Bobby Zalenski will face Ryan Luza, Michael Conti, and Nick Ottinger in the Championship 4 round at Homestead-Miami Speedway
(VIRTUAL) HOMESTEAD-MIAMI, Fla. – The biggest prize yet is on the line for four drivers; $100,000 goes to the winner of the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship, the best finisher among the four contenders at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On Friday, I spoke with each driver competing for the 2020 title. The final part, part four of four in the TReSports Championship 4 ePreview Series is Bobby Zalenski, driver of the No. 83 Virtual Racing School Chevrolet for the Virtual Racing School team.
It’s already been a career season for Zalenski, with three victories in 19 races, the most he’s ever won in a single season so far. Zalenski also has 10 Top 5’s to his credit, and 14 Top 10’s. His average finish is a season-high 9.47, and nobody else in the series comes remotely close in 2020.
“It’s all about making it there. You make sure your driving is good, that you put yourself in the right spots, and just try to let it happen.”Bobby Zalenski
Zalenski and his teammate, Ray Alfalla, were the only duo of all the teams to get both of their drivers into the playoffs, and they can both take claim to the Team Championship one week early, thanks to both of their efforts. Most weeks, though, Zalenski carried the banner, having led the pair for the week in 12 of 19 race weeks.
That’s not to discredit the Four-Time Champion, but to show how great of a season Zalenski has had this year. It’s his third time in four tries making the Championship 4, and the previous two efforts slotted him with a third place overall in the standings.
After speaking with Zalenski, I feel he might be the most relaxed out of the group. Here’s what he had to say.
ON ADVANCING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4 AT THE CHARLOTTE ROVAL – “I knew that was a good chance to make it in right away (winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL). The two races after, I was definitely putting work in, because I was working with Keegan (Leahy) and our technical alliance, and as a friend, I wanted to see him make it too. Unfortunately, he didn’t, but I was putting in time, in helping him, and things apply from Kansas and Texas that could work for Homestead, in terms of the setup. Definitely wasn’t a waste of time, and I also wanted to use those races to see if there was no ROVAL lock in, would I make it in on points still? I got third in both of those races somehow.
“I was glad to say I made it in on points and because I won, but really, you just have to make it in and give yourself a shot. The record shows that I haven’t really succeeded yet in the ‘one race, take all’ format, and I really used my consistency over the season to kind of get there, even though I won the ROVAL, I’ve won that the last two (seasons). If I didn’t win that in 2019, I wouldn’t have made it. It’s all about making it there. You make sure your driving is good, that you put yourself in the right spots, and just try to let it happen.”
THE COMPETITION – “To be honest, I sort of feel like an underdog compared to them because of my performances recently, and I get that I got third in the last couple of races, but I wasn’t particularly running well, whether it was because of strategy or what not, and you saw (Nick) Ottinger and (Michael) Conti running really well in the last two races. (Ryan) Luza was even running really well in the last Texas race, I think he figured something out in the setup. He could be really strong here, and just with the style of track that Homestead is, I would say that Luza is always a threat.
“These guys are just big threats to win this. I don’t know or really care who the strongest is of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were all running in the Top 4 most of the race. It’s kind of what you would expect out of the final four, because we’re all preparing the most. At the other end, there’s a lot of people around 20th that are working really hard at points that are really good that probably shouldn’t be around 20th, that might be mixing it up with us. I really don’t know what to expect in terms of where they’re going to run.
“I know that I have a hell of a team, that will bring the best car we can, and it’s just up to me to really drive it well, which honestly, I haven’t really driven the mile-and-a-halfs well this year. I might have gotten some good results, but I feel really underwhelmed with how my speed has been. For that reason, I kind of feel like an underdog coming into this, and I have to work really hard and put a lot of time to catch up. I really can’t tell you who is the strongest of those three, just because Luza might not have had any good finishes, but had really good runs in the playoffs so far, and made it in, where Conti and Ottinger have run up front, contending for wins, and won.”
ON COMPETING FOR THE TITLE IN 2020 AS OPPOSED TO PAST SEASONS – “Yeah, there’s more money now, so from that perspective, it means the most, but I’m just trying to win a championship for the series. I got into this, not really for the money, I got into it for the competition and this is my way to do NASCAR racing, is to do it online. I think this is definitely a harder one to win than last year, given a number of factors.
“We’ll see how the racing is out there. I hope it’s clean, I know it’s a lot of money on the line… (In some promotions you hear) Ottinger saying he’d wreck his grandma for it, yeah that’s all in good fun, but I think it could get a little bumpy out there, you might not see a clean finish like you did in 2019. I don’t really have any quarrels with any of these guys in the playoffs, they’ve never done me wrong before, so we’ll see. It always means a lot to me to try and win this thing, and it doesn’t matter which year I win it, if I win it, as long as I win it.”
LEADING UP TO THE FINALE ON MONDAY NIGHT – “I’m pretty much sim racing full time, I don’t have a traditional job. I’m working with Virtual Racing School, making content or coaching, so it’s really awesome that I get to represent them in the series itself. You can’t do iRacing every waking hour of the day. You take breaks here and there, and just chill. Take a chill on your brain, like I’m not one to bash my head against a wall and test all the time, I think there’s an efficient way to do it, where you’re not stressing about it.
“Even when I test for road courses, which I generally test the most for, just because you have more time to prepare for them, I’ll do 20 hours of pure driving time, where, as you might see other guys do 30 or 40 hours. I just feel like, for me, that’s almost not possible, with how I like to test, and I’m doing other racing series… I’m going to be testing for this Homestead race, but I try to take a little more of a relaxed approach for it. I seem to get better results from not stressing about it. Like, I’m getting faster by not doing 10 straight hours of driving.”
ON POSSIBLY WINNING THE $100,000 CHAMPIONSHIP PRIZE – “I’ve thought about it a little bit, and then I say I really don’t know what I would do. I’m not going to go buy a damn Ferrari or anything, I’m most likely going to be smart. I’d definitely love to get into real racing of some sort and try to begin some sort of path, but that’s also a bit more expensive than $100,000. It could be a start. If there was a path, and something to plan, I would gladly use that money to do so.
“I also really love sim racing. You don’t have to worry about your equipment in sim racing, everyone has the same cars. Yeah, setups are going to be a bit different, but that competition aspect of it, the true racing of it, is what I really like. The real world is a bit different, but at the same time, the real world is a lot more fun because you’re in a real car. We’ll see. I would be fine with spending that on real world racing, but I’d probably try to make more money out of that $100,000, and invest or something.
At Homestead-Miami Speedway, in years where Zalenski has a chance to win the title, he’s finished fourth and fifth. Earlier this season, Zalenski scored an eighth place effort. He knows he’s there, but he just needs to just get that extra bit to be the one to beat on Monday.
Tune in for a special Monday night broadcast of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series where the champion will be decided after 134 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The action starts at 8:00 pm ET on eNASCAR.com/live.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com