What was a dominate day for 23XI’s Mitchell deJong quickly turned into a fight to stay on top after a late race strategy call in virtual Darlington for Round 15 of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series and the first race of the Playoffs. Eight drivers across seven different teams searched for the win at the virtual Lady in Black to secure the first spot in the Championship 4. A pole position from deJong with his fellow 23XI teammate Keegan Leahy alongside gave 23XI Racing a locked out front row, continuing to show that they are the team to beat. As the green flag fell, virtual Darlington showed the same cards as the real life Darlington that fans know and love – wall riding, Darlington stripes, and chewed up tires.
Late into the 183 lap marathon on Tuesday night, deJong’s team made a bold strategy call to pit under green and put fresh tires on the car. This gave the number 23 machine the best tires on the track coupled with the best car on the track. deJong went to work, trying to pass as many cars as possible before the checkered flag fell. With six laps to go, deJong was looking to pass a defending Ryan Luza, who was in turn trying to get by Bobby Zalenski, race leader for Letarte eSports and fellow playoff driver. A caution flag fell and the race would go into not one but two overtime finishes, with Bobby Zalenski being able to hold off deJong and secure his second-ever oval victory and lock himself into the Championship 4 for the third year in a row.
With Zalenski’s win, he locks himself into the Championship 4 in virtual Texas for the final round of the season. With deJong’s second place, Mullis’ fifth place, and Bussa’s seventh place, they provisionally have the final three spots in the Championship 4. There are still two rounds left of the Round of 8 in the playoffs – virtual Bristol in two weeks time, then virtual Talladega for the elimination round.
Twitter was a buzz with predictions over the last few days, with most of the fans going with deJong or Bowlin to earn the 2021 championship. Heading into virtual Bristol, it is still anybody’s game and anyone can lock themselves into the Championship 4 with a win in the virtual Last Great Colosseum. You can catch the action live on eNASCAR.com, NASCAR’s official YouTube channel, and iRacing’s YouTube, Twitch, and social media pages on September 14th with Countdown to Green beginning at 8:30pm eastern and the green flag dropping at 9pm eastern.
Featured photo from @NASCAR on Twitter.