With only Michigan Int’l Speedway remaining on the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Regular Season calendar, five playoff spots are still mathematically up for grabs among 17 drivers competing on Tuesday night.
The two-mile oval in Brooklyn, Michigan will play host to its 13th eNASCAR race since the series began in 2010. Eleven different drivers have scored a victory at the venue, the most recent win coming from Casey Kirwan last season.
Mitchell deJong, Graham Bowlin, Keegan Leahy, Bobby Zalenski and Michael Conti are the drivers locked in to the 2021 playoffs. The remaining five spots are currently held by race winners on the season. A race win will be needed at the end of Michigan to guarantee a place in the playoffs. No drivers can get in on points.
THE CURRENT WINNERS SCENARIOS AT MICHIGAN
Twelve drivers have gone to victory lane this season in the first 13 races, but there are only ten spots in the playoff field. As it stands, both Chris Shearburn and Ray Alfalla will miss the playoffs despite winning a race. Vicente Salas, Logan Clampitt, Jimmy Mullis, Ryan Luza and Bob Bryant have also won and are currently in position to make the playoffs, but a new winner from a specific group of drivers could take them out of it.
The group in question consists of Steven Wilson, Corey Vincent, Michael Guest, Kirwan and Nick Ottinger. Those five drivers haven’t won yet, but if they were to do so on Tuesday night, they’d lock in and knock out another winner. I’ll explain that in more detail in the next section.
Salas and Clampitt are on the safe side of the math equation. If Salas finishes 20th and Clampitt finishes 16th, both drivers can lock in no matter what. Mullis, Bryant and Luza are all separated by a single point and would be the three in danger of missing it. Luza owns the tiebreaker over Bryant, who owns the tiebreaker over Mullis. Regardless, the lowest finisher of the group at Michigan will likely have the most to worry about.
OUTSIDE WINNERS LOOKING IN?
Shearburn is 21st in points, and drivers need to be above 20th for a win to count towards a playoff. A second win for Shearburn or even Alfalla would guarantee them a spot if and only if they break into the Top 20 by the end of the night. Shearburn is nine points behind Garrett Lowe for 20th position and 33 points behind Luza or Bryant. If no win can be had, Luza or Bryant has to finish 36th or worse while Shearburn finishes in the Top 3.
Alfalla needs to win, plain and simple. A win only get him halfway, however, as he’ll need to score points on multiple drivers. Alfalla will need nine points over Jake Nichols, 12 points over Blake Reynolds and 22 points over Shearburn just to be 21st. He’ll also need either 31 points over Lowe, 36 points over Garrett Manes, 38 points over Matt Bussa or 39 points over Zack Novak.
Alfalla does have the most wins in Michigan history in the series, winning in 2013 and 2016. He finished third last year and has excelled at longer tracks this season.
HOW ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVEN’T WON YET?
For the five drivers mentioned above, that being Wilson, Vincent, Guest, Kirwan and Ottinger, if they win, they’ll be in. They all currently sit above at least one winner in the points standings.
Wilson is one of the most impressive drivers on the season so far with five Top 5’s on the season. Vincent and Guest have both had similarly consistent seasons with luck on their side more than not.
Kirwan won this race last season in dominant fashion. It’s not the same package as last year, but the concept will be similar. Ottinger is the defending series champion, but has never won at Michigan before.
If none of these drivers win, they cannot under any circumstance make the playoffs. With Shearburn in 21st as the only driver mathematically capable of knocking Mullis, Luza and Bryant out of the Top 20 by the end of the Michigan race, that means only a winner can knockout another winner.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE COMPLICATED SCENARIOS?
Five more drivers have a chance to win and advance, but it’s not a clear cut win-and-in situation. Dylan Duval has the best chance, currently 16th in the standings. Duval is ten points behind the Bryant/Luza duo, so a win isn’t a guarantee if they finish second and third with Mullis in fourth. Duval, along with Zack Novak, Matt Bussa, Garrett Manes and Garrett Lowe all fit in that category.
If drivers like Mullis, Bryant or Luza have a tough day, it is completely possible for it to happen mathematically. However, a win will not guarantee these drivers a spot without some help in the points column.
There is a drop week that is factored into things as well. Most drivers are dropping fairly terrible finishes outside of the Top 30. Bryant has the most to fall back on if everyone finishes terribly in his category of winners, six points from a finish of 30th at Las Vegas.
OK, WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 18 RACING AT MICHIGAN?
Everyone else outside the Top 20 that’s not Shearburn or Alfalla is out of contention. Reynolds and Nichols would both need to win and pass another winner in points. Mathematically, neither can do such a task. The battle for the Top 20 will continue, however, as the relegation line continues to heat up through the four-race playoff.
It’s a handful at first glance, but once it’s realized that only a winner can get in to the 2021 playoffs, the scenarios become a lot clearer.
Tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 a.m. BST for the iRacing Countdown to Green, where hopefully they can explain it a little better than I can. The action starts at 9:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 a.m. BST over at eNASCAR.com or on the iRacing social channels. Check out the Official Event Guide from iRacing below!