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Wilson Locks Up Top eNASCAR Playoff Seed With Darlington Victory; Zalenski Earns Final Playoff Spot

Stewart-Haas eSports’ Steven Wilson ensured that he’ll enter this year’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs with the top spot on the grid after taking the checkered flag in Tuesday night’s regular-season finale from Darlington Raceway. Wilson took two tires for track position going into the first overtime restart, grabbed the lead before another yellow flew and pulled away in the second overtime to earn his third win of the season and break a tie with multiple other drivers for the most wins this year.

The 14th round of the season had been a must-win event for numerous drivers looking to secure the final playoff spot, including polesitter and defending series champion Keegan Leahy. To his outside on the front row would be Joe Gibbs Racing driver Bobby Zalenski, the top driver on points who would stand to advance if there wasn’t another new race winner. Lurking further down the field were a host of drivers in the top 20 in points who could join Leahy in advancing with a win, while Zalenski’s JGR teammate and Nashville winner Ray Alfalla would put an end to the entire situation if he could return to the top 20 in series points.

Both Leahy and Zalenski would lead laps early on in a race slowed by just one caution near the halfway point. Zalenski and Wilson would each lead a chunk of laps in the second half of the race, but a hard-charging Leahy was closing on the lead before another caution flew with just a handful of laps to go.

Needing a victory, Leahy would stay out for track position, but only Elliott Sadler eSports’ Garrett Manes would join him out front on old tires. Wilson led a half dozen drivers, including Zalenski’s closest points challenger Blake Reynolds of Jim Beaver eSports, on two tires, while Zalenski would lead the four-tire drivers in ninth. If Leahy couldn’t hang on, Reynolds would have a shot of his own by either winning the race or gaining seven points on Zalenski. 

Unfortunately for Leahy, the track position gamble wouldn’t pay off. Wilson led a group of cars around the 23XI driver before a massive accident at the back of the field—one that would put the final nail in Alfalla’s hopes of getting back in the top 20, no less—caused a yellow flag before anyone could take the white flag. Without the tires to strike back, Leahy would pit under the ensuing yellow to remove himself from the battle as well.

With that, it was essentially down to Reynolds (restarting third) and Zalenski (fifth) for the transfer spot, as Wilson and eRacr’s Collin Bowden started up front for the final green flag. Wilson got a strong jump after the green, but Reynolds couldn’t clear Bowden as quickly and would have to settle for second. Zalenski would claw his way back to third, giving him the final playoff spot over Reynolds by just five points.

This year’s eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid sees drivers from 10 different teams represented, as well as two former series champions in William Byron eSports’ Nick Ottinger and JR Motorsports’ Michael Conti. However, just three of the top five teams in the team standings are in the playoffs; second place Jim Beaver eSports and fourth place Rise Esports each had both of their drivers in the top 15 in points, but neither was able to secure a victory.

eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series results from Darlington Raceway were as follows:

FIN. ST. NO. NAME TEAM LAPS INTERVAL LED BEST PTS
1 11 10 Steven Wilson Stewart Haas Racing 126 0.000 24 29.624 40
2 10 15 Blake Reynolds Jim Beaver eSports 126 -0.684 0 29.747 35
3 2 18 Bobby Zalenski Joe Gibbs Racing 126 -0.797 69 29.557 34
4 23 4 Ryan Luza XSET 126 -1.048 0 29.873 33
5 33 9 Michael Guest Jim Beaver eSports 126 -1.073 0 29.687 32
6 7 19 Vicente Salas Williams eSports 126 -1.226 0 29.758 31
7 22 69 Collin Bowden eRacr 126 -1.366 0 29.938 30
8 3 75 Matt Bussa Mode Motorsports 126 -1.457 0 29.783 29
9 28 42 Darik Bourdeau eRacr 126 -1.491 0 29.778 28
10 25 79 Femi Olatunbosun Clint Bowyer Racing 126 -1.713 0 29.962 27
11 29 43 Kollin Keister Charlotte Phoenix 126 -1.743 0 29.964 26
12 20 97 Logan Clampitt William Byron eSports 126 -1.819 0 29.917 25
13 24 36 Brian Mercurio Letarte Esports 126 -1.895 0 30.045 24
14 16 46 Jimmy Mullis Rise eSports 126 -2.094 0 29.825 23
15 8 41 Dylan Duval Stewart Haas Racing 126 -2.250 0 29.720 22
16 18 16 Blade Whitt Wood Brothers Racing 126 -2.241 0 29.530 21
17 14 23 Mitchell deJong 23XI 126 -2.394 0 29.858 20
18 34 31 Garrett Manes Elliot Sadler eSports 126 -2.615 0 29.972 19
19 27 20 Donovan Strauss Williams eSports 126 -2.723 0 29.984 18
20 38 14 Nickolas Shelton Clint Bowyer Racing 126 -2.721 0 30.035 17
21 1 45 Keegan Leahy 23XI 126 -2.915 33 29.533 16
22 30 6 Parker Retzlaff Roush Fenway Keselowski 126 -2.974 0 29.960 15
23 5 3 Corey Vincent Team Dillon Esports 126 -3.169 0 29.737 14
24 15 33 Taylor Hurst Team Dillon Esports 126 -3.251 0 29.509 13
25 4 2 Liam Brotherton Elliot Sadler eSports 126 -3.451 0 29.485 12
26 12 88 Briar LaPradd JR Motorsports 126 -3.680 0 29.816 11
27 13 24 Cody Byus Mode Motorsports 126 -3.903 0 29.872 10
28 21 55 Allen Boes Space Station Gaming 126 -4.202 0 29.957 9
29 36 95 Casey Kirwan XSET 126 -15.363 0 30.074 8
30 26 21 Garrett Lowe Wood Brothers Racing 126 -20.950 0 29.430 7
31 17 40 Dylan Ault Letarte Esports 123 -3L 0 29.741 6
32 31 51 Ray Alfalla Joe Gibbs Racing 121 -5L 0 30.049 5
33 9 8 Michael Conti JR Motorsports 121 -5L 0 29.734 4
34 19 54 Kyle Peddle Space Station Gaming 120 DNF 0 29.844 3
35 32 5 Zack Novak Rise eSports 115 -11L 0 29.691 2
36 35 7 Malik Ray iRacing Motorsports 115 -11L 0 29.926 1
37 6 25 Nick Ottinger William Byron eSports 115 -11L 0 29.771 1
38 37 12 Derek Justis iRacing Motorsports 41 -85L 0 30.062 1

 

The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid is as follows:

  1. Steven Wilson, 3 wins/387 points
  2. Nick Ottinger, 2 wins/313 points
  3. Michael Conti, 2 wins/296 points
  4. Casey Kirwan, 1 win/364 points
  5. Matt Bussa, 1 win/363 points
  6. Mitchell deJong, 1 win/310 points
  7. Graham Bowlin, 1 win/309 points
  8. Femi Olatunbosun, 1 win/307 points
  9. Garrett Lowe, 1 win/277 points
  10. Bobby Zalenski, 332 points

The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs begin in two weeks at Bristol Motor Speedway. Broadcast coverage begins on Tuesday, Sept. 13 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