By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
In dominating fashion, Bobby Zalenski scored his fifth-straight road course win in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
Zalenski scored the pole at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course with over half a second to spare over Nick Ottinger. The driver of the No. 83 Virtual Racing School Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE wasted no time driving away from his competition. After one lap, Zalenski had nearly a two second lead over Ottinger and Jimmy Mullis.
From that point on, Zalenski hit his marks lap after lap. He consistently increased his lead to the point that it was large enough that he pitted, twice, without losing the lead.
Zalenski picked up minor damage on his left side door from clipping a ‘turtle’ curb. However, that did not slow him down as he was ahead of Mullis by 18,889 seconds when the checkered flag waved. Ottinger, Christian Challiner, and Logan Clampitt completed the top-five.
“I took the final chicane a lot differently than most people,” explained Zalenski. “It was pretty dangerous because it could damage your car, so I didn’t do it a whole lot. If you’re able to learn stuff like that before the rest of the field that’s a definite advantage.
“I’m happy we went here instead of Watkins Glen because it’s a new track. Guys like Conti, Ottinger are killers at The Glen and would have had me playing catch up there. What a team I’m on, VRS, Carolina Sim Sport, I’m lucky to be on this team, and fortunate to have a clean race too.”
“It’s about having setups and the tire (moving forward), understanding how to handle it better throughout the race,” continued Zalenski. “I believe my team and I will get a hang of it before the playoffs start. Of course, the playoffs start with a road course and that would be a big opportunity to go to the final four, but it will be a lot tougher I’m sure.”
Mullis was lucky to finish in second. Throughout the race, his wheel was shutting off in the turns. On a 14-turn road course, that could have been a disaster, but somehow, he persevered to keep the rest of the field at bay. Mullis earned his first top-five on a road course.
“It was really tough (holding off Ottinger), Nick is a very accomplished road racer on the service when it comes to the Coke Series,” admitted Mullis. “We just had a really good car. I was fighting some wheel issues the whole race after the first stop. My wheel was actually shutting off in the corners. Pretty awkward to deal with and tough to keep a handle on.
“Fortunately, I was able to keep a gap on Nick. That’s all thanks to Christian and Corey, they put together a really good car this week. Hats off to them, I can’t thank them enough.”
Corey Vincent, Michael Conti, Keegan Leahy, and Zack Novak rounded out the top-10.
Several single and two-car incidents took place throughout the 45-lap race. Vincent and Novak both wheel-hopped in the international horseshoe, forcing Clampitt to take evasive action.
The most dramatic incident took place when Ray Alfalla misjudged the bus stop chicane. Zalenski’s teammate braked too late and blew through the grass. When Alfalla rejoined the track, he slammed into Jarl Teien. While Alfalla limped away with damage and a slowdown penalty, the damage for Teien was terminal.
Casey Kirwan and Vincent both had major incidents on the ‘turtle’ curbing. On lap 15, Kirwan received engine damage while running inside the top-10. Meanwhile Vincent was left with suspension damage with under 10 laps to go. Kirwan fell to 19th while Vincent finished sixth.
The battle for the final position in the playoffs is now just five points with Clampitt holding the final spot over Mullis. Leahy and Zalenski have over a 70-point cushion on the cutoff.
John Gorlinsky now holds the cutoff position for relegation. Michael Guest, Bob Bryant, and Blake Reynolds have a narrow gap over the William Byron eSports driver. Gorlinsky has an eight-point cushion over Challiner. Also, on the outside looking in are Justin Bolton, Caine Cook, and defending eNASCAR Champion Novak.
Next for the eNASCAR drivers is a return trip to the Daytona oval for the second of three superspeedway races this season.
1. 83-Bobby Zalenski , 2. 46-Jimmy Mullis , 3. 25-Nick Ottinger , 4. 37-Christian Challiner , 5, 99-Logan Clampitt , 6. 27-Corey Vincent , 7. 8-Michael Conti , 8. 21-Garrett Lowe , 9. 32-Keegan Leahy , 10. 90-Zack Novak , 11. 24-Jake Nichols , 12. 41-Dylan Duval , 13. 53-Ryan Luza , 14. 18-Graham Bowlin , 15. 3-Blake Reynolds , 16. 77-Bob Bryant , 17. 5-Matt Bussa , 18. 88-Brad Davies , 19. 23-Casey Kirwan , 20. 97-John Gorlinsky , 21. 6-Nathan Lyon , 22. 55-Caine Cook , 23. 36-Chris Shearburn , 24. 2-Ray Alfalla , 25. 75-Phillip Diaz , 26. 4-Santiago Tirres , 27. 15-Michael Guariglia , 28. 54-Alex McCollum , 29. 14-Brandon Kettelle , 30. 1-Steve Sheehan , 31. 51-Malik Ray , 32. 33-Michael Guest , 33. 9-Eric J. Smith , 34. 16-Chris Overland , 35. 17-Kollin Keister , 36. 66-Jarl Teien , 37. 79-Brian Schoenburg .
Lead Changes: None.
Lap Leader(s): Bobby Zalenski 1-45.
Laps Led: Bobby Zalenski 45.
Hard Charger: 97-John Gorlinsky (+17).
Tough Break: 66-Jarl Teien (-23).
Margin of Victory: 18.889 seconds.
Time of Race: 1 hour, 24 minutes, 1.938 seconds.
Average Speed: 115.911 MPH.
Pole Winner: 83-Bobby Zalenski, One minute, 46.002 seconds (122.602 MPH).
Fastest Lap: 83-Bobby Zalenski, Lap 17, One minute, 47.360 seconds (121.051 MPH).
Strength of Field: 6,856 average iRating.