After qualifying for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series’ debut visit to Circuit of the Americas, the stage was finally set for a proper battle for the win on a road course event. Letarte Esports’ Bobby Zalenski, the dominant force on these circuits for multiple years, finally fell to another driver in qualifying, 23XI’s Mitchell deJong. The duo would share the front row coming to the green flag and, most likely, battle it out for 34 laps on the 20-turn Texas circuit.
Turn one, however, had other plans.
In the rush to the sharp uphill lefthander, defending series champion Nick Ottinger of William Byron eSports made contact with Zalenski, spinning the latter and setting off a chain reaction that scrambled most of the field. Of course, that didn’t include deJong, who steered clear of the chaos and never looked back, leading every lap and extending a lead of more than 17 seconds over Richmond Raceway eSports’ Jimmy Mullis at race’s end.
The win was historically significant for two reasons. First, it meant that the long-standing series record of seven different winners to start a season, set during the inaugural 2010 campaign, was finally broken. Second, deJong, who won the 2014 X Games Rallycross Lites gold medal at this track, joins Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona and Josh Berry at Martinsville as drivers to have won in both eNASCAR and major real-world racing at the same track.
In a dramatic shuffle of the running order for most of the season, none of the top 10 finishers at COTA were previous race winners so far in 2021. Stewart-Haas eSports’ Graham Bowlin completed the podium, while Zalenski charged back from 19th after his spin to secure fourth place in spite of sustaining damage in the first-lap chaos.
Full results from Tuesday’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race at Circuit of the Americas were as follows:
|3||4||10||Graham A. Bowlin||Ford||34||-23.242||0||2:09.829||34|
|14||13||4||Ryan Michael Luza||Ford||34||-57.639||0||2:10.668||23|
|36||37||29||Zack Nichols||Ford||33||-1 L||0||2:12.456||1|
|37||39||37||Derek Justis||Chevrolet||33||-1 L||0||2:13.237||1|
|38||28||51||Ray Alfalla||Toyota||22||-12 L||0||2:12.512||1|
|39||40||47||Brian Schoenburg||Chevrolet||13||-21 L||0||2:18.903||1|
|40||35||1||Ashton Crowder||Toyota||3||-31 L||0||1|
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid through eight races is as follows:
- Keegan Leahy, 1 win, 231 points
- Logan Clampitt, 1 win, 206 points
- Michael Conti, 1 win, 186 points
- Chris Shearburn, 1 win, 183 points
- Ryan Luza, 1 win, 164 points
- Vicente Salas, 1 win, 159 points
- Bob Bryant, 1 win, 159 points
- Mitchell deJong, 1 win, 157 points
- Michael Guest, 190 points
- Corey Vincent, 182 points
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series returns to action next Tuesday for the Coca-Cola 300, the longest race of the season, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. As always, coverage begins with iRacing Countdown to Green at 8:30PM ET, with the racing action picking up at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live and iRacing’s social media channels. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iRacing.com.
Images via Justin Melillo