Dramatic win sends Bobby Zalenski to eNASCAR’s Championship 4

Bobby Zalenski earned a spot in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoff final by taking a dramatic, razor-thin win over Collin Bowden at a virtual Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Tuesday.

In the second of four playoff races, Zalenski began the green-white-checkered overtime finish around 10th place, and he was still in fifth place at the start of the final lap. However, he emerged with the victory that will make him one of four drivers who will battle for the championship on Oct. 25 at a virtual Phoenix Raceway.

The final push came down to a three-way battle between Bowden, Casey Kirwan and Zalenski.

Casey Kirwan’s No. 95 Chevrolet was on the rear bumper of Bowden’s No. 69 Chevrolet with Zalenki’s No. 18 Toyota just behind on the final lap. Kirwan and Bowden bumped twice, first as they veered inside, then as they moved back toward the middle of the track. Meanwhile, Zalenski went below the yellow line on the inside — which is legal in the series — to pass both.

Kirwan bashed the side of Zalenski’s car just before they reached the finish line, and Zalenski crossed the line sideways while winding up with a 0.024-second win.

Zalenski’s car was then spun multiple times by numerous other cars after they crossed the line.

“I guess we played that race to perfection at the end of the day,” said Zalenski, a Fresno, Calif., resident who earned his first victory of the year. “Sitting at the back, just waiting for (it) to pay off in some weird, convoluted way. I was really happy to win in that fashion.”

Bowden, a Suffolk, Va., resident, said, “Yeah, that finish right there, that’ll drive you to drinkin’, man. … I couldn’t really ask to be in a better spot with Casey behind me. I had a feeling he was going to go with me. …

“Man, 24-one-thousandths (of a second). That sucks. … Just a bit short.”

Kirwan, a Matthews, N.C., resident, said of his closing strategy, “We had a good push. We got far enough clear that we could go for it. The way the runs were, if we didn’t have a gap back to Bobby, I wouldn’t have gone for it anyway probably because the moment you get pulled out of line it’s going to get swarmed. But then again, when you make as much contact as we did, you still get swarmed.

“It’s a bit unfortunate. I came up (just) short of a Championship 4 spot. … In hindsight, if I would have gone a little late, been a little bit more patient, we could have been that physical and Bobby wouldn’t have beaten either of us, but it’s so hard to sit there and wait. It’s a tough call.”

The next race, the penultimate race of the postseason, is set for Oct. 11 at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. The three drivers who will join Zalenski in the Championship 4 will be determined in Miami.

–Field Level Media

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