Bobby Zalenski seeks to increase road course win tally at Brands Hatch

Since 2014, there have been a total of 16 points-paying road course races on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series calendar.

Half of those race victories belong to Bobby Zalenski.

The current-day Joe Gibbs Racing driver began his eNASCAR career in 2017, and his first win didn’t even come at a road course. In his fourth career start, Zalenski won at Phoenix, elevating him as an early threat for the title in his first attempt at running for it. Zalenski solidified that with his second career victory at Sonoma.

Sonoma marked the fourth visit by the series to a road course, only the second different venue besides Watkins Glen as well. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, the series saw Michael Conti, Nick Ottinger, and PJ Stergios win the events at Watkins Glen. They didn’t have a Zalenski to go up against.

In the seven seasons that Zalenski has been a part of the eNASCAR field, there have been 13 road course events at eight different tracks. He’s won eight races at five of those tracks. That’s a mark that won’t be beat for a long time.

NOT ALWAYS THE KING OF THE ROAD

From Sonoma in 2017 through the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in 2020, for six straight races, only one driver was victorious on the road—Bobby Zalenski. The ROVAL being in the playoffs was huge once the series adopted the ‘win-and-in’ playoff format

In 2021 and 2022, Zalenski’s path to the Championship 4 didn’t include wins on the road. He adapted, winning on the ovals at Darlington (2021) and Talladega (2022) to get him to the big dance. Both those seasons saw a record number of road races as well—five in total. Three of those wins went to a driver Bobby’s setup alliance, iRacing Rallycross World Champion Mitchell deJong.

With a multitude of wins across various iRacing road world championships, such as the Grand Prix Series and the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup, deJong came into eNASCAR in 2021 as one of the most well-rounded iRacers on the service. He portrayed his oval prowess early, with a pole at Daytona, and while he never did get that oval win in his two seasons, he was Zalenski’s biggest rival on the tracks he was dominating on since his arrival.

It wasn’t like Zalenski wasn’t in the mix, however. In 2021, he finished fourth at COTA after a spin on the opening lap in the opening corner. At both Road America and Watkins Glen, he finished runner-up. In 2022, Zalenski scored his worst-career road course finish—fifth place at Road America.

BACK ON TOP

When deJong retired from the series at the end of 2022, it wasn’t for sure that Zalenski would return to the top. Mitchell didn’t win all of those road races—Graham Bowlin took Watkins Glen in 2021, while Steven Wilson scored a victory at Road America in 2022.

Monza and Chicago would be two new challenges in 2023. Two weeks before the trip to Italy, Zalenski scored his first win of the season at Richmond Raceway. Whether that made a difference or not, Zalenski carried that momentum into the Temple of Speed, winning the pole and leading every lap for his first road win in three years.

“Mitchell always had that half-a-tenth on me,” Zalenski said. “He’s got that world championship road pedigree, and he has done a lot more than me at a higher level than I did in PESC, in terms of results. I knew he was going to be a tough challenge, but practicing with him, and seeing how he approaches the car, how he learns the corners in different ways, it made me a lot better. It certainly made me a lot better, just being his teammate. By going through that and getting beat by him, it made me better, for sure.”

Zalenski followed that up two months later in the series’ first points-paying trip to the Chicago Street Course. He was challenged by newcomer Parker White, who led the opening stint of the event, while Wilson lurked back in third. A strategy call in the pits vaulted Zalenski back to the top, where he was able to hold off White and Wilson for a second road win on the year.

MORE IN 2024?

The 2024 season hasn’t been kind to Zalenski so far. After four races, he sits in 21st, with only a single top 5 finish at Daytona to start off the year.

A win at Brands Hatch could completely change the narrative, as well as kickstart a comeback with the beginning of the second Segment of the year. This is only the second time the series will venture outside of the United States for a points-paying event.

While Brands Hatch is completely new to eNASCAR, if there’s anyone up for the task of conquering a new twisty course, it’ll be the driver who’s won eight of these road course races, at five different venues, in 13 career attempts.

Bobby Zalenski career Road Course finishes:

  • 2017 Sonoma Raceway, 1st
  • 2018 Sonoma Raceway, 1st
  • 2019 Sonoma Raceway, 1st
  • 2019 Charlotte ROVAL, 1st
  • 2020 Daytona Road, 1st
  • 2020 Charlotte ROVAL, 1st
  • 2021 Circuit of the Americas, 4th
  • 2021 Road America, 2nd
  • 2021 Watkins Glen, 2nd
  • 2022 Road America, 5th
  • 2022 Watkins Glen, 2nd
  • 2023 Monza Circuit, 1st
  • 2023 Chicago Street, 1st

The quest for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship, and the road to $500,000, continues tonight at 8:00 pm ET, live on eNASCAR.com/live. Tune in to the pre-race Countdown to Green starting at 7:30 pm ET.

For more information on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit eNASCAR.com or iRacing.com/eNASCAR. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit iRacing.com.­­