Alfalla Inches Closer to eNASCAR Playoff Berth
By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A runner-up finish at the virtual Pocono Raceway brought Ray Alfalla closer to a playoff berth.
The four-time eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion entered Pocono outside of the top-30 in points. Alfalla’s win in the Coca-Cola 300 at the virtual Charlotte Motor Speedway could guarantee a playoff berth if he can reach the top-20 in points.
Alfalla caught a break with a timely caution. With 19 laps to go, the first caution waved for an incident that collected Logan Clampitt, Michael Conti, Keegan Leahy, and Nick Ottinger. The virtual No. 51 Rowdy Energy Toyota Camry pitted, moving onto the same pit sequence as the entire field.
The ‘cautions breed cautions’ mantra was in full effect from that point on as the yellow flag waved a further six times. That included three overtime attempts. On each restart, Alfalla moved further and further up the running order. The amount of green flag racing shifted between a couple of laps and one straightaway.
By the time the field reached the final attempt at overtime, Alfalla lined up third, behind his 2020 teammate, Bobby Zalenski. The field raced into turn one cleanly. However, the caution waved before Alfalla could challenge Zalenski for the lead. He did snatch second from Mitchell deJong in the brief and final green flag run.
For the second race in a row, internet connection issues almost ruined Alfalla’s race. He ran in the back at Charlotte until his connection stabilized. At Pocono, it held on just long enough for Alfalla to take the checkered flag in second.
“I was just worried about my internet,” joked Alfalla. “I was almost losing connection there at the end. It was super stressful because the yellow kept coming out. I was going in and out of connection.
“That was a crazy race. We qualified in the back (20th), pulled some strategy. It didn’t work, but we were top-10. Then the yellow came out and we made some moves. I’m trying not to be too aggressive because we already have a win [and need the points]. I’m just about as happy as I can be.”
The runner-up finish moved Alfalla from 31st in the points standings to 26th. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is 14-points behind 20th in points, held by Nathan Lyon. There are four races left before the playoffs, including two road courses.
“It’s going to be a challenge making it through the two road courses, but we are only 14 out, so it’s possible,” admitted Alfalla.
Despite the possibility of Alfalla reaching the top-20 in points, he may need another victory. He is one of 10 winners this season and the only one outside the top-20. Only 10 make the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs. If an 11th driver wins and is both ahead of Alfalla and in the top-20 in points, the four-time champion could still miss the playoffs.
“I hope not!” explained Alfalla on the prospect of one or more winners not making the playoffs. “There’s a good chance that there’s at least 11 winners.”
The next race marks the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series inaugural trip to Road America. Coverage will be on enascar.com/live at 9:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 29.