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Breaking down the Coca-Cola Series championship finalists


After a grueling eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, it’s down to four finalists competing for the 2020 championship and a winner-takes-all $100,000 prize Monday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Let’s break down both the cases for and against each of the four competitors before they face off Monday.

Bobby Zalenski

Zalenski Headshot

No. 83 Team VRS Chevrolet
Age: 25
Fresno, CA
https://twitter.com/bobbyzalenski

2020 stats:
3 wins (Daytona RC, Daytona, Charlotte Roval)
10 top 5s (leads all drivers)
14 top 10s (leads all drivers)

The case for: It’s been a very Bobby Zalenski season. The Team VRS driver has led the series in just about every statistical category and won the regular-season championship. He could have taken it easy during the playoffs after his finale-clinching annihilation on the field at the Charlotte Roval; instead, he followed up the win with two third-place finishes. He’s no slouch at Homestead, either; in four races, he has a 7.5 average finish.

The case against: While Zalenski’s had a lot of success this year, his three wins have come on unusual tracks: two road courses and a superspeedway. Of his eight career victories, six have come on road courses, one was at Daytona, and the other at Phoenix – no intermediate track wins. Zalenski’s been the guy to post solid finishes at the end of the day, but he’ll need a little bit more than that to bring home the big check at Homestead.

Ryan Luza

Ryan Luza Headshot Preview

No. 53 Williams Esports Ford
Age: 24
Cypress, TX
https://twitter.com/RyanLuza

2020 stats:
3 wins (Homestead, Bristol, Richmond)
6 top 5s
10 top 10s

2017 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion

The case for: It’s uncommon for the Coca-Cola iRacing Series to visit the same track twice in a season, but it’s happening this year at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The winner of the March race? Ryan Luza – the start of his early-season three-in-a-row tear. Luza also won the 2017 Homestead race, where he locked up the championship as a rookie. He’s a perennial threat, and despite some hiccups in the middle of the season, you don’t just luck into a spot in the Championship 4.

The case against: There’s a lot of talk about Luza’s three wins this season, but the results have been a little un-Luza-like otherwise. The nine bonus points from his three wins saved him from elimination after a crash at Texas, where he counted himself out after an early crash. He’s posted a dismal average finish of 19.9 in the second half of the season, down from 10.3 in the first 10 races. Luza will need to conjure up some early-season magic if he wants to become a two-time champion this year.

Nick Ottinger

Nick Ottinger Headshot Preview

No. 25 William Byron eSports Chevrolet
Age: 26
Claremont, NC
https://twitter.com/NickOttinger

2020 stats:
2 wins (Dover, Kansas)
8 top 5s
12 top 10s

The case for: If you believe in the power of momentum, look no further than Nick Ottinger, who’s riding a streak of eight consecutive finishes of seventh or better. The nine-year series veteran has yet to score a championship, but he’s positioned himself for his best shot yet after clinching with a win at Kansas. Of the four contenders, Ottinger’s scored the most wins at 16 – the second-most all-time.

The case against: Despite nine Homestead races under his belt, Ottinger’s never sealed the deal with a victory; in fact, his average finish in the last four Homestead races (17.5) is by far the worst of the four championship contenders. He was a non-factor in the spring Homestead race, and the stats suggest Ottinger’s strengths lie more in nontraditional race tracks: 11 of his 16 career wins have come on tracks other than the bread-and-butter 1.5-milers. He could still get the job done at Homestead, but he’ll have to win at a track that hasn’t been especially kind to him.

Michael Conti

Michael Conti Headshot Preview

No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Age: 23
Concord, NC
https://twitter.com/mikeconti5

2020 stats:
1 win (Texas)
7 top 5s
10 top 10s

2014 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion

The case for: We might have seen one of the gutsiest drives out of a racer in Michael Conti this week at Texas, who took the two-year, 37-race winless-streak monkey off his back while under the pressure of a must-win scenario. He’s proven he can get the job done in high-pressure situations, and there might be no pressure higher than a heads-up race with $100,000 on the line. Of the four championship contenders, Conti’s got the most experience under his belt, in terms of number of starts – something that could help him become the series’ only multi-time champion not named Ray Alfalla.

The case against: Like Ottinger, Conti’s never won at Homestead in his nine attempts – though he’s finished third three times. Aside from his recent win at Texas, he’s scored just one top-10 finish on 1.5-mile tracks in 2020 (Las Vegas). The consistency hasn’t quite been there throughout the season, whether by bad luck or by missing speed, and it’s unreasonable to expect him to pull out another Texas-like victory, looking purely at the numbers.

No matter what happens – whether there’s a new champion in Bobby Zalenski or Nick Ottinger, or Ryan Luza or Michael Conti score a second title – these drivers drove their hardest for 19 races to earn a spot in the championship race. They’re experts at their craft, and we’re expecting one heck of a show for $100,000 Monday.

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship race streams live at eNASCAR.com/live Monday (Nov. 2) at 8 p.m. ET.