Bobby Zalenski held off Mitchell deJong at a virtual Darlington Raceway on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the championship race of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
Darlington was the first of four playoff races, with Zalenski becoming the first of four drivers who will battle for the year-long title on Oct. 12 at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway.
Races at a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 14 and a virtual Talladega Superspeedway on Sept. 28 will set the rest of the championship field.
deJong, in the No. 23 Toyota, nearly caught Zalenski, in the No. 83 Chevrolet, on the last lap of the green-white-checkered finish, but Zalenski wouldn’t let deJong pass on the inside at the final turn.
Zalenski is a teammate of deJong, who was the race’s polesitter. The winner credited his fuel strategy that allowed him to stay in front before a late yellow flag.
“I can’t believe that happened,” said Zalenski, of Fresno, Calif. “I don’t usually get those kind of strategy calls to go my way. ... I’m glad it was really clean between me and Mitchell, but I expected that.
“Mitchell certainly deserved to win this race. He did an amazing job. But, hell, I’ve lost races like he’s lost races, so it’s great to get one my way.”
“I’ll be honest, I’m really heartbroken right now,” deJong, of Temecula, Calif., said post-race. “I felt like we really had a good handle on the race and everything was going smooth. We had some really good passes, especially at the end ... and it looked like we were going to get there right before the yellow on the (drivers who were saving fuel).
“That’s just how NASCAR is sometimes, kind of the random factor. It bit us today. It was a really split strategy on what to do, save fuel or go for the full push, and we chose the latter.”
--Field Level Media