NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series ePreview Guide

The opening points-paying race of the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season is on Monday night, and we know what team that each driver will represent this upcoming year following the Clash at Daytona last week, which was won by Logan Clampitt.

On top of the team changes, there are a few noticeable changes to the format of the upcoming season, including the 2021 schedule and requirements on how to qualify for the 2021 playoffs.

When the virtual NASCAR stock cars take to the virtual 2.5-mile banking at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 8, all 40 drivers will begin their journey toward the goal of becoming the 2021 champion. As it’s been the last two seasons, the official teams will also compete against one another for a team championship.

The 2021 free agency period was objectively chaotic, with four new teams entering, three teams exiting, 13 new drivers entering the series, and only 12 drivers keeping their same seat from the 2020 season. 

Last season, Virtual Racing School, with drivers Ray Alfalla and Bobby Zalenski, took home top honors, winning a collective four races over the 20-race season. Virtual Racing School will not return to the series as a team in 2021, and both drivers will compete again for the team title on different teams.

That leaves it wide open for any of the 20 teams in the 2021 season to win it all.

New Kids On The Block

VRS isn’t the only 2020 team that left the team roster for 2021. Both the Renegades team and the G2 Esports team will not return in 2021. 

Team Renegades finished eighth overall with drivers Caine Cook and Corey Vincent. G2 Esports had a much rougher time, finishing 18th in the standings with former Coke Series drivers Jarl Teien and Alex McCollum. Kyle Larson eSports also will not return to the series in 2021, having left in the middle of the 2020 season after Larson was suspended from both NASCAR and iRacing when he uttered a racial slur in a hosted lobby.

Four new teams enter the series in their place and bring their own flair to the eNASCAR equation. Two more teams have rebranded and will sport a new look as well during the 2021 season.

MCLAREN SHADOW ESPORTS (66/67/CHEVY) – An offset of the McLaren Formula 1 team, McLaren Shadow will field entries for 2019 Championship 4 contender Blake Reynolds, as well as three-time Coke Series winner Allen Boes, returning to the series for the first time since 2017. 

A season after making the Championship 4, Reynolds didn’t find the same speed in the 2020 season. With only one top-five finish and three top 10s, Reynolds was consistent enough to hang in the top half of the field in most races and finished 14th in the standings.

Boes returns to the series after a three-year absence. From 2015 to 2017, he ran somewhat inconsistently, racking up at least one win every season, but collecting more finishes outside the top 30 (20) than finishes in the top 10 (13). 2016 was his best season statistically, and he finished 10th in the standings. In the Pro Series this year, Boes started off with decent finishes, but tapered towards the end, finishing 20th in the standings. 

McLaren Shadow also dabbles in Formula 1 eSports, of course, and recently started up a Trackmania Grand League team. They join Williams Esports as entities from the Formula 1 landscape participating in the eNASCAR top series.

SPACESTATION GAMING (11/55/FORD) – The organization has been toying with iRacing since the COVID-19 pandemic started, partnering with NASCAR drivers Will Rodgers and Chase Cabre during the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series. SSG hyped up their entrance with a production video which included a NASCAR Ford Mustang wrapped with their 2021 paint schemes for series veteran Malik Ray and Rookie of the Year contender Vicente Salas. 

Ray makes the move to the new team after being the Rowdy Energy driver over at Gibbs Gaming. Ray had a tough sophomore season, finishing 30th or worse in half of the races in 2020. In the Pro Series, Ray immediately won out of the gate at Daytona, and that was enough to readvance to the Coke Series.

Salas is in his rookie season in 2021 after successfully working with Elliott Sadler Esports during the 2020 Pro Series. During the Pro Series, Salas claimed the pole position and led the most laps at Auto Club Speedway, and ended up 12th in the standings after six races.

SSG competes in various eSports across the gaming industry, including Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, Valorant, World of Warcraft, and Super Smash Bros.

XSET GAMING (4/38/FORD) – 2017 Series Champion Ryan Luza will race alongside two-time series winner Casey Kirwan in what could be a remarkable pairing in the team standings. NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year contender and avid iRacer Anthony Alfredo will create content for the team. 

Last year, Luza drove the No. 53 for Williams Esports, and made it to the Championship 4 round after winning three races, all in a row, earlier in the season. Battling with Bobby Zalenski for the title at Homestead-Miami, the two made contact, and that ended Luza’s chances at a second title. This year, he’ll drive the No. 4 Ford.

Kirwan, driving the iconic Jordan branded No. 23 for Denny Hamlin Racing, rediscovered victory lane after winning at Michigan, and through multiple cases of misfortune, he was still able to finish within the top 20 to avoid relegation, in 19th. Kirwan will drive in Alfredo’s Cup Series number, No. 38.

Both drivers were enticed to join the new XSET racing team during the free agency period and will be one of those teams to keep an eye on through the 2021 campaign. XSET is big in other platforms, competing in Rocket League, Valorant, Fortnite, Call of Duty, and other FPS games.

ELLIOTT SADLER ESPORTS (1/2/TOYOTA) – ESE graduated three drivers from the iRacing Pro Series to the Coke Series during the offseason. Salas was one of those drivers, and with him moving to Spacestation Gaming, it was only natural for both Ashton Crowder and Garrett Manes to fill the seats in Sadler’s fledgling season. 

Crowder brings a year-and-a-half of experience with him to the new team, with two Coke Series victories already under his belt while driving for what is now Kligerman Sport. Crowder returned to competition in the Pro Series, and was one of the most dominant during the series, taking a victory at Dover and finishing second overall.

Manes is one of the new drivers who could turn heads in his rookie campaign, having raced for the Pro Series title in his first attempt over the winter. He ended up seventh when it was all said and done, but collected a victory at his home track, Richmond, and mostly found himself in the top half of the field throughout all six races.

In June 2020, Elliott Sadler found himself entering the iRacing ownership field with a handful of drivers competing in the Road to Pro. They spread out through the iRacing Class A Series, the Firecracker 400, and eventually made their way to the Pro Series with three drivers vying to make the top level. Having succeeded, ESE now jumps to the Coke Series as an official team, all within the first eight months of existence, with partnerships from Toyota and Nutrien AG Solutions.

KLIGERMAN SPORT (44/77/CHEVY) – Technically not a new team to the series, the team name changed over from Burton Kligerman eSports during the offseason, and brings new branding, siding with Team Chevy for 2021. With the departure of Logan Clampitt, Kligerman Sport has a completely different look than it did one year ago. The team brought in Bob Bryant in the middle of last season to fill Ashton Crowder’s former seat, and after free agency, he will return for another shot in 2021. Bryant will race alongside no ordinary rookie, but the champion of the Pro Series in 2020, Isaac Gann.

Bryant started last season driving for Larson. After that team was removed following Larson’s incident, Bryant drove independently until he was picked up for an opening at what was formerly known as Burton Kligerman eSports. Bryant has been around the sim racing world for a long time, but 2020 was his rookie year in the Coke Series, and finished 16th in the standings.

Gann comes in as one of the hottest shoes on the service following his Pro Series championship run. The only driver to win multiple races in the 2020 Pro Series season, Gann capped the season with back to back victories at Charlotte and Homestead. Gann will drive the renumbered 44 Toyota in his rookie campaign, double his number (22) from the Pro Series.

Kligerman Sport had one win in 2020 from Ashton Crowder at Auto Club and finished fourth in the team standings.

23XI RACING (23/32/TOYOTA) – Another “new” team that’s only new by the name they bring in 2021, 23XI Racing takes the place in the series of what was formerly Denny Hamlin Racing. The new venture in the NASCAR Cup Series with Hamlin, Michael Jordan, and their driver in the No. 23, Bubba Wallace expands to eSports as well in their first full-time season.

They’ll run the same numbers as last year, with Keegan Leahy returning to drive a new look No. 32 Virtual Racing School Camry. Mitchell deJong, with years of road and rallycross experience, graduated to the series with a win and impressive showing during the Pro Series and will drive Jordan’s iconic No. 23 Camry this upcoming season.

Leahy had a dominant 2020 regular season, collecting three victories in the first 14 races. Easily in the playoff field, misfortune struck at Kansas after a late race battle turned sour, and that put him down entering the penultimate race at Texas. Needing a win, Leahy ended up 11th and missed the Championship 4 by a few points. The 2019 series runner-up will be a force to be reckoned with, now partnered with a Coanda Simsport and Virtual Racing School teammate, Mitchell deJong.

For deJong, the question didn’t seem like if but rather when he would put the time into making the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series field. Already established on the iRacing service in competing in the World Championship Grand Prix Series, the GT World Championship, the Porsche eSports Supercup, and a champion in the Rallycross World Championship Series, not to mention he’s won a Gold Medal in the X Games for Rallycross, deJong’s next challenge is to learn oval racing and compete at the highest level of NASCAR sim racing. The Auto Club winner in the Pro Series finished up third overall in the standings and will be one of the rookies to watch in 2021.

Last season, the team formerly known as Denny Hamlin Racing took four victories between Leahy and former driver Casey Kirwan, and wound up fifth overall in the team standings.

Keeping The Status Quo

Only 12 drivers kept their exact seat from the 2020 season, and from that, only two teams kept both drivers in the stable for the 2021 season.

JR Motorsports and Richmond Raceway eSports both brought back their exact lineups, and both are expected to be threats for wins in 2021. 

JR MOTORSPORTS (8/88/CHEVY) – Runner-up in the 2020 team standings, JR Motorsports returns with the pairing of 2014 Series Champion, Michael Conti, and series perennial Brad Davies. 

Conti finished third overall in the 2020 standings after a win at Texas Motor Speedway broke a winless drought and placed him in the Championship 4 battle. In the championship race, Conti was about on par with his technical teammate, Nick Ottinger, and had the final restarts gone his way at the end, Conti might have collected his second career title. 

Davies, meanwhile, continued his upward trend year-over-year, improving from 16th to 12th in the final standings. Davies has been in the series since the beginning, with six career victories, but hasn’t been a weekly threat to win since 2011. Davies has ties to JRM in the real world, working as the IT Administrator for the team. 

It was no surprise for the team to keep Davies for another season, and pair him once again with the 2014 series champion.

RICHMOND RACEWAY ESPORTS (46/90/TOYOTA) – 2020 was somewhat of a challenging season for Richmond Raceway eSports, and that was mainly from the surprisingly poor performance from the 2019 series champion, Zack Novak. 

Novak had a dismal 2020, showing speed often, but ending up in trouble more than not. With a 21st place finish in the overall standings, Novak was relegated to the winter Pro Series. Novak rediscovered his groove, posting four Top 10 finishes in the six races. If he can stay out of trouble, it’s expected that he’ll be back to his championship caliber again. 

Jimmy Mullis made the playoffs and collected two victories on the season, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If not for a late race incident at Texas, Mullis might have made the Championship 4 for the first time. 

The duo, along with the team, teased changing things up in 2021, but ultimately, the crew remains together for another season at the top level. RRe Development driver Garrett Manes also qualified for the series in 2021, but he will compete for Elliott Sadler Esports, the team he worked with in the 2020 Pro Series.

Updates Installed

Eight drivers kept their same seat from 2020, but they will have a new teammate to fight alongside in the 2021 season. A lot of these combinations are fueled by backend technical partnerships, such as both Logan Clampitt and Nick Ottinger working together at Team Conti, or Bobby Zalenski joining up with Chris Shearburn at Coanda Simsport. 

Some of these moves were made after expected returning drivers fell out of the series, like the openings at Wood Brothers Gaming or MODE Motorsports. Others were just made for the purpose of building a super team for the 2021 season. 

WILLIAM BYRON ESPORTS (25/97/CHEVY) – With the defending champion back in the stable, and a new official partner in crime alongside, the duo of Nick Ottinger and Logan Clampitt may be an early favorite to take it all in 2021. 

Clampitt hasn’t taken a checkered flag since 2018, but he’s been a threat to win many times since, collecting 12 Top 5 finishes while driving for what’s now known as Kligerman Sport. Clampitt wound up 10th in the overall standings in 2020 after barely missing the playoffs.

Ottinger is the big man on campus entering 2021, finally checking the championship off of his career list. A multi-time winner in 2020, winning at Dover and Kansas, He’ll be a threat to defend his title, and now together with his technical teammate, the possibilities are endless.

William Byron joined the series in 2020 as a team owner, and last season they had John Gorlinsky alongside Ottinger. The former pairing finished third in the team standings.

WOOD BROTHERS GAMING (16/21/FORD) –  Garrett Lowe has been a championship threat the last two seasons, and Wood Brothers Gaming made sure they kept him around for another attempt. John Gorlinsky worked with William Byron eSports in 2020, but now he moves over to Wood Brothers Gaming to fill the vacancy left by Chris Overland.

Lowe was notorious at the beginning of his WBG tenure for being the guy who kept finishing in second. There were four of those runner-up finishes in the first eight races, at Auto Club, Bristol, Charlotte, and Atlanta. The first half of the season was enough to put Lowe into the playoffs again, but a rough ending at Texas took his chances away from making the Championship 4.

After returning to the series for the first time since 2013 last season, the 2011 series runner-up, Gorlinsky, started off the season with a win in the Clash. The rest of the season was consistent, as he racked up a total of four top 10s over the 20 races and avoided relegation by finishing 20th in the final standings.

Overland was previously in the No. 16 but missed returning to the series after a tough run in the 2020 Pro Series. Gorlinsky now in his place, WBG will look to improve on their sixth-place team standings effort last year.

LETARTE ESPORTS (36/83/CHEVY) – It was an up and down 2020 for LETARTE eSports. On one side, series veteran Chris Shearburn capped off the season with a victory at Homestead-Miami, finishing 13th in the overall standings. On the other side, rookie Santiago Tirres never cracked the top 10 once in 20 races, finishing 37th in the standings, and he was also unable to transfer back in via the Pro Series.

This year, Shearburn returns to the fold, once again piloting the No. 36 Chevy. He’ll drive alongside his technical teammate at Coanda Simsport, and half of the team that won the team title in 2020, Bobby Zalenski. Zalenski will continue to drive the No. 83.

Zalenski came close to winning the driver’s championship last season, just losing the battle late in the race to eventual champion Nick Ottinger. His season was statistically the best of his four year career, collecting three victories and 10 top fives. 

Shearburn also had his best season to date in 2020. Five top five finishes, and as mentioned before, that elusive victory finally captured at Homestead-Miami, Shearburn rebounded from a tough 2019 campaign that saw him relegated to the Pro Series for the first time since joining.

LETARTE eSports will look to improve upon their 16th place effort in last year’s team championship.

MODE MOTORSPORTS (24/75/FORD) – After Cody Byus was unable to advance back into the series in the 2019 Pro Series, MODE Motorsports picked up free agent Jake Nichols for the 2020 season to compliment Phil Diaz on the team. Now that Diaz has also left the series following the 2020 season, Nichols will return alongside Matt Bussa for 2021.

Only two years removed from his Championship 4 appearance in 2018, Bussa could not avoid relegation in 2020 after a 23rd place overall finish in the standings. Driving for Williams Esports the last two years, Bussa found himself driving on his own terms during the Pro Series with sponsorship from Podium eSports. After squeaking back into the Coke Series with a 19th place effort in the Pro Series, Bussa will now take the reins of the vacated No. 75 Ford.

Nichols has been quietly consistent in his two full-time seasons in the Coke Series. Driving for Gibbs Gaming in 2019, he was let go unexpectedly during free agency after a 13th place overall standing. MODE picked up the now 22-year-old to fill their vacated No. 24 Ford in 2020, and it’s been a good pairing both in and outside the series. 

Nichols will look to improve on a 17th place finish in the 2020 driver standings, and MODE will hope to improve on 13th place in the 2020 team standings.

STEWART-HAAS ESPORTS (10/41/FORD) – The inaugural iRacing season for Stewart-Haas eSports was not as good as the NASCAR Heat Pro League season one champions had hoped for. SHR eSports picked up their own NASCAR Xfinity Series engineer, Justin Bolton, who made his return to the series in 2020, as well as series perennial Dylan Duval, to drive the No. 10 and No. 41, respectively. After both were relegated to the Pro Series, only Duval made it back to the Coke Series. With Bolton out again, SHR eSports picked up sophomore Graham A. Bowlin to fill the empty No. 10 in 2021.

Duval had some miserable luck in 2020, but even towards the end of the season, he still had a chance to avoid relegation. Unfortunately, a 28th place finish in the finale put him 13 points below the cut, and back to the Pro Series. In the Pro Series, Duval was able to utilize consistent finishes above 15th place to finish 19th overall, and to return to his seat in the No. 41 in 2021.

Bowlin drove the No. 18 for Gibbs Gaming in his rookie season, and looked to be a threat for the win, week-in and week-out. Coming into the series after narrowly losing the title to Ray Alfalla in the 2019 Pro Series, Bowlin continued to show that same speed in the Coke Series, earning two pole positions at New Hampshire and Texas. Bowlin suffered often from not being able to close the deal towards the middle and end of races, and only took home six Top-10’s and finished 11th overall as a result.

14th place in the team standings wasn’t what SHR eSports had hoped for in 2020. With Bowlin taking over the No. 10, expect SHR to contend more in 2021.

ROUSH FENWAY GAMING (6/17/FORD) – The champions with Zack Novak in 2019, Roush Fenway introduced a new lineup last year featuring Nathan Lyon and Kollin Keister. Despite a Charlotte victory for Keister, both drivers were relegated to the Pro Series in 2020. Only Lyon escaped the Pro Series with a fourth-place points finish. Keister, unfortunately, didn’t have the same luck, so rookie contender Steven Wilson will take his place in the No. 17 in 2021, alongside Lyon who returns to the No. 6.

Lyon had a better sophomore season in 2020 than he did in his rookie campaign in 2019. Still, it wasn’t enough to avoid relegation, as he finished 22nd and went back to the Pro Series for another season. In the Pro Series, Lyon once again shined, finishing fourth overall to return to the Coke Series ranks.

Steven Wilson, one of Lyon’s many Deadzone Racing technical teammates, will have his first shot in the Coke Series in 2021 after barely advancing through the Pro Series. Wilson’s 35th place finish in the Pro Series finale wasn’t great, but it was six points better than Anthony Burroughs, the first man out, who finished eighth in the same race.

Roush Fenway didn’t have the same luck last year that they did in 2019, only finishing 12th in the team points. With Lyon continuing to improve, and a fresh face in Wilson now on the team, Roush Fenway hopes they can improve on their 2020 season.

New Year, New Look

Six of the teams returning to the series are starting fresh in 2021, bringing in two new drivers to fill their seats in hopes to better compete in the team championship this year. Some had no choice, as neither of their former drivers were able to qualify back into the series. Others wiped the slate clean, and hope that the offseason moves will be beneficial in 2021.

GIBBS GAMING (18/51/TOYOTA) – After an average season in 2020, Joe Gibbs Racing’s iRacing team is going for another brand new look in 2021. With their third different lineup in as many years, Gibbs Gaming picks up as much and as little experience in the series as they possibly could by obtaining Four-Time Champion, Ray Alfalla, and Rookie of the Year contender, Femi Olat.

Alfalla, who was on the championship winning VRS team in 2020, moves over to fill the 51 Rowdy Energy Toyota previously occupied by Malik Ray. After his statistically worst season in 2019, Alfalla won the Pro Series title, bounced back in the Coke Series to win at Atlanta, and qualified for the 2020 playoffs. He finished eighth in the final standings, but together with his former teammate at VRS, Bobby Zalenski, the duo were able to win the team title.

Olat entered the Pro Series as the last driver to qualify via the Road to Pro. That didn’t matter, as in his first two starts, he placed fourth and second at Daytona and Auto Club, respectively. Overall, the young driver finished eighth in the Pro Series standings, and will be an interesting complement alongside the most decorated driver in series history in 2021.

Last season, Gibbs had Graham A. Bowlin and Malik Ray in their virtual Toyotas. Bowlin had a great rookie campaign, finishing 11th overall, while Malik had a bit of a sophomore slump, placing 32nd in the standings. The team finished 10th in the team standings.

JIM BEAVER ESPORTS (9/15/FORD) – A slew of Michael Caine GIFs flooded Twitter timelines of Jim Beaver eSports fans, as the team announced the addition of both Michael Guest and Caine Cook to the roster in 2021, replacing former Coke Series drivers Eric J. Smith and Michael Guariglia.

For Guest, 2020 was another year of dealing with other people’s bad luck. He started off the season in better standing than his former Team Dillon eSports teammate, Blake Reynolds, but towards the middle, he began to find incident after incident, and his points began to dwindle. By the end of the year, Guest was relegated back to the Pro Series, where a trio of Top 15 finishes to start off was plenty to make his return to the Coke Series in 2021.

Meanwhile, Cook had a standout season driving for Team Renegades in 2020, as he collected two Top 5 finishes and seven Top 10’s over the course of the 20 race season. Towards the end of the season, Cook was actively fighting for possible wins or Top 5’s on a weekly basis. Cook avoided relegation for a second straight season, placing 15th overall, and looks to be trending upwards as the 2021 season begins.

Overall, it was a tough time for Jim Beaver eSports in 2021. Both drivers failed to finish in the top 20, and were sent to the Pro Series where neither were able to earn enough points to return. The team finished 15th in the 2020 team standings.

TEAM DILLON ESPORTS (3/33/CHEVY) – With Blake Reynolds moving to McLaren Shadow and Michael Guest headed to Jim Beaver, Team Dillon was forced to pick up a new pairing for 2021. Corey Vincent, who drove for Team Renegades last season, will drive the No. 3 Chevy, while Taylor Hurst returns to the series, piloting the No. 33 for TDM in 2021. The duo are technically aligned, both racing for LockDown Racing on the backend.

Vincent had a return to his previous successes in the series, returning to the Top 10 in the overall standings in 2020. An eight-pack of Top 10’s on top of a consistent showing throughout the season led Vincent to a ninth-place finish in points, the best of the rest not in the 2020 playoffs.

2020 was the first time since 2014 that Hurst wasn’t in the top level of oval racing. A tough 2019 relegated Hurst out of the series, but he did not compete in the 2019 Pro Series. He returned to competition in the 2020 Road to Pro, advanced into the 2020 Pro Series, and finished fifth in the standings to advance back into the Coke Series for 2021.

For Team Dillon, an overall finish of 11th in the team standings was not what they were hoping for in 2020. Reynolds didn’t capture the same magic he had in 2019, and Guest was hit with relegation. With two LockDown drivers now in the stable, Team Dillon looks to improve on that standing in 2021.

CLINT BOWYER RACING (14/79/FORD) – Brandon Hayse Kettelle brought Clint Bowyer Racing their second win in two years, as he held on to win at Talladega in the 2020 regular season finale. Kettelle, unfortunately, did not return back to the series in 2021 after fighting for it in the Pro Series. Brian Schoenburg did return to the series, but will not return to the team either.

Instead, CBR will field rookies Blade Whitt and Ryan Doucette in the series in 2021. Whitt will man the No. 14 iRacing Ford in the series for his rookie campaign, while Doucette will take over the No. 79 Ford with sponsorship from Dekalb, one of Bowyer’s personal sponsors.

In the Pro Series, Doucette had a season-best effort of fifth place in the finale at Homestead-Miami, which brought him up enough to finish 11th overall. Whitt had a consistent as well, posting four Top-15 finishes and a season-best seventh at Charlotte.

Despite the victory, Clint Bowyer Racing still was at the bottom of the team standings in 2020. They’ve got two new drivers and nowhere to go but up from here.

JTG DAUGHERTY RACING (37/47/CHEVY) – 2020 was difficult on the iRacing side of eNASCAR for JTG Daugherty. Just past halfway into the season, the team lost their original driver of the No. 47, Jeremy R Allen, as he would need back surgery and could no longer compete. JTG brought in Steve Sheehan, who was an independent driver after Kyle Larson Racing folded, and the results, unfortunately, didn’t improve on that team.

In the No. 37 shop, Christian Challiner was having a feast or famine type of season, collecting three Top 5 finishes through the season, but also collecting six finishes outside of the Top 30. The team finished 17th in the team standings.

With Sheehan not advancing back after relegation, and Challiner becoming ineligible after taking a position with iRacing, JTG has a brand new lineup for 2021. Brian Schoenburg will take the wheel for the No. 47 Chevy, moving over from Clint Bowyer Racing. Derek Justis will be his rookie teammate, but the two are technical teammates through Norse Force Racing.

Schoenburg had a tough 2020. He’s competed in every Coke Series season except for 2016, and besides 2015 where he missed half of the races, 2020 was his worst to date. In relegation, Schoenburg found Norse Force, his confidence, and his speed once again, coming close to victory at Dover, and finishing 15th in the overall standings.

Justis finally broke through and into the Pro Series from Road to Pro in 2020, and made the most of his six races. He collected two Top 5 finishes and finished ninth overall. His successes put him into the No. 37 Chevy for JTG in 2021.

WILLIAMS ESPORTS (29/52/FORD) – Williams Esports almost had a championship run with Ryan Luza in 2020. As Luza made the move to take the lead from Bobby Zalenski, the two made contact and ultimately ended the No. 53’s title hopes. As Luza moves over to XSET Gaming, and longtime Williams Esports driver Matt Bussa moves over to MODE Motorsports, Williams will be completely new in 2021 after a seventh-place team effort in 2020.

Zack Nichols joins the team and will drive the new No. 29 Ford. He’ll race alongside Jake Matheson, who also has a new number to the team, Matheson’s personal No. 52.

In the Pro Series, Matheson’s consistency and ability to avoid mayhem placed him in 10th overall with two Top 10 finishes after it was all said and done. Nichols (not to be confused with series veteran Jake) had a rough start to his Pro Series season, but picked it up in the middle of the season, scoring a season-best runner-up finish at Charlotte.

It’s unknown how both the rookies will fare in their first season, but if the Clash at Daytona was any indication, where both drivers finished in the Top 10, expect some noise from the original F1-based eNASCAR team.

MELILLO’S ePRESEASON TEAM POWER RANKINGS

  1. William Byron eSports: A+ (2020: A-)
  2. 23XI Racing: A (2020: B+)
  3. XSET Gaming: A (NEW TEAM)
  4. JR Motorsports: A- (2020: A-)
  5. Richmond Raceway eSports: A- (2020: B-)
  6. LETARTE Esports: B+ (2020: D+)
  7. Kligerman Sport: B+ (2020: B+)
  8. Wood Brothers Gaming: B (2020: B)
  9. Gibbs Gaming: B (2020: C+)
  10. Stewart-Haas eSports: B (2020: C-)
  11. McLaren Shadow: B- (NEW TEAM)
  12. Elliott Sadler Esports: B- (NEW TEAM)
  13. Jim Beaver eSports: B- (2020: C-)
  14. MODE Motorsports: B- (2020: C)
  15. Team Dillon eSports: B- (2020: C+)
  16. JTG Daugherty Racing: C+ (2020: F)
  17. Spacestation Gaming: C+ (NEW TEAM)
  18. Williams Esports: C (2020: B)
  19. Roush Fenway Gaming: C (2020: C)
  20. Clint Bowyer Racing: C (2020: D-)

New Venues, New Rules

The season will kick off at Daytona as usual, but after that, the schedule gets different than it’s been in past years. Circuit of the Americas and Road America join the schedule for the first time in series history, while Pocono Raceway and Watkins Glen International return to the schedule after an absence from the 2020 schedule. 

Dover International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona Road Course and Charlotte ROVAL won’t return in 2021, as well as second dates for both Homestead-Miami Speedway and Daytona that were seen in 2020.

Phoenix Raceway is noticeably absent once again from the schedule, after originally being slated for the finale in 2020. It was replaced with a second Homestead-Miami race last year after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the rescanning of the track surface to update the new configuration. 

The schedule does state that it’s not immune from any changes, and the All-Star Race on July 27 is still unannounced as well. Last year, the series went to North Wilkesboro Speedway in NASCAR Camping World Trucks for the All-Star, and it’s been rumored that iRacing Superspeedway (formerly Coca-Cola Superspeedway when it was on NASCAR Racing 2003 Season) could be the venue. 

For the most part, races will take place on Tuesday nights, except for the Clash at Daytona which already happened, and the upcoming season-opener at Daytona, due to a conflict with the real Clash on Tuesday night on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Schedule

  1. February 8, 2021 Daytona International Speedway (Monday)
  2. February 23, 2021 Homestead-Miami Speedway
  3. March 2, 2021 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  4. March 16, 2021 Atlanta Motor Speedway
  5. March 30, 2021 Auto Club Speedway
  6. April 13, 2021 Richmond Raceway
  7. April 27, 2021 Kansas Speedway
  8. May 18, 2021 Circuit of the Americas
  9. May 25, 2021 Charlotte Motor Speedway
  10. June 22, 2021 Pocono Raceway
  11. June 29, 2021 Road America
  12. July 13, 2021 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
    July 27, 2021 ALL STAR RACE (TBA)
  13. August 3, 2021 Watkins Glen International
  14. August 17, 2021 Michigan International Speedway
    ================PLAYOFFS================
  15. August 31, 2021 Darlington Raceway
  16. September 14, 2021 Bristol Motor Speedway
  17. September 28, 2021 Talladega Superspeedway
    ==============CHAMPIONSHIP==============
  18. October 12, 2021 Texas Motor Speedway

In addition to the schedule mix-up, there’s a new format for qualifying for the 2021 eNASCAR playoffs. The playoff field has been expanded from eight drivers, now at 10. Also, a win can lock any driver into the playoff field in 2021, provided that at the end of the final regular season race that they are in the Top 20 in the standings. 

Questions & Outlook

With the new teams, drivers, rules, and schedule, it will be interesting to see how much will translate from 2020. 

  • Does the same old guard continue to dominate these races?
  • Will there be anyone new up front this season?
  • Can the new tracks produce new winners or unexpected results?
  • Is winning more important now that a win could lock a driver into the playoffs?
  • Which team shines above the rest this year without VRS?
  • Are the technically aligned duos on teams more potent than the mixed combos?

Tune in on Monday, Feb. 8, at 9 p.m. ET for race one of the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season.

eNASCAR.com/live

iRacing.com/live

twitch.tv/iRacing

youtube.com/user/TheOfficialNASCAR

Follow @justinmelillo on Twitter for in-race coverage.

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Joseph

I honestly wish the real Cup series would have the same playoff format. Only 10 cars and you must be in the top 20 in the standings to actually advance. Now just wish NASCAR would let the final four actually keep their playoff points in the final round and make stage points matter in the finale. Have a points race in the final round would actually make the race more exciting for me.

Dorman

This is a great article. You did a phenomenal job Justin! Really looking forward to this season, lot of hype around it.

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