For the first time in the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, somebody was able to win for the second time. Mitchell deJong took that honor at Road America on Tuesday night, keeping his perfect road racing record intact at two.
Earlier in the season, deJong scored his first one at Circuit of the Americas. After 31 laps of out running six-time road race winner Bobby Zalenski, deJong took the virtual checkered flag for his second career win in 11 starts.
“Man, it feels really good to be 1-2 with Bob,” deJong said. “This is the big battle that everyone’s been wanting, we kind of got robbed of that at COTA, but I’m really thankful that we got to race it out here.”
Zalenski played catch-up the entirety of the night after qualifying two spots behind deJong in third. After Nick Ottinger drove off from second place, the gap between the two was steady around 1.5 seconds until near the end of the run. The pair pitted on the same lap around halfway, and from that point on, deJong would never stop increasing his lead.
“I’m a better driver now than I was last year, even though I’m not winning these road races at the moment,” Zalenski said. “Mitchell is one of the best road racers in iRacing history. He’s been a World Championship winner and contender in every road series he’s done. I knew he was going to be a really big challenge this year, and I just need to step my game up.”
With the virtual weight of a NASCAR Gen 6 stock car combined with the many downhill or high-speed braking sections at Road America, many drivers in the field found themselves off of the racing surface at least once on Tuesday night.
31 of the 40 drivers in the field picked up at least one off-track incident point, some off-roads more damaging than others.
A few of the best on ovals, including three drivers currently locked into the playoffs as it stands, led the field in incident points at the end of the night. Keegan Leahy and Ryan Luza both had forgettable nights, as Leahy struggled home to a 30th place finish with 11 incident points and Luza recovered only slightly to finish 25th with 10 incident points.
Michael Conti, a former road course winner in 2014, led the field with incident points, mainly due to erratic driving from his fellow competitors. On the first lap, a nudge from Luza sent Conti into the gravel and down the running order. It continued to spiral from there, but eventually he recovered for an 11th place performance.
As for the leaders, the Top 3 all came home without a scratch. A trip through non-paved areas was the easiest way to lose positions and the trio of deJong, Zalenski and Steven Wilson all managed to keep it clean all 31 laps.
RECORD 200 STARTS FOR ALFALLA
Making his 200th career start on Tuesday night, Ray Alfalla probably wishes it could have ended a little better for his playoff hopes in 2021. After starting 28th, Alfalla finished 28th. Relatively, it was a quiet night for the four-time series champion, but now 34 points below the relegation line, not only are his playoff hopes getting slimmer, but avoiding the 2021 Pro Series also looks to be a tough mountain to climb with seven races remaining.
Regardless, in 200 starts, Alfalla has 26 career victories and four championship rings to call his own, more than any other driver in series history can say for probably a long time.
“This is my 12th year, I still enjoy the competition as much as ever, and I’m still hungry,” Alfalla said in the pre-race show. Former series competitor Chris Overland brought up during the show that Ray has many parallels to NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson. With Alfalla having the most starts, wins, Top 10’s and championships in the series, Overland asked if Alfalla thought he was the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All-Time) in the series.
“I just let the numbers speak for themselves,” Alfalla responded. “If that’s what they say, then so be it. I still have a lot to prove.”
As it stands, Alfalla can still make the playoffs if the numbers align. No new winners in the next three races at New Hampshire, Watkins Glen and Michigan would be almost necessary. Making up 34 points in three races will require some help from having competitors score lousy finishes. All in all, it’s a tough hill to climb, but if anyone can get it done, it’s Alfalla.
MAGIC MILE IN TWO WEEKS
Race 12 will take place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a track that will be hosting its 10th race in series history on 13th July. Only in 2015 and 2019 has the track been off the schedule, its debut coming in the inaugural season in 2010, won by current NASCAR Xfinity Series standout Josh Berry.
Four previous winners at the track will be in the starting lineup. Michael Conti won back to back in 2012 and 2013 while Jimmy Mullis pulled the same feat in 2018 and 2020. Logan Clampitt scored a win at the track in 2016 while Ryan Luza won in his championship rookie season in 2017.
The track itself is slightly larger than a mile, clocking in a 1.058-miles or 1.703-kilometers. The New England venue is known for its nickname, The Magic Mile, and some drivers in the field will be trying to find any magic they can to lock up their place in the 2021 playoffs.
Mullis finds himself on the right side of the relegation line for the first time in a while after a tough start to the season. A win in New Hampshire would not only be three-straight for the Richmond Raceway eSports driver, but would also likely mean a playoff berth if he could stay in the Top 20.
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 a.m. BST on Tuesday, 13th July over on eNASCAR.com/live.
TOP 10 RESULTS AT ROAD AMERICA
- 23 Mitchell deJong – 23XI Racing 31 LAPS
- 83 Bobby Zalenski – LETARTE Esports +6.694 sec
- 17 Steven Wilson – Roush Fenway Gaming +17.538 sec
- 10 Graham A. Bowlin – Stewart-Haas Esports +20.793 sec
- 3 Corey Vincent – Team Dillon Esports +36.476 sec
- 46 Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway Esports +37.017 sec
- 55 Vicente Salas – Spacestation Gaming +39.285 sec
- 66 Blake Reynolds – McLaren Shadow +43.889 sec
- 25 Nick Ottinger – William Byron Esports +48.077 sec
- 38 Casey Kirwan – XSET +48.446 sec
PLAYOFF STANDINGS AFTER ROAD AMERICA
- 23 Mitchell deJong – 23XI Racing – 2 wins
- 32 Keegan Leahy – 23XI Racing – 1 win
- 83 Bobby Zalenski – LETARTE Esports – 1 win
- 55 Vicente Salas – Spacestation Gaming – 1 win
- 97 Logan Clampitt – William Byron Esports – 1 win
- 8 Michael Conti – JR Motorsports – 1 win
- 77 Bob Bryant – Kligerman Sport – 1 win
- 4 Ryan Luza – XSET Gaming – 1 win
- 36 Chris Shearburn – LETARTE Esports – 1 win
- 17 Steven Wilson – Roush Fenway Gaming – 267 points
*51 Ray Alfalla – Gibbs Gaming – 1 win but outside Top 20
TOP 10 TEAMS AFTER ROAD AMERICA
- 23XI Racing (23, 32) – 516 points | 3 wins
- XSET Gaming (4, 38) – 459 points | 1 win
- Stewart-Haas Esports (10, 41) – 456 points
- LETARTE Esports (36, 83) – 455 points | 2 wins
- William Byron Esports (25, 97) – 453 points | 1 win
- Roush Fenway Gaming (6, 17) – 428 points
- Kligerman Sport (44, 77) – 424 points | 1 win
- Team Dillon Esports (3, 33) – 404 points
- JR Motorsports (8, 88) – 377 points | 1 win
- Richmond Raceway Esports (46, 90) – 373 points