Three spots left. Two races to claim them. One trip to the championship race on the line.
The countdown is on.
Bobby Zalenski punched the first ticket into the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Championship 4 last Tuesday with a win on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, ensuring a shot at the title in the final race of the season for the second year in a row. Tonight, the series’ seven other playoff drivers will have their chance to even the score at Kansas Speedway, or at the very least, earn some valuable points in their bid to move on. The race will air live at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live, with NASCAR Cup Series star and eNASCAR team owner William Byron making a special guest appearance during the race.
With only three rounds of win-and-you’re-in racing, the top point scorer among the playoff eight gets to move on no matter what. For drivers like Jimmy Mullis, Nick Ottinger, and Keegan Leahy, top-five finishes on the Roval put that into play, should they find themselves unable to take another checkered flag. Even sixth place Garrett Lowe and 11th place Ryan Luza, who scored a career-best road course finish last week, came out of the race with decent points hauls, and could point their way in with two more consistent weeks and a little bit of luck.
Winning might be the only way that a couple of other drivers can move on at this point, though. Michael Conti’s bid for a decent Roval finish ended with a shifting issue early in the race, while Ray Alfalla slogged his way through the road course with a 24th place run. The good news? Both are former series champions that know how to win under pressure, and other drivers have been in similarly dire straits and moved on—Zalenski himself, in fact, had to win or face elimination when the Roval wrapped up the Round of 8 last year.
So, who can we expect to run up front? Of the mile-and-a-half tracks on the real-world NASCAR schedule, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Las Vegas have all hosted races already this year. All three have seen three playoff drivers finish in the top five. Lowe, Luza, and Leahy were the fast trio at Charlotte, while Alfalla won over Lowe and Leahy added another top five in Atlanta. Las Vegas was a race of survival with a number of big wrecks, but Mullis scored the win as Ottinger and Conti came home third and fifth.
Of course, it’s not all about the battle for the right to chase the title; some drivers are just hoping to retain their licenses for next season. Matt Bussa bumped his way into the bubble spot at the Roval, and currently holds the slimmest of advantages—just a single point—over John Gorlinsky with three rounds left. That battle is beginning to shift further and further down the order, as 17th place Caine Cook is 40 points ahead of the cut line but the spread between 18th place Casey Kirwan and 27th place Nathan Lyon is just 39.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action from the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval kicks off tonight at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live and the iRacing Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube pages. Alongside Byron, NBC Sports NASCAR analysts Steve Letarte and Parker Kligerman will join tonight’s broadcast. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.