August 26th, 2020 by Chris Leone
Last time out, Bobby Zalenski spanked the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series field on the Daytona International Speedway road course with the largest margin of victory in series history.
This time, on the oval, couldn’t have been any more different.
Zalenski nipped birthday boy Eric Smith at the finish line by .029 seconds as the field wrecked behind them to wrap up the unprecedented third visit to Daytona of the season on Tuesday night. Known more recently for his road racing prowess, it was Zalenski’s first oval victory in three years, came from the pole, and helped further assert his position as one of the drivers to beat in this year’s championship.
Unlike the season opener in February, the return to Daytona under the lights saw four caution flags for 12 laps, kicked off by the “big one” on Lap 22. That wreck knocked a number of top drivers out of contention early, including past series champions Michael Conti, Ryan Luza, and Ray Alfalla, with the four-time eNASCAR title winner flying in the carnage. Another caution came just as green flag pit stops were getting started, as a bottleneck of cars unsure about who was pitting ended solid runs for both Brian Schoenburg and Steve Sheehan, running his first race for JTG Daugherty Racing.
The field calmed down enough in the closing laps for nearly 20 laps of clean driving, alternating between two and three-wide pack racing throughout the final stint. Zalenski and defending series champion Zack Novak worked the low line, with Smith and Corey Vincent above them and a third line occasionally popping up with drivers like Nick Ottinger and Caine Cook fronting it. Contact between the upper two lines in the tri-oval coming to the checkered flag led to a repeat of February’s finish, with only a handful of drivers getting over the finish line cleanly.
With the cutoff for the eight-driver playoffs looming, Zalenski’s win allowed him to seize the points lead from Keegan Leahy, who finished a disappointing two laps down in 26th. Garrett Lowe, Luza, Conti, Ottinger, Logan Clampitt, and Alfalla complete the current grid, with Graham Bowlin 15 points on the outside looking in. After getting caught up in an incident with Brandon Kettelle, Michael Guest dropped to 20th in points, just five points clear of John Gorlinsky to retain his license for the 2021 season. Smith, meanwhile, jumped to 26th in his bid to remain in the series next year.
Full eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Daytona International Speedway were as follows:
|2||21||9||Eric J. Smith||Ford||100||0||-0.028||43.811||39|
|18||8||18||Graham A. Bowlin||Toyota||100||0||-0.431||44.240||23|
|25||10||24||Jake Nichols||Ford||99||0||-1 L||44.331||16|
|26||9||32||Keegan Leahy||Toyota||98||0||-2 L||44.079||15|
|27||6||36||Chris Shearburn||Chevrolet||96||0||-4 L||44.319||14|
|28||27||37||Christian Challiner||Chevrolet||95||0||-5 L||43.825||13|
|29||25||23||Casey Kirwan||Toyota||93||0||-7 L||44.223||12|
|30||20||14||Brandon Kettelle||Ford||73||0||-27 L||43.951||11|
|31||33||79||Brian Schoenburg||Ford||62||0||-38 L||44.207||10|
|32||37||47||Steve Sheehan||Chevrolet||62||0||-38 L||43.839||9|
|33||3||6||Nathan Lyon||Ford||59||1||-41 L||44.408||9|
|34||32||53||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||50||0||-50 L||44.311||7|
|35||12||2||Ray Alfalla||Chevrolet||48||0||-52 L||44.423||6|
|36||22||10||Justin Bolton||Ford||46||0||-54 L||44.322||5|
|37||16||8||Michael Conti||Chevrolet||30||0||-70 L||44.395||4|
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series points after 13 races are as follows:
- Bobby Zalenski, 427
- Keegan Leahy, 399
- Garrett Lowe, 388
- Ryan Luza, 373
- Michael Conti, 364
- Nick Ottinger, 361
- Logan Clampitt, 344
- Ray Alfalla, 342
- Graham Bowlin, 327
- Jimmy Mullis, 325
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series returns to action in two weeks’ time with throwback paint schemes and wheel-to-wheel action from Darlington Raceway. As always, the race can be seen at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live, iRacing.com/live, and the iRacing Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube pages. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.