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Mitchell deJong wraps up eNASCAR playoff berth with win

Sportsnaut
Aug 7, 2021; Watkins Glen, NY, USA; General view of the main grandstand at Watkins Glen International prior to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series United Rentals 176  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell deJong sealed a place in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series by cruising to a victory at a virtual Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Tuesday.

After deJong earned two wins as a rookie in 2021, the Tuesday victory was his first of 2022. He became the 24th driver ever to win three-plus races in the series.

deJong guided the No. 23 Toyota to a 6.843-second triumph over Bobby Zalenski in the No. 18 Toyota on the road course at Watkins Glen.

“It’s unbelievable, really,” said deJong, a Temecula, Calif., resident. “Last year the road courses went really well for me up until this track, which was a little bit more difficult. It was a great feeling, but I have this sense of, ‘I should do well here.’ This is the thing that I grew up in in iRacing.”

He earned the victory despite a poor qualifying run.

“To be honest, I really messed up qualifying,” deJong said. “I almost wrecked basically three times in the lap. I was pretty much certain that it was over, and then the cards just kind of fell into place. We had to really fight for everything we could get on the track.

“I am so excited with the result. This is incredible. It’s such a great feeling, really.”

Zalenski, of Fresno, Calif., said, “Mitchell was just a lot faster in a couple of key corners. My front end just didn’t turn on mainly that last corner (before deJong passed him). Couldn’t transfer that amazing (qualifying) lap into a win, but I tried battling as much as I could.”

Toyota swept the top three places, with Graham Bowlin coming in third in the No. 48 car. Steven Wilson took fourth in the No. 10 Ford, and Casey Kirwan rounded out the top five in the No. 95 Chevrolet.

The regular season concludes on Aug. 30 at a virtual Darlington (S.C.) Raceway before the four-event playoffs start on Sept. 13 at a virtual Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

–Field Level Media