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Doubling down at Daytona: Zalenski wins again

Bobby Zalenski’s been unbeatable at Daytona International Speedway in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, no matter the configuration.

Zalenski, who won his fifth straight road-course race two weeks ago at the Daytona Road Course, edged Eric J. Smith in a nail-biter of a finish at Daytona’s familiar superspeedway layout Tuesday.

For the second race in a row, Zalenski qualified his No. 83 Team VRS Chevrolet on the pole — the ninth of his career, tying him with Coca-Cola iRacing Series standout Keegan Leahy for fourth all-time.

Zalenski Wins Daytona August Oval Enascar 2020
Zalenski burns out after winning at Daytona.

Leahy, the points leader, started off on a rough note when storms in Nova Scotia interrupted connectivity for both he and Dylan Duval before cars rolled off the grid.

Three-wide racing was the theme of the evening with no lane faster than the others and a draft-heavy car that allowed for impressive moves in the pack.

A Lap 22 incident — the ‘Big One’ — snarled the hopes of many contenders when Justin Bolton’s Stewart-Haas eSports ride drifted into the outside wall. Among the playoff contenders involved were Ryan Luza, Ray Alfalla, Michael Conti, Chris Shearburn and Jimmy Mullis — a costly night with just a handful of races until the playoffs begin.

The battle for the race lead was mostly fought between Zalenski and Nick Ottinger of William Byron eSports, who combined led 82 of the race’s 100 laps.

A late-race crash involving Chris Overland and Jake Nichols set up the field for a 20-lap sprint to the finish — and somehow, despite three- and sometimes four-wide racing multiple rows deep throughout the field, the sim racing pros kept it together all the way to the checkered flag.

On the final lap, Caine Cook and Smith mounted charges on the two outside lanes, but neither could best Zalenski’s grap on the bottom lane; Zalenski beat Smith — the birthday boy — to the line by just 0.029 seconds.

Zalenski’s win, the seventh of his career, moves him to sixth on the Coca-Cola iRacing Series all-time wins list, tying him with Leahy. It was Zalenski’s second win on an oval, his first since Phoenix in April 2017.

The victory — combined with bad luck for Leahy — moves Zalenski to the top of the championship points. Meanwhile, the picture for the eighth and final playoff spot changed; Alfalla dropped to the final spot, 15 points over Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Graham Bowlin. The top eight drivers following the Oct. 1 regular-season finale at Talladega Superspeedway move to the playoffs with a chance at winning a six-figure payday.

For everybody in pursuit of Zalenski, they’ll be glad to race at a track that’s not called Daytona International Speedway.

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series continues its 2020 season in two weeks at Darlington Raceway.


Daytona August Race Results Enascar 2020