Race Weekend Central

Bobby Zalenski Wins in Chicago with Quick Pit Stop

Bobby Zalenski reaffirmed his status as the road course king of eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series with a win at the Chicago Street Course, his third victory of 2023 and the 14th of his career.

 “I’m just so stoked for the guys on the box and for my team,” an excited Zalenski said afterwards. “I felt like I had more pace than Parker [White], but there was a lot of dirty air. I knew I was going to take less fuel than him because I was saving fuel.”

Rookie Parker White led the most laps on the night, but a slightly slower pit stop for more fuel relegated him to runner-up spot.

“I don’t really think so,” White said when asked if he could have done anything differently. “Bobby [Zalenski] saved so much fuel, and I was just full clutch up front trying to set the best laps that I could. Finishing P2 after leading the most laps was a good run for me.”

Steven Wilson, Tucker Minter, and defending series champion Casey Kirwan completed the top five.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

Wilson led the field to green from pole, but he did not stay there long as Zalenski made a bold move underneath him into turn one. However, White in the No. 11 Kannan eSports Toyota got around Zalenski in the next turn.

White held onto the lead through the race’s first half, though Zalenski and Wilson both stayed within striking distance of the rookie.  Meanwhile, the teams begin to split on pit strategy, with a handful of drivers coming down pit road as early as lap 9. Nick Ottinger became the first among the top 10 to pit, taking fuel only on lap 20.

Of the top three drivers, Wilson came down for pit service first on lap 28, stopping briefly for fuel and coming back on track in the top 10. White then peeled off to the pit lane on lap 30, leaving with just fuel and handing the lead to Zalenski.

One lap later, Zalenski made the winning move, stopping for fuel and merging back on track just ahead of White. From there, Zalenski took advantage of the clean air and his fast No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to win in the Windy City.

In a testament to the drivers’ talent, there were no cautions flags or major incidents throughout the 40-lap race.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Paint Schemes of the Week
    • Rise eSports brings great paint schemes to the track every week, and the Chicago Street Course was no different. Zack Novak paid tribute to Jeff Gordon with a throwback to the iconic Rainbow Warrior paint scheme on his No. 75 Chevrolet, while Jimmy Mullis showed off the Chicago Skyline on the hood of his No. 46 Chevrolet.
  • Throughout his final season, Michael Conti has brought back paint schemes from his eNCCiS career; for Chicago, Conti sported the look from his 2018 season when he won two races and made the Championship 4.
  • Matt Bussa raced from a unique location this week. Bussa set up his steering wheel at the Navy Pier building in Chicago to help promote the upcoming Chicago Street Course weekend for NASCAR.

PLAYOFF PICTURE

DRIVERWINS/POINTS
Bobby Zalenski3 Wins
Michael Conti2 Wins
Tucker Minter2 Wins
Casey Kirwan2 Wins
Jordy Lopez1 Win
Steven Wilson1 Win
Nick Ottinger+46
Michael Cosey Jr.+32
Graham Bowlin+32
Malik Ray+8
Parker White-8
Matt Bussa-10

Zalenski vaults to the top of the playoff grid by becoming the first driver to three wins on the season. With only three regular season races left, there will be at least one driver who makes the playoffs on points. The cutline for the last playoff spot grew significantly tighter, as White closed to within single digits with his second place finish and Malik Ray falling back to 38th.  

NEXT UP

The drivers of the Coca-Cola iRacing Series make their way to the Music City to run 100 laps at Nashville Superspeedway on Tuesday, July 11. Coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green presented by Wendy’s, followed by the green flag shortly after 9 p.m. ET on Twitch.tv/iRacing, YouTube.com/iRacing, and eNASCAR.com.

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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