Ready for something new? Before NASCAR – the real cars – take to the Daytona International Speedway Road Course for the first time this weekend, the stars of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will give it a go for themselves Tuesday night on the virtual track.
Race 12 of 20
Daytona International Speedway – Road Course
Daytona Beach, FL
3.57-mile road course
Previous winners at Daytona Road Course
Well, here’s the thing: like the NASCAR Cup Series, the Coca-Cola iRacing Series has never visited the Daytona Road Course. And, like the NASCAR Cup Series, the track was a late addition to the schedule, replacing Watkins Glen.
So, there have been no previous winners at the Daytona Road Course. The driver to take the checkered flag Tuesday will go down in history as the inaugural race winner.
Last year’s road courses: Bobby Zalenski, the untouchable
Since we just covered how there’s no previous races at the Daytona Road Course – and, by a giant leap of logic, no event last year – we’ll look instead to last year’s road-course races.
The two road races, Sonoma Raceway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, were simply Bobby Zalenski’s playground. Zalenski started from the pole in both races and led every lap; he’s simply racing on another level.
Coincidentally, the top three finishers – Zalenski, Michael Conti, and Nick Ottinger – remained the same in both races. Logan Clampitt and Keegan Leahy swapped fourth and fifth places in the two events, too, making the front of the field look quite familiar when the field makes right-hand turns.
Last race: Casey Kirwan wins at Michigan
Just two days ahead of his 21st birthday, Denny Hamlin Racing’s Casey Kirwan took the second checkered flag of his career two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway, making DHR the first team in 2020 to place both its cars in Victory Lane, joining teammate Keegan Leahy.
Given Kirwan’s sponsor, Jordan, and car number, it felt quite appropriate for the No. 23 to lead 23 laps en route to victory.
The win moved Kirwan within striking distance of the playoffs, which will begin in five races.
2. TIME. WINNER. Unbelievable night. Finally got @DHR_eSports @dennyhamlin @Jumpman23 into victory lane. This is more like it. Perfect timing for my 21st birthday on thursday. We were 60 points out of the TOP 20 in points 5 races ago. We're now 32 points out of the playoffs. ?? pic.twitter.com/aEYVdKqpZ5
— Casey Kirwan (@CaseyKirwan23) July 29, 2020
Points picture after 11 races
Five races remain until the playoffs; the top eight is far from solidified – though, the 32-point difference from Ray Alfalla in sixth and Nick Ottinger in seventh gives the top half-dozen a bit of breathing room through a stretch of challenging races ahead.
1) Keegan Leahy, 352 points
2) Ryan Luza, -14
3) Bobby Zalenski, -15
4) Michael Conti, -26
5) Garrett Lowe, -27
6) Ray Alfalla, -33
7) Nick Ottinger, -65
8) Chris Shearburn, -75
9) Graham Bowlin, -75 (0 points from eighth)
10) Logan Clampitt, -79 (4 points from eighth)
The top eight drivers in points after the regular-season finale on Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway will make the playoffs. The series champion will win $100,000.
What to expect
If the last four road-course races are any indication, it’ll be a walk in the park for Bobby Zalenski, who’s undefeated in road racing since 2017. He’s never lost a road-course race since joining the series, so he’s the clear-cut favorite in our Power Rankings.
That being said, the Daytona Road Course is a different animal. It’s new to the Coca-Cola Series schedule, and the latest track modifications are new to iRacing as a whole – everybody’s going in with high hopes and a clean slate.
Michael Conti is hungry for a victory, and he’s shown exceptional speed on road courses throughout his career. Likewise, veteran Nick Ottinger’s always a contender when they turn left and right.
Or, we could watch a strategy-minded driver like Jarl Teien put themselves in position for a win at a track where the playbook is empty. Perhaps someone like Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Graham Bowlin – who, for once, has the same number of starts at a track as the rest of the field – could take his first-career checkered flag.
Whatever happens, it’ll be a fun race to watch, and maybe even show what real-world NASCAR drivers might expect racing at the Daytona Road Course for the first time this weekend. We already know three real-world drivers – William Byron, Chase Briscoe, and Ty Majeski – will be hanging out for the recently-announced iRacing Happy Hour Wednesday.
How to watch
Round 12 of the season airs live Tuesday, August 11 at 9 p.m. ET.
Catch the racing action streamed live: