We’re heading back to Watkins Glen! For the first time since 2016, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will race the virtual Upstate New York road course. It’s the third and final road race of the season as well as the second to last race in the regular season.
Watkins Glen Int’l is a 2.45-mile, 3.94-kilometer venue with 11 corners, even though the track now only recognizes seven. The NASCAR Cup Series ran a handful of races in the fifties and sixties, but the course didn’t become a permanent fixture on the calendar until 1986. For the sim side of things, the top oval series on the iRacing service didn’t start running any road races until the 2014 season. This season, WGI is the third road race on the calendar.
The last time the series went to the Empire State, Bobby Zalenski wasn’t a part of the series. It was also the last road race in the series not won by someone named Zalenski or Mitchell deJong. On that August day in 2016, defending Glen winner from 2015, Nick Ottinger, was the pole sitter. Ottinger was unable to go back-to-back as PJ Stergios took the win that day.
The first year the circuit was on the schedule in 2014, Michael Conti won from the pole position. When Watkins Glen was on the schedule, both Conti and Ottinger were threats to win every season. Again, this was all pre-Zalenski eNASCAR road racing, so the script for Tuesday night is not set in any stone.
DEJONG LOOKING FOR ROAD PERFECTION AT WATKINS GLEN
Both of the eNASCAR road races in 2021 have been at new venues on the schedule and also both were won by deJong. The only driver with multiple wins on the season, deJong will be looking to making it a perfect road racing score on Tuesday night. deJong has two pole positions and a fast lap scored at Watkins Glen in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series.
In all reality, this is the defending series champion’s best shot at making the playoffs in 2021. A win for Ottinger would put him in provisionally as he sits 12th in the standings currently. Already ahead of current race winners in Logan Clampitt, Jimmy Mullis, Ryan Luza, Chris Shearburn and Ray Alfalla, winning at WGI would almost be a sure lock into the playoffs.
Drivers like Graham A. Bowlin, Steven Wilson, Michael Guest, Corey Vincent and Casey Kirwan will not want to see that happen. None of those drivers have a win this season either, but with no new winner and the possibility of Shearburn falling outside of the Top 20, one of those five could find themselves in a playoff spot entering Michigan.
WHAT AND WHERE TO WATCH
Ultimately, if the trends continue as they have on road courses this season, deJong should be the favorite. Zalenski should put up a fight and drivers like Conti or Ottinger may be closer than they’ve been this season.
There were reports of a possible competition caution for this race, but as all the other road races in eNASCAR history, this race will run flag-to-flag with no stoppage. The race distance is 50 total laps. Only one pit stop is necessary to make it to the end.