By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
It was the Bobby Zalenski show for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series at the virtual Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
The driver of the No. 83 Virtual Racing School Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had a perfect night. Zalenski was fastest in practice, warmup, and won the pole for the Roval 125. At the drop of the green flag, he cruised away and never looked back. Zalenski set the fastest lap of the race on the second lap.
It appeared that Keegan Leahy was set to take second place until a rare mistake saw the Denny Hamlin eSports driver slide off course. As Leahy slapped the wall, Richmond Raceway eSports’ Jimmy Mullis moved into second. However, Zalenski’s lead was already well over seven seconds just 25 laps in.
Zalenski held onto the lead during a round of green flag pit stops and continued to stretch out his advantage. When the checkered flag waved, he was 11.622 seconds ahead of Mullis in the Playoff opener for eNASCAR. The victory locks Zalenski into the Round of 4. The victory was Zalenski’s sixth-straight win on road courses, where he is undefeated in eNASCAR competition.
“I don’t know how we’re still able to do this,” admitted Zalenski. “You put all of this preparation in and somehow you’re able maximize every aspect every time. I’m just happy that we’re going to Homestead, that’s the goal. A road course is a road course, but we’re trying to go to Homestead to win a championship. I’m just glad that we had a clean race.
“We can just go and worry about Homestead now. We’re definitely going to focus on the other two (Kansas Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway) because they’re 1.5-mile tracks. You need to put in hard work there too because you never know what kind of speed you can find for the setup or driver.
eNASCAR Playoff drivers swept the top-four spots. Behind Zalenski were Mullis, Nick Ottinger, and Leahy. Logan Clampitt finished fifth with Playoff driver Garrett Lowe in sixth. Christian Challiner, Corey Vincent, Casey Kirwan, and Graham Bowlin completed the top-10.
The next eNASCAR Playoff driver, Ryan Luza, finished 11th. Four-time eNASCAR Champion and Playoff driver Ray Alfalla finished a distant 24th.
Michael Conti appeared on pace for a good points night until a missed shift proved terminal for his motor. The Playoff driver representing JR Motorsports shifted into second, however the shifted kicked the motor back into first, ending his night early.
Other incidents saw Eric J. Smith and Dylan Duval spin on the opening lap. Talladega Superspeedway winner Brandon Kettelle went off-roading between turns 5 and 6. And late in the race Malik Ray spun in the same place, getting out of the just as the leaders rounded the corner. Coming to the checkered, Jarl Teien crashed out of the final corner, forcing Mullis to take evasive action.
With Zalenski now locked into Round of 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, seven drivers are battling for three remaining spots. Leahy and Mullis are five and four points above the cutline, held by Ottinger. Luza is two markers behind with Lowe six down. Alfalla is 21-points behind with Conti 37-points out.
1. 83-Bobby Zalenski , 2. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 3. 25-Nick Ottinger , 4. 32-Keegan Leahy , 5. 99-Logan Clampitt , 6. 21-Garrett Lowe , 7. 37-Christian Challiner , 8. 27-Corey Vincent , 9. 23-Casey Kirwan , 10. 18-Graham Bowlin , 11. 53-Ryan Luza , 12. 6-Nathan Lyon , 13. 24-Jake Nichols , 14. 77-Bob Bryant , 15. 17-Kollin Keister , 16. 3-Blake Reynolds , 17. 90-Zack Novak , 18. 41-Dylan Duval , 19. 55-Caine Cook , 20. 5-Matt Bussa , 21. 88-Brad Davies , 22. 10-Justin Bolton , 23. 33-Michael Guest , 24. 2-Ray Alfalla , 25. 9-Eric J. Smith , 26. 15-Michael Guariglia , 27. 66-Jarl Teien , 28. 75-Phillip Diaz , 29. 97-John Gorlinsky , 30. 36-Chris Shearburn , 31. 16-Chris Overland , 32. 47-Steve Sheehan , 33. 51-Malik Ray , 34. 14-Brandon Kettelle , 35. 54-Alex McCollum , 36. 4-Santiago Tirres , 37. 8-Michael Conti , 38. 79-Brian Schoenburg .
Lead Changes: None.
Lap Leader(s): Bobby Zalenski 1-55.
Laps Led: Bobby Zalenski 55.
Hard Charger: 90-Zack Novak (+17).
Tough Break: 8-Michael Conti (-27).
Margin of Victory: 11.622 seconds.
Time of Race: One hour, 12 minutes, 37.680 seconds.
Average Speed: 103.596 MPH.
Pole Winner: 83-Bobby Zalenski, One minute, 13.896 seconds (111.075 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 83-Bobby Zalenski, Lap 2, One minute, 15.008 seconds (109.428 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,814 Average iRating.
Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires