August 31st, 2022 by Chris Leone
Stewart-Haas eSports’ Steven Wilson ensured that he’ll enter this year’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs with the top spot on the grid after taking the checkered flag in Tuesday night’s regular season finale from Darlington Raceway. Wilson took two tires for track position going into the first overtime restart, grabbed the lead before another yellow flew, and pulled away in the second overtime to earn his third win of the season and break a tie with multiple other drivers for the most wins so far this year.
The 14th round of the season had been a must-win event for numerous drivers looking to secure the final playoff spot, including polesitter and defending series champion Keegan Leahy. To his outside on the front row would be Joe Gibbs Racing driver Bobby Zalenski, the top driver on points who would stand to advance if there wasn’t another new race winner. Lurking further down the field were a host of drivers in the top 20 in points who could join Leahy in advancing with a win, while Zalenski’s JGR teammate and Nashville winner Ray Alfalla would put an end to the entire situation if he could return to the top 20 in series points.
Both Leahy and Zalenski would lead laps early on in a race slowed by just one caution near the halfway point. Zalenski and Wilson would each lead a chunk of laps in the second half of the race, but a hard-charging Leahy was closing on the lead before another caution flew with just a handful of laps to go.
Needing a victory, Leahy would stay out for track position, but only Elliott Sadler eSports’ Garrett Manes would join him out front on old tires. Wilson led a half dozen drivers, including Zalenski’s closest points challenger Blake Reynolds of Jim Beaver eSports, on two tires, while Zalenski would lead the four-tire drivers in ninth. If Leahy couldn’t hang on, Reynolds would have a shot of his own by either winning the race or gaining seven points on Zalenski.
Unfortunately for Leahy, the track position gamble wouldn’t pay off. Wilson led a group of cars around the 23XI driver before a massive accident at the back of the field—one that would put the final nail in Alfalla’s hopes of getting back in the top 20, no less—caused a yellow flag before anyone could take the white flag. Without the tires to strike back, Leahy would pit under the ensuing yellow to remove himself from the battle as well.
With that, it was essentially down to Reynolds (restarting third) and Zalenski (fifth) for the transfer spot, as Wilson and eRacr’s Collin Bowden started up front for the final green flag. Wilson got a strong jump after the green, but Reynolds couldn’t clear Bowden as quickly and would have to settle for second. Zalenski would claw his way back to third, giving him the final playoff spot over Reynolds by just five points.
This year’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid sees drivers from 10 different teams represented, as well as two former series champions in William Byron eSports’ Nick Ottinger and JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti. However, just three of the top five teams in the team standings are in the playoffs; second place Jim Beaver eSports and fourth place Rise Esports each have both of their drivers in the top 15 in points, but neither were able to secure a victory.
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Darlington Raceway were as follows:
|1||11||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart Haas Racing||126||0.000||24||29.624||40|
|2||10||15||Blake Reynolds||Jim Beaver eSports||126||-0.684||0||29.747||35|
|3||2||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||126||-0.797||69||29.557||34|
|5||33||9||Michael Guest||Jim Beaver eSports||126||-1.073||0||29.687||32|
|6||7||19||Vicente Salas||Williams eSports||126||-1.226||0||29.758||31|
|8||3||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||126||-1.457||0||29.783||29|
|10||25||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||126||-1.713||0||29.962||27|
|11||29||43||Kollin Keister||Charlotte Phoenix||126||-1.743||0||29.964||26|
|12||20||97||Logan Clampitt||William Byron eSports||126||-1.819||0||29.917||25|
|13||24||36||Brian Mercurio||Letarte Esports||126||-1.895||0||30.045||24|
|14||16||46||Jimmy Mullis||Rise eSports||126||-2.094||0||29.825||23|
|15||8||41||Dylan Duval||Stewart Haas Racing||126||-2.250||0||29.720||22|
|16||18||16||Blade Whitt||Wood Brothers Racing||126||-2.241||0||29.530||21|
|18||34||31||Garrett Manes||Elliot Sadler eSports||126||-2.615||0||29.972||19|
|19||27||20||Donovan Strauss||Williams eSports||126||-2.723||0||29.984||18|
|20||38||14||Nickolas Shelton||Clint Bowyer Racing||126||-2.721||0||30.035||17|
|22||30||6||Parker Retzlaff||Roush Fenway Keselowski||126||-2.974||0||29.960||15|
|23||5||3||Corey Vincent||Team Dillon Esports||126||-3.169||0||29.737||14|
|24||15||33||Taylor Hurst||Team Dillon Esports||126||-3.251||0||29.509||13|
|25||4||2||Liam Brotherton||Elliot Sadler eSports||126||-3.451||0||29.485||12|
|26||12||88||Briar LaPradd||JR Motorsports||126||-3.680||0||29.816||11|
|27||13||24||Cody Byus||Mode Motorsports||126||-3.903||0||29.872||10|
|28||21||55||Allen Boes||Space Station Gaming||126||-4.202||0||29.957||9|
|30||26||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||126||-20.950||0||29.430||7|
|31||17||40||Dylan Ault||Letarte Esports||123||-3L||0||29.741||6|
|32||31||51||Ray Alfalla||Joe Gibbs Racing||121||-5L||0||30.049||5|
|33||9||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||121||-5L||0||29.734||4|
|34||19||54||Kyle Peddle||Space Station Gaming||120||DNF||0||29.844||3|
|35||32||5||Zack Novak||Rise eSports||115||-11L||0||29.691||2|
|36||35||7||Malik Ray||iRacing Motorsports||115||-11L||0||29.926||1|
|37||6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron eSports||115||-11L||0||29.771||1|
|38||37||12||Derek Justis||iRacing Motorsports||41||-85L||0||30.062||1|
The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid is as follows:
- Steven Wilson, 3 wins/387 points
- Nick Ottinger, 2 wins/313 points
- Michael Conti, 2 wins/296 points
- Casey Kirwan, 1 win/364 points
- Matt Bussa, 1 win/363 points
- Mitchell deJong, 1 win/310 points
- Graham Bowlin, 1 win/309 points
- Femi Olatunbosun, 1 win/307 points
- Garrett Lowe, 1 win/277 points
- Bobby Zalenski, 332 points
The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs begin in two weeks at Bristol Motor Speedway. Broadcast coverage begins on Tuesday, September 13 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