Graham Bowlin held off Bobby Zalenski and Mitchell DeJong to earn his first career eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, prevailing Tuesday at a virtual Watkins Glen International.
The series has featured 12 winners over the first 13 events. Bowlin had been the highest-ranked driver in the season point standings without a victory, so the Tuesday result seals his spot in the playoffs.
DeJong bumped Bowlin on the last lap, but Bowlin maintained his cool en route to the checkered flag.
Bowlin, in the No. 10 Ford, topped Zalenski, in the No. 83 Chevrolet, by 0.754 seconds, never leading by more than one second. DeJong, in the No. 23 Toyota, came in third. Steve Wilson, in the No. 17 Ford, and Nick Ottinger, in the No. 25 Chevrolet, claimed fourth and fifth place, respectively.
“It feels awesome,” said Bowlin, who is from Houston. “All the hard work going into this, and I feel like I’m sweating out here. It was a really hard race. The pressure was on all race. I couldn’t really set my pace because I didn’t want someone to get around on me and try to drive it up the inside.”
Regarding the race’s finish, Bowlin said, “It was just crazy. He flipped a switch the last run. I can’t believe I held him off.”
Looking ahead, he added, “We work all year to make the playoffs. ... I usually perform (better) under pressure. ... I’m just glad that we secured the win and we’re in the playoffs.”
DeJong, from Temecula, Calif., got off to a poor start before recovering.
“It was kind of a game of who’s not going to make a mistake,” he said. “As you guys have seen, the times are so close here and everyone’s done a really good job, put a lot of prep in, it seems. ...
“I was really stoked that a couple of laps after we were able to get back into fourth. That was really crazy. Some hectic moves. ...
“That was probably one of the most fun runs I’ve had. ... Knowing that you are at a tire disadvantage and having to save a little bit to try to make a run at the end was crazy, and the battle we had, it was really down to the wire. Obviously, it didn’t really work out. We made a really good attempt at getting it at the end, but Graham did a great job, held strong.”
The next eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series event is scheduled for Aug. 17 at a virtual Michigan International Speedway.
--Field Level Media