Race Weekend Central

Steven Wilson Shines in Coca-Cola iRacing All-Star Race on Chicago Street Course

On Tuesday night (Aug. 2), the drivers of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series took a break from the stress of the regular season to compete in an exhibition All-Star Race on the Chicago Street Course.

Steven Wilson wound up the being star among the All-Stars by leading the final six laps to claim the victory. It is Wilson’s third victory of 2022 to go along with regular season wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Road America.

The 12-turn, 2.14-mile road course meandering through the heart of the Windy City was first featured in a 2021 Pro Invitational Series race and will be on the NASCAR Cup Series Schedule in 2023.

The Coca-Cola iRacing All-Star event was actually three different races in one. The evening’s festivities commenced with a 12-lap open race comprised of 15 full-time series drivers who had not yet clinched a spot in the All-Star Race. The topnfive finishers in the open race would advance to the main event.

Dylan Duval took his No. 41 Gearwrench/Stewart-Haas eSports Ford to the front on the initial start and led all but one lap in the open. However, Duval failed to lead the most important lap: the last one. In a final lap battle for the win, Garrett Manes in the No.31 Elliott Sadler eSports Chevrolet got into the back of Duval and turned him around.

“We had a good run in our Gearwrench Ford Mustang. I’m sick of getting used up by these kids. It’s definitely frustrating,” a dejected Duval said in his post-race interview with Alan Cavanna.

This opened the door for Parker Retzlaff to pilot his No. 6 RFK Racing Ford to the win in the All-Star Open Race. Blake Reynolds, Brian Mercurio, Manes and Dylan Ault finished second through fifth to punch their tickets into the main All-Star Race. Duval plummeted to seventh after the final lap incident.

“I saw [Duval and Manes] battling the lap before. It looked like they were going to wreck each other for the win. I waited back a little to try to capitalize on it, and I did,” Retzlaff said.

With the All-Star field set, the 22 drivers took to the track for an eight-lap heat race. The top-eight finishers from the heat race would be inverted for the 16-lap feature, with all the other drivers falling in behind in order of heat race finish.

Unlike the open race, the heat race did not produce any last-lap drama, with Mitchell deJong leading all the laps and winning by 1.886 seconds in his No.23 Logitech/23XI Racing Toyota. Graham Bowlin placed second, and Bobby Zalenski finished third. By virtue of his eighth-place finish, Matt Bussa would start the feature race on the pole in his No. 75 Mode Motorsports Ford.

When the green flag waved for the feature race, Bussa made the most of his pole position to lead the opening laps. Bumped back to eighth with the inversion, deJong tried to make his way back to the front, but his progress was halted when he wrecked on lap three, taking Michael Conti in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet with him out of contention.

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Lap 11 brought the first lead change of the main event, as Wilson navigated his No. 10 Smithfield/Stewart-Haas eSports Ford by Bussa. Later that lap, race control put out a scheduled competition caution to bunch up the field.

Wilson got a good jump on the final restart with three laps to go and then held off a furious rally from Zalenski to take the checkered flag. Zalenski held on for second over Casey Kirwan. Bowlin brought it home fourth, and Manes rounded out the top five.

“I didn’t know I had that pace in me tonight,” Wilson said. “I just had to make sure [Zalenski] couldn’t get to my inside and bring it home.”

Wilson’s prize for winning the All-Star Race is four tickets and pit passes to a NASCAR Cup Series race of his choice as well as a NASCAR driving experience.

“I’m pretty excited about that,” Wilson said after being told about the prize. “Thanks to all these guys at Stewart-Haas Racing and all our partners.”

Odds & Ends

  • Paint Schemes of the Week: Multiple drivers displayed some Windy City spirit on their virtual racecars. Zack Novak’s No. 5 Rise eSports/Sunoco Chevrolet sported a red and orange paint job to pay tribute to the Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, Liam Brotherton’s No. 2 Next Level Racing/Elliott Sadler eSports Chevrolet was decked in the colors of the Chicago flag, with a silhouette of the city’s skyline on the left and right sides of the car as well as on the rear bumper.

  • The All-Star Race marked the one night only return of retired iRacing driver Bob Bryant in the No. 53 Chevrolet. Bryant drove in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series part time in 2020 and full time in 2021. Bryant had one win last season at Auto Club Speedway to clinch his spot in the All-Star Race. “It’s been great to come back and be able to mix it up with these guys,” Bryant said on Countdown to Green. Bryant did not fare well in the main event, placing 13th.
  • Playoff Picture: While the All-Star Race was a fun exhibition, it is now back to business for the Coca-Cola iRacing series drivers with only two races left in the regular season. There have been nine different race winners in 2022, leaving only one spot open on points for Novak. Of note, Ray Alfalla sits 20th in points; if he falls further in the standings, he will not be playoff eligible, leaving the door open for Blake Reynolds or another driver below the cutline to potentially snag a playoff spot. Here is the updated playoff grid:
Steven Wilson 2 Wins
Nick Ottinger 2 Wins
Michael Conti 2 Wins
Casey Kirwan 1 Win
Matt Bussa 1 Win
Graham Bowlin 1 Win
Femi Olatunbosun 1 Win
Garrett Lowe 1 Win
Ray Alfalla 1 Win
Zack Novak + 16 points above cutline
Blake Reynolds -16 points below cutline
Bobby Zalenski -21
Michael Guest -24

Next Race

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series will resume its regular season schedule on the road course of Watkins Glen International on Tuesday, Aug. 16. It is the next to last race of the regular season. The race will start at 9 p.m. ET, and it will be broadcast live on eNASCAR.com/live, YouTube.com/iRacing and Twitch.tv/iRacing.

About the author

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

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