August 3rd, 2022 by Chris Leone
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series road racing landscape has changed dramatically over the past year, with new drivers adding their names to the winner’s list alongside the familiar ones of Mitchell deJong and Bobby Zalenski. In fact, when the series went to Road America last month, it was Stewart-Haas eSports’ Steven Wilson who came out on top, qualifying on the pole and leading every lap to do it.
After Tuesday night’s eNASCAR All-Star Race on the streets of Chicago, perhaps it’s time to hold Wilson’s name in the same regard. He made a daring pass on Illinois native Matt Bussa before the competition caution, and then held off a hard-charging Zalenski through contact and sideways blocks to earn an eNASCAR prize package that includes four tickets to a race of his choice.
The night kicked off with the eNASCAR All-Star Open, which set the scene for a race of attrition all night long. Elliott Sadler eSports’ Garrett Manes and Wilson’s SHR teammate Dylan Duval started on the front row for the 12-lap dash, which would take five drivers to the main event and allow them to requalify against all the 2021 and 2022 race and pole winners. As a result, the duo might have been expected to take it easy—instead, they made late contact that almost cost them both transfer spots. RFK Racing’s Parker Retzlaff would sneak by for the victory, while Manes would slip to fourth and a frustrated Duval would miss the cut line entirely.
With the All-Star field assembled, deJong qualified first and coasted to an easy win in the eight-lap heat race ahead of Graham Bowlin. But an eight-car invert would jumble the field for the feature, and deJong’s charge to the front would be cut short after an early incident with JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti; he’d have to use his allotted fast repair and run in the back for most of the race. Instead, Bussa would start first after the invert and run up front for most of it, carrying the same #75 that his team owner Kyle Long wore for the NFL’s Chicago Bears for nearly a decade.
But after waiting 10 laps to make his move, Wilson dove to the inside of Bussa going into Turn 6, and washed out to the wall to lock in the spot before completing the lap and taking the caution flag in first. Zalenski, XSET’s Casey Kirwan, and Bowlin would get past Bussa after the restart, and Zalenski set his sights on Wilson. But despite getting the leader loose coming out of Turn 11, Zalenski couldn’t quite close the pass, and Wilson defended the racing line through the last turn. Manes would complete the top five as the highest finisher to transfer from the Open.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series All-Star Race results were as follows:
|4||7||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Toyota||16||-1.677||0||1:25.251|
|16||16||24||Cody Byus||Ford||15||-1 L||0||1:26.994|
|17||14||33||Taylor Hurst||Chevrolet||15||-1 L||0||1:26.840|
|18||19||88||Briar LaPradd||Chevrolet||15||-1 L||0||1:28.272|
|19||12||19||Vicente Salas||Toyota||13||-3 L||0||1:26.327|
|20||18||45||Keegan Leahy||Toyota||8||-8 L||0||1:28.313|
|21||5||8||Michael Conti||Chevrolet||3||-13 L||0||1:28.421|
|22||22||21||Garrett Lowe||Ford||1||-15 L||0|
The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season continues in two weeks with its final points-paying road course race of the season at Watkins Glen International. Broadcast coverage begins on Tuesday, August 16 at 8:30PM ET with Countdown to Green before the 9PM ET green flag. Live coverage of all the action can be seen at enascar.com/live.
Images via Justin Melillo