eNASCAR Coke: Bobby Zalenski back on top after chaotic event in Richmond

Tuesday night (March 28) saw the return of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, the premier oval racing esports series featuring 40 of the top oval drivers from the iRacing sim, competing at one of the United States’ premier short-track circuits in Richmond, Virginia.

While the best of the best had their share of run-ins, including the eventual winner and another competitor, there was some classic short track battles throughout the night in the fourth race of the season. Ultimately, feelings were certainly hurt, but Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) stood above it all as fourth different winners of the 2023 season.

After the field was forced into single-file reboots, it essentially sealed the deal for the seventh-year veteran of the series. Zalenski was able to hold off last season’s Richmond winner Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) for his 12th win in the career series, bringing him up to fifth all-time with 2021 series champion Keegan Leahy (23XI Racing).

ZALENSKI: “THE CAR WAS A ROCKET”

Starting from pole position, Zalenski quickly showed his pace in the rest of the field, pulling away by more than 2.5 seconds over second-place finisher Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports).

A lap 30 warning caused the field to pit stops and similar to last season’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway, Zalenski took the lead and came out around the corner, seemingly beating Ottinger but denying it for the restart received second place.

For the next 20 or so laps, Zalenski worked feverishly to make ends meet. He had Ottinger in front, Conti behind him and another member of Team Conti in Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports) right behind. Leahy, one of Zalenski’s Coanda Esports teammates, sat behind in fifth place and was unable to make any gains.

Shortly before the second warning flag was raised on lap 60, Zalenski was able to regain the lead thanks to his place on the track against the virtual scoring loops. He and the majority of the frontrunners came on service, but there were a handful who chose track position. That didn’t work out so well.

Strategists included Collin Bowden (eRacr), Michael Guest (23XI Racing) and Tyler Garey (Kanaan Esports). Zalenski knew his best game was to move forward as quickly as possible and, unfortunately, that meant using the chrome horn for Garey.

Garey and Zalenski brought out the fourth caution of the evening, ultimately no concern for Zalenski but it shattered any chances Garey had of a good finish. On the restarts that followed, Zalenski was able to bypass the other two and take the lead from Bowden with plenty of time left.

Conti kept Zalenski honest throughout the show. The Milwaukee Mile winner wanted his second straight win on the Action Track, and given the right circumstances at each restart, he could potentially have succeeded.

Eventually, the race fell into disarray and restarts went in single file. From there, Zalenski’s task of maintaining the lead becomes exponentially easier.

YELLOW FEVER MAGIC SINGLE FILE RESTART SYNDROME

There were nine cautions in the 130-lap event for 40 laps of pacing. Most of the warnings came after lap 50. Eventually, race officials executed restarts in single file for the rest of the night.

The reason for the single file reboots had everything to do with the lack of green flag racing. With the second warning falling just before lap 60 and the eighth warning falling before lap 100, iRacing race officials decided to change the restarts to single file.

With the Conga line of cars now taking the green flag, the likelihood of restart wrecks was reduced, allowing the race to return to a slightly green pace before the end.

Before the end there was a warning that stacked the field one last time. The resulting restart saw a number of drivers suffer a 4x incident due to a giant investigation entering Turn 3 ahead of the green. However, the race remained flawless until the end, so that Zalenski drove to victory.

Veterans shine on the action track

Unlike the race two weeks ago where many of the rookie contenders shone under the stars, this week saw a much more experienced presence at the front of the field.

Coanda and Team Conti made up the entirety of the top 5 Tuesday night, some of the longest-running entrants in the series, which also included a trio of series champions.

Even after that, another veteran rider in Garrett Lowe (Jim Beaver Esports) shook things up for a top-five finish. While both Donovan Strauss (Williams Esports) and Ryan Doucette (Pittsburgh Knights) could be considered as sophomore drivers, they’ve both been in the sim for quite a while.

It wasn’t until Michael Cosey Jr. (Front Row Motorsports) finished ninth for the first rookie to emerge and even then, short distances are Cosey’s thing, something he’s excelled at in top leagues outside of the Coke Series for many years. Rounding out the top 10, Matt Bussa (William Byron Esports) proved once again just how much experience was on display.

Ultimately, however, the night belonged to Zalenski, who turned out the lights last season at Phoenix Raceway, a similar, albeit slightly larger, track. Talk about putting experience to good use.

RACE 4 AT THE RICHMOND RACEWAY – TOP 10 RESULTS

FIN STA AUTOMOBILE # DRIVER TEAM INTERVAL LEDs PTS
1 1 18 Bobby Salensky Joe Gibbs Racing 130 ROUNDS 95 40
2 9 8th Michael Conti JR Motorsport +0.904 sec 0 35
3 10 46 Jimmy Mullis Esports Rise +1,280 sec 0 34
4 3 25 Nick Ottinger William Byron Esports +1,432 sec 23 33
5 2 23 Keegan Leahy 23XI race +1,601 sec 0 32
6 12 15 Garret Lowe Jim Beaver Esports +2.233 sec 0 31
7 28 51 Donovan Strauss Williams Esports +2.671 sec 0 30
8th 14 77 Ryan Doucette Pittsburgh Knights +2.768 sec 0 29
9 18 38 Michael Cosey Jr Motorsport in the front row +2.782 sec 0 28
10 25 97 Matt Bussa William Byron Esports +3.595 sec 0 27

PLAYOFF SET AFTER RACE 4 AT RICHMOND RACEWAY

position # DRIVER TEAM PTS BEH WINS T5 T10
1 8th Michael Conti JR Motorsport 119 WIN 1 2 2
2 33 Tucker Minter [R] Team Dillon Esports 105 WIN 1 1 1
3 18 Bobby Salensky Joe Gibbs Racing 104 WIN 1 1 2
4 25 Nick Ottinger William Byron Esports 122 +36 0 2 3
5 48 Graham A Bowlin Charlotte Phoenix 114 +28 0 2 3
6 38 Michael Cosey Jr [R] Motorsport in the front row 109 +23 0 2 3
7 23 Keegan Leahy 23XI race 93 +7 0 1 1
8th 41 DylanDuval Stewart Haas Esports 88 +2 0 0 2
9 3 Jordy Lopez Jr [R] Team Dillon Esports 87 +1 0 0 0
10 42 Collin Cone eRacr 86 +0 0 1 1
10 34 All boos Motorsport in the front row 86 -0 0 0 2
12 95 Casey Kirwan XSET 85 -1 0 1 2
12 66 Tyler Garey [R] Canaan Esports 85 -1 0 0 2

Steven Wilson: 24th in points with 1 win – Atlanta | The tiebreaker for 10th place would result in the highest score

TEAM SCORING AFTER RACE 4 AT RICHMOND RACEWAY

position cars TEAM PTS BEH WINS T5 T10
1 34 | 38 Motorsport in the front row 195 — 0 2 5
2 25 | 97 William Byron Esports 193 -2 0 2 4
3 3 | 33 Team Dillon Esports 192 -3 1 1 1
4 8 | 88 JR Motorsport 178 -17 1 2 2
5 23 | 45 23XI race 172 -23 0 2 2
6 11 | 66 Canaan Esports 162 -33 0 0 3
7 10 | 41 Stewart Haas Esports 155 -40 1 1 3
8th 2 | 77 Pittsburgh Knights 149 -46 0 0 2
9 46 | 75 Esports Rise 144 -51 0 1 2
10 43 | 48 Charlotte Phoenix 142 -53 0 2 3

Joe Gibbs Racing: 13th in points with 1 win – Richmond

BOX RESULT

  • Nine warnings for 40 laps in 130 laps completed
  • Four lead changes with three drivers
  • Most laps led: No. 18 Bobby Zalenski (95 laps led)
  • Fastest Lap: No. 3 Jordy Lopez Jr. (Lap 103, 21.953s)
  • Hardcharger: No. 75 Zack Novak (38th started, 13th finished | +25 places)
  • Unlucky: No. 14 Joey Brown (11th started, 34th finished | -23 places)
  • Least Incidents: Four riders at 0x – #8, #46, #95, #97
  • Most Incidents: #14 Joey Brown (22x)
  • Rookie of the Race: No. 38 Michael Cosey Jr (9th place)
  • Team of the Race: #25 / #97 William Byron Esports (60pts)
  • Winning Club: California

UP NEXT: HOLD ON YOUR MEATBALLS, MONZA IS NEXT

Ottinger takes the points lead, Conti takes the lead at the top of the playoff grid, Front Row Motorsports narrowly holds onto its Team Championship lead, and the two youngest champions in Leahy and Casey Kirwan (XSET) are finding themselves closer to the Back at the top of the standings after four races, there’s nothing like a wildcard to shake things up even more than was already done in 2023.

Leading up to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on April 11, this will be the first international event in series history as the eNASCAR stars contest their first street course event of the season. The chicanes are over, but the chaos is definitely on the way.

Things get started with the eNASCAR Countdown to Green, which begins Tuesday, April 11 at 8:30pm EDT / 1:30am BST. The race itself starts at 9pm EDT / 2am BST. Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless, Alan Cavanna, Camille Salazar Hadaway and James Pike are expected to be in attendance.

The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on iRacing’s social channels.

2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE

RACE DATE RAIL ROUND
COLLISION Jan 31 eNASCAR Clash at LA Coliseum | Winner: CASEY KIRWAN 20/40/70
1 14 Feb Daytona International Speedway | Winner: TUCKER MINTER 80
2 Feb 28 The Milwaukee Mile | Winner: MICHAEL CONTI 100
3 the 14th of March Atlanta Motor Speedway | Winner: STEVEN WILSON 100
4 28 Mar Richmond Racecourse | Winner: BOBBY ZALENSKI 130
5 Apr 11 Monza National Autodrome 30
6 Apr 18 Talladega Superspeedway 70
7 2.May Las Vegas Motor Speedway 100
8th May 16th Darlington race track 120
9 30th May Charlotte Motor Speedway 100
10 June 13th World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway 120
11 June 27th Watkins Glen International 45
12 July 11th Nashville Superspeedway 100
13 July 25th New Hampshire Motor Speedway 101
14 Aug 1 Pocono Racetrack 60
15 – PO1 15th of August Michigan International Speedway 60
16-PO2 29th August Dover Motor Speedway 120
17-PO3 12 Sept Phoenix racetrack 120
18-C4 26 Sept Homestead Miami Speedway 100

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