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deJong preserves playoff hopes with eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series win at Watkins Glen

Over the past few years of eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series competition, 23XI’s Mitchell deJong and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bobby Zalenski have established themselves as the drivers to beat on the series’ handful of road-course events each year. With the shift to a “win-and-you’re-in” playoff format, at least one member of that duo could usually come into the year feeling confident about his spot in the 10-driver title campaign.

But current Charlotte Phoenix driver Graham Bowlin flipped the script at Watkins Glen International last year by holding off the duo, and Stewart-Haas eSports’ Steven Wilson dominated this year’s Road America regular-season round and held off Zalenski in the All-Star Race from Chicago two weeks ago. So it was down to deJong and Zalenski in Tuesday night’s return to Watkins Glen for what may be the final playoff spot – and when the dust settled, it was deJong grabbing hold of it with his first win of the season.

Zalenski would qualify on the pole ahead of Bowlin, but deJong would cut through the chaos of the first lap to get into second place and shadow the leader. On Lap 13 of 45, deJong would finally make his move, and it turned out to be the winning one. Zalenski’s attempted undercut in pit stops after the halfway point of the race didn’t allow him to reclaim the lead, and deJong would go on to take the victory by more than six seconds, with Zalenski, Bowlin, Wilson, and XSET’s Casey Kirwan completing the top five.

But the first lap shifted the playoff picture dramatically beyond just giving deJong an opportunity, with bubble drivers Zack Novak of Rise Esports and Zalenski’s JGR teammate Ray Alfalla getting caught up in carnage that would cause them to fall off the current playoff grid at race’s end. The duo would finish 25th and 36th, respectively, knocking Alfalla and his win out of the top 20 and allowing the winless Zalenski to pass Novak for the 10th and final spot on the grid by points. Zalenski, Novak, and Jim Beaver eSports’ Blake Reynolds are separated by just six points for the final spot heading into the regular-season finale at Darlington; if there’s not a new winner, the best finisher among the trio has a good shot at taking the final spot.

eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Watkins Glen International were as follows:

FIN. ST. NO. NAME TEAM LAPS INTERVAL LED BEST PTS
1 4 23 Mitchell deJong 23XI 45 0.000 33 1:08.517 40
2 1 18 Bobby Zalenski Joe Gibbs Racing 45 -6.846 12 1:08.661 35
3 2 48 Graham A. Bowlin Charlotte Phoenix 45 -9.868 0 1:09.223 34
4 7 10 Steven Wilson Stewart Haas Racing 45 -10.416 0 1:08.894 33
5 10 95 Casey Kirwan XSET 45 -16.011 0 1:08.877 32
6 3 19 Vicente Salas Williams eSports 45 -16.770 0 1:09.413 31
7 6 25 Nick Ottinger William Byron eSports 45 -17.117 0 1:09.534 30
8 8 41 Dylan Duval Stewart Haas Racing 45 -23.216 0 1:08.982 29
9 23 8 Michael Conti JR Motorsports 45 -28.183 0 1:09.428 28
10 12 40 Dylan Ault Letarte Esports 45 -28.344 0 1:09.571 27
11 15 55 Allen Boes Space Station Gaming 45 -31.341 0 1:08.956 26
12 11 21 Garrett Lowe Wood Brothers Racing 45 -32.314 0 1:09.307 25
13 13 15 Blake Reynolds Jim Beaver eSports 45 -33.602 0 1:09.600 24
14 38 46 Jimmy Mullis Rise eSports 45 -34.362 0 1:09.587 23
15 14 24 Cody Byus Mode Motorsports 45 -35.117 0 1:09.755 22
16 9 97 Logan Clampitt William Byron eSports 45 -35.779 0 1:09.229 21
17 21 31 Garrett Manes Elliot Sadler eSports 45 -38.198 0 1:09.165 20
18 26 4 Ryan Luza XSET 45 -44.148 0 1:10.029 19
19 17 3 Corey Vincent Team Dillon Esports 45 -46.570 0 1:09.562 18
20 16 75 Matt Bussa Mode Motorsports 45 -47.085 0 1:08.970 17
21 27 33 Taylor Hurst Team Dillon Esports 45 -47.943 0 1:09.063 16
22 20 36 Brian Mercurio Letarte Esports 45 -49.982 0 1:09.578 15
23 19 6 Parker Retzlaff Roush Fenway Keselowski 45 -50.565 0 1:10.597 14
24 18 17 Kaden Honeycutt Roush Fenway Keselowski 45 -54.285 0 1:09.207 13
25 36 5 Zack Novak Rise eSports 45 -56.873 0 1:09.845 12
26 40 2 Liam Brotherton Elliot Sadler eSports 45 -58.651 0 1:09.238 11
27 29 43 Kollin Keister Charlotte Phoenix 45 -1:00.312 0 1:09.434 10
28 5 45 Keegan Leahy 23XI 45 -1:01.572 0 1:09.522 9
29 30 16 Blade Whitt Wood Brothers Racing 45 -1:08.818 0 1:09.455 8
30 25 79 Femi Olatunbosun Clint Bowyer Racing 44 -1L 0 1:09.710 7
31 33 9 Michael Guest Jim Beaver eSports 44 -1L 0 1:09.916 6
32 22 20 Donovan Strauss Williams eSports 44 -1L 0 1:09.385 5
33 35 54 Kyle Peddle Space Station Gaming 44 -1L 0 1:09.170 4
34 31 69 Collin Bowden eRacr 43 -2L 0 1:09.899 3
35 32 88 Briar LaPradd JR Motorsports 33 DNF 0 1:09.646 2
36 28 51 Ray Alfalla Joe Gibbs Racing 24 -21L 0 1:09.908 1
37 37 14 Nickolas Shelton Clint Bowyer Racing 19 Disqualified 0 1:11.431 1
38 24 42 Darik Bourdeau eRacr 17 DNF 0 1:09.818 1
39 39 12 Derek Justis iRacing Motorsports 16 DNF 0 1:11.604 1
40 34 7 Malik Ray iRacing Motorsports 10 DNF 0 1:10.424 1

 

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid after 13 rounds is as follows:

  1. Steven Wilson, 2 wins/347 points
  2. Nick Ottinger, 2 wins/312 points
  3. Michael Conti, 2 wins/292 points
  4. Casey Kirwan, 1 win/356 points
  5. Matt Bussa, 1 win/334 points
  6. Graham Bowlin, 1 win/309 points
  7. Mitchell deJong, 1 win/290 points
  8. Femi Olatunbosun, 1 win/280 points
  9. Garrett Lowe, 1 win/270 points
  10. Bobby Zalenski, 298 points

The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series regular season continues in two weeks at Darlington Raceway. Broadcast coverage begins on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green before the 9 p.m. ET green flag. Live coverage of all the action can be seen at enascar.com/live.

For more information on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit www.enascar.com or www.iracing.com/enascar. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.

Images via Justin Melillo