August 3rd, 2021 by Chris Leone
The fun and games of last week’s All-Star Race are in the rear-view mirror. Now, it’s time for the cars and stars of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series to get back on task for the big picture: a shot at taking home the $100,000 champion’s purse later this year. To return to that focus, they’ll have two more opportunities to make their way into the 10-driver playoffs, starting with tonight’s round at Watkins Glen International.
Of course, using a win to claw your way onto the playoff grid is anything but straightforward at Watkins Glen with Mitchell deJong and Bobby Zalenski on the grid. Zalenski, now of Letarte Esports, had long been eNASCAR’s road course ringer, posting the largest margin of victory in series history in one of his wins last year. But 23XI’s deJong drew first blood at Circuit of the Americas by winning the pole and cruising to an easy victory when Zalenski took contact in COTA’s tricky first corner, and backed it up with another victory at Road America as well.
That means that the story of this race may be more about which playoff-eligible drivers can stay in the top 20 than which driver can fight his way into a playoff spot. Zalenski’s teammate Chris Shearburn is currently 19th in points, just seven above the top 20 cutoff, and falling out would vacate a spot for the top driver in points without a win, currently Stewart-Haas Racing’s Graham Bowlin. However, if Charlotte winner Ray Alfalla of Joe Gibbs Racing can make up 23 points to crack the top 20, he would stand to capitalize if Shearburn fell out. The rest of this year’s race winners at least sit within the top 15 in the current standings.
While it’s been five years since its last appearance on the calendar, Watkins Glen was the first road course to welcome eNASCAR in its history, hosting eNASCAR’s first race of its kind in 2014. Michael Conti won that race, while Nick Ottinger took the checkered flag in 2015 and PJ Stergios won in 2016. Tonight’s race is likely to be the last for this version of the track; as alluded to in FS1’s recent NASCARcade segment on NASCAR RaceHub and later confirmed by iRacing executive producer Greg Hill on Twitter, an updated and rescanned Watkins Glen is currently in development.
Before the action gets underway, iRacing Countdown to Green will begin streaming live at 8:30PM ET/5:30PM PT. Host Amy Long will join series veterans Brandon Kettelle, Michael Guariglia, and Chris Overland to preview tonight’s race and predict the winners.
Coverage of eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action from Watkins Glen International begins at 9PM ET/6PM PT on eNASCAR.com/live, iRacing.com/live, and NASCAR and iRacing social media channels. Following tonight’s action, the regular season will conclude in two weeks’ time from Michigan International Speedway. For more information on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit www.eNASCAR.com. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.