||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||145||WIN||1||2||2|
|3||33||Tucker Minter [R]||Team Dillon Esports||140||WIN||1||2||2|
|4||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||95||WIN||1||1||2|
|5||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||145||+38||0||2||4|
|6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||140||+33||0||2||3|
|7||38||Michael Cosey Jr [R]||Front Row Motorsports||134||+27||0||2||3|
|8||23||Keegan Leahy||23XI Racing||127||+20||0||2||2|
|9||3||Jordy Lopez Jr [R]||Team Dillon Esports||119||+12||0||1||1|
|11||11||Parker White [R]||Kanaan Esports||107||-11||0||0||2|
|12||41||Dylan Duval||Stewart-Haas Esports||104||-14||0||0||2|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE 5 AT MONZA
|1||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||259||—||1||3||3|
|2||34 | 38||Front Row Motorsports||232||-27||0||2||5|
|3||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||232||-27||0||2||4|
|4||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||227||-32||1||2||2|
|5||23 | 45||23XI Racing||210||-49||0||3||3|
|6||11 | 66||Kanaan Esports||203||-56||0||0||4|
|7||10 | 41||Stewart-Haas Esports||199||-60||1||1||4|
|8||18 | 54||Joe Gibbs Racing||177||-82||2||2||3|
|9||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||176||-83||0||2||4|
|10||2 | 77||Pittsburgh Knights||176||-83||0||0||2|
- Zero cautions for zero laps in 30 completed laps (no cautions at road courses)
- Zero lead changes among one driver
- Most laps led: No. 18 Bobby Zalenski (30 laps led)
- Fastest lap: No. 18 Bobby Zalensk (Lap 2, 1:33.121 secs)
- Hard charger: No. 54 Daniel Faulkingham (Started 33rd, Finished 23rd | +10 spots)
- Hard luck:
- No. 27 Cody Byus (Started 10th, Finished 24th | -14 spots)
- No. 15 Garrett Lowe (Started 8th, Finished 22nd | -14 spots)
- Fewest incidents: No. 33 Tucker Minter (4x)
- Most incidents: No. 75 Zack Novak (31x)
- Rookie of the race: No. 33 Tucker Minter (2nd place)
- Team of the race: No. 3 / No. 33 Team Dillon Esports (67 points)
- Winning Club: California
UP NEXT: TALLADEGA A-FIXED
The first fixed setup points race in series history will take place next week at Talladega Superspeedway. With only a single week on the calendar, iRacing officials decided in the offseason to test fixed setup racing at three tracks in 2023, also at Watkins Glen International and Pocono Raceway later in the year.
Last season, you might not be surprised to know that it was Bobby Zalenski scoring the victory at Talladega after Casey Kirwan and Collin Bowden collided in the tri-oval coming to the checkers. Can Zalenski go back-to-back in Dega races and also score three-in-a-row on the 2023 season? We’ll have to wait and see!
Things kick off with the eNASCAR Countdown to Green, which begins at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. BST on Tuesday, 11th April. The race itself starts at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST. Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless, Alan Cavanna, Camille Salazar Hadaway and James Pike are expected to be on the call.
2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|7||2-May||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||100|
|9||30-May||Charlotte Motor Speedway||100|
|10||13-Jun||World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway||120|
|11||27-Jun||Watkins Glen International||45|
|13||25-Jul||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||101|
|15 – PO1||15-Aug||Michigan International Speedway||60|
|16 – PO2||29-Aug||Dover Motor Speedway||120|
|17 – PO3||12-Sep||Phoenix Raceway||120|
|18 – C4||26-Sep||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|