The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff grid is set after Bobby Zalenski survived a late-race restart at Darlington Raceway. Ten drivers from 10 different teams will now compete for $100,000 over the course of the season’s final four races.
Reigning champion Keegan Leahy missed the playoffs after a late-race strategy call to stay out on used tires failed to pay off. Leahy was chasing down Zalenski with under five laps to go and looked poised to make a pass for the win and the coveted final playoff spot when a caution flew.
As Zalenski led the field down pitlane, Leahy darted out of line from second and stayed out. One restart and a green-white-checkered later, Leahy had dropped out of the playoff picture while Zalenski survived a two-tire call from playoff outsider Blake Reynolds to secure the 10th and final spot.
“I’ve just always been able to try my best when I really need to and inch it out,” Zalenski said. “In 2017, I barely made the final four on points, in 2019, I won the last race when I was like 50 points out of the cutoff for the final four. I just know, it’s time to dig, I have to be my best.
“I felt really bad [during] practice, but I was going to do everything I could and that was one of the best races I’ve run in terms of pacing and saving the tires the right way and staying up front in case a caution came out at the end. I could go on and on but in moments like this, you’re going to see the best me.”
Stewart-Haas eSports’s Steven Wilson will enter the playoffs as the number one seed as the only driver with three wins on the season. This year has been a breakthrough season for Wilson, who finished last year 13th in points.
Having a spot in this year’s playoffs is nice and “definitely nicer than last year being good and not having a win,” Wilson said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Wilson is targeting a win at Bristol, the first of three races in round one of the playoffs. If that can’t happen, the plan is to have a clean Talladega and play the points game when the series arrives in Homestead-Miami, the final race before the final four in Phoenix.
The rest of the field playoff grid consists of 2020 series champion Nick Ottinger; 2014 series champion Micheal Conti; fan-favorite Casey Kirwan; Mode Motorsports’ Matt Bussa; road course experts Graham Bowlin and Mitchell DeJong; Daytona winner Femi Olatunbosun; and Garrett Lowe from Wood Brothers Racing.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs begin on September 13 at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.