Talladega marks the final chance for two playoff drivers to advance to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship race. A win for one of these 10 will guarantee they’ll race for $100,000 on Oct. 12 in Texas. While we could put all these names into a blender and pour them out into a sim-racer smoothie — i.e., anything can happen at Talladega — we’ve ranked the playoff drivers who are most poised for success Tuesday.
Graham Bowlin, Stewart-Haas eSports
Rank: 10 (-1)
The odds seem stacked against Graham Bowlin’s championship hopes. The series sophomore enters Talladega 11 points out of the top four, and, coincidentally, he’s never finished better than 11th in four superspeedway races.
Logan Clampitt, William Byron eSports
Rank: 9 (-3)
Logan Clampitt is entering Talladega slightly comfortable on points, but if there’s anybody who knows what can happen to a “safe” points cushion at Talladega, it’s Clampitt, who missed the playoffs last year after an unfortunate crash eroded his points buffer in the regular-season finale. While Clampitt has had some success at Daytona (three top 10s), his 32nd-place average finish at ’Dega might leave him feeling worried.
Matt Bussa, Mode Motorsports
Rank: 8 (-3)
In 13 superspeedway races, Matt Bussa has a subpar 22.3 average finish. But that’s not to say his championship hopes are doomed. He’s just eight points out of the top four, meaning it’s certainly possible he could run a smart race to advance on points — or even nab a win.
Vicente Salas, Spacestation Gaming
Rank: 7 (–)
Vicente Salas will make his first Talladega start in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series with the most pressure he’s ever faced in a single race: win (or make up 15 points) or your rookie season is toast. Salas finished eighth in the Daytona season opener. No pressure, right?
Bob Bryant, Kligerman Sport
Rank: 6 (+4)
Bob Bryant is a distant 27 points out of the top four heading into the last race before Texas — he’ll almost certainly have to win Talladega to race for $100,000. The numbers suggest he could pull it off: He finished third in last year’s trip to ’Dega and scored a top five in last August’s Daytona race.
Jimmy Mullis, Richmond Raceway eSports
Rank: 5 (-1)
Twenty points out of the top four, the pressure is on for Jimmy Mullis. The Richmond Raceway eSports driver finished fifth after leading almost a third of last year’s Talladega race, which advanced him to the playoffs at the time. Another aggressive race could do the trick again.
Keegan Leahy, 23XI Racing
Rank: 4 (+4)
How about Keegan Leahy? In our last rankings, we said things looked bleak as he entered Bristol 10th out of 10 playoff drivers. He responded with a flag-to-flag win from the pole, and now he’ll race for a championship after a pressure-free Talladega race. It’s a good thing, too: The 2020 Daytona winner has had dreadful results at Talladega: a 30th-place average start and a 34.5 average finish.
Mitchell deJong, 23XI Racing
Rank: 3 (-1)
The Daytona polesitter raced to a quiet 11th-place finish in his first and only trip to a superspeedway to kick off his rookie season. With a 15-point cushion over the top four, deJong is positioned well to advance to the Championship 4, provided he avoids the typical Talladega chaos. Whatever happens, he’s put together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in recent memory.
Michael Conti, JR Motorsports
Rank: 2 (+1)
Michael Conti is entering Talladega in a virtual must-win situation: he’s ranked last in the playoffs and 34 points out of the top four. If there’s anybody who can follow Keegan Leahy’s demonstration of how to dig out of a hole from his Bristol win, it’s Conti, this year’s Daytona winner. He knows how to make it happen in the draft. (Maybe it’s got something to do with his team owner, whose last name is Earnhardt.)
Bobby Zalenski, Letarte Esports
Rank: 1 (–)
Bobby Zalenski’s already locked into Texas by virtue of his Darlington win, but why would he take it easy at ’Dega? The 2020 Daytona winner finished fourth and seventh in his last two Talladega races, and ninth or better in the last five Daytona outings. In other words, draft-master Zalenski is poised to play kingmaker and influence the two remaining Championship 4 spots — or maybe even grab another win himself.
Catch the third round of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Playoffs at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 28 at eNASCAR.com/live.