It’s been a wild start to the year in the world of motor-eSports across the iRacing and NASCAR Heat platforms.
With the offseason coming to a close and the Daytona 500 kicking off the NASCAR racing season, many special events and league seasons have sprung up across the sim racing world; some of them are already in the books.
Throughout the 2021 sim racing season, Frontstretch will recap various special events, leagues, and other neat races happening around the eNASCAR world outside of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. Our first issue will tackle various events over the last month, approximately, in the virtual racing world. Be sure to check out The Virtual Frontstretch every Sunday during the 2021 virtual racing season.
IRACING SPECIAL EVENT: IRACING 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA, Jan. 22-24
It could be argued, with IMSA’s NASCAR ties and the amount of NASCAR drivers that participate in the real Rolex 24 at Daytona, that this event is closer than most things outside of NASCAR.
Regardless, the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona kicked off the proverbial eSeason with two timeslots for 24-hour endurance racing at the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Just like the real thing, teams of multiple drivers competed in multiple racing classes on the same track for 24 straight hours. Those classes and vehicles included the Dallara P217 in the LMP2 class; the GTE IMSA class featuring Porsche 911 RSR, Corvette C8.R, Ferrari 488 and BMW M8; and the GTD class featuring the BMW M4 GT3 and Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO.
The overall top split ran from Saturday to Sunday, with a Strength of Field at an average of 7331 iRating, and a total of 898 laps completed among the top three finishing teams. The VRS Coanda Simsport $8 team made up of Mitchell deJong, Mack Bakkum and Joshua K. Rogers won the top honors. They held off Williams Esports and Mivano Simracing Everyeye.it, who both also completed 898 laps through the caution-free 24-hour event.
Notable drivers in the top split included NTT Indycar Series drivers Sage Karam (VRS Coanda Simsport $88) and Alex Palou (Team Fordzilla), Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen (Team Redline Orange) and eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver Bobby Zalenski (VRS Coanda Simsport $88).
Throughout the other races, many other NASCAR and eNASCAR personalities took part in the special event. In the top split of the first session on Friday, eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers Dylan Duval, Zack Novak, Ryan Luza and Jimmy Mullis took home a podium finish overall in the LMP2 class together with their teammates on The Rippers. Both of the Elliott Sadler eSports teammates in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, Garrett Manes and Ashton Crowder, also took part in that same split and placed second in the GTD class.
The fourth split on Friday featured JD Motorsports with Gary Keller drivers and team members competing in the GTE Class. Drivers Ryan Vargas and Colby Howard took part and they were able to win in their class. In the 33rd split in Saturday’s session, the Nasboiiisss 2.0 team fielded an LMP2 entry for NASCAR drivers Landon Cassill, James Davison, Garrett Smithley and Anthony Alfredo, completing 880 circuits and winning their session by three laps over their next closest competitor. Finally, JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier took part in his first 24-hour race, albeit virtually, and wound up fifth in the GTE class, competing on his team named JR Motorsports Jr.
Check out some highlights from the top split on Saturday, courtesy of iRacing:
NUTRISHOP eSTREET STOCK SHOWDOWN, Jan. 26/27
From the mind of Xfinity Series driver Vargas, the Nutrishop eStreet Stock Showdown took iRacing’s Street Stock to the virtual Auto Club Speedway for 80 laps of close-contact racing.
Down on horsepower but up on stability with a sturdy frame in mind, the Street Stocks produce an almost superspeedway-type of racing on the 2-mile oval in California. One-hundred ninety-seven drivers entered into the event, but only 40 would be able to start. Through multiple heats over two rounds, the field was set for a Wednesday night feature with $500 on the line to win.
Eddie Kerner survived an overtime restart to win it all as the benefactor of a hard wreck by Casey Kirwan from the lead off of turn 4.
NUTRISHOP eSTREET STOCK SHOWDOWN TOP FIVE:
- Eddie Kerner
- David Schildhouse
- Josh Parker
- Kyle Riley
- Ryan Gavel
Check out the full race replay from Podium eSports:
FTF RACING LEAGUE: FTF BARR VISUALS 500, Jan. 31
A total of 153 drivers attempted to qualify for the first big race on iRacing for the FTF Racing League: the FTF Barr Visuals 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Through three weeks of qualifying, duel racing and a small bit of alphabet-soup racing, the 43-car field was set for drivers to vie for their part of the $3,000 purse.
A total of eight eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers attempted to make the field, with only four making the main event. Ryan Doucette, Blake Reynolds, Derek Justis and Michael Guest qualified into the 43-car field for the 500-mile season opener for the 2021 FTF Cup Series, which will mostly follow the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Doucette led the field to green, while Guest found his way to the front to win both stages in the race at lap 50 and lap 100. Guest ended up leading the most laps but wrecked out of contention just past halfway.
On the final restart, Michael P. Frisch was able to hold off Kenny Brady and the rest of the field to take the checkers and $500 payday. Assuming Frisch runs the full schedule and stays inside the top 25, he’ll be the first driver locked into the 2021 FTF Cup Series playoffs.
The final caution flew when Derek Justis spun into the inside wall, and that set up FTF OveRtIMe.
Michael P Frisch hung out all race until it was time to go. Frisch held off Kenny Brady and the field through overtime and went on to win the FTF Barr Visuals 500 at Daytona! pic.twitter.com/1DV0IirBmM
— FTF Racing (@FTFRacingLeague) February 1, 2021
FTF BARR VISUALS 500 TOP FIVE:
- Michael P. Frisch
- Kenny Brady
- Jacob Fisher
- Ryan Doucette
- Jake Poulin
Watch the full race replay on BottomSplit.
PODIUM ESPORTS: PODIUM 500, Feb. 7
Podium eSports hosted its third annual 500-miler, the Podium 500, on the day of Super Bowl LV. Podium was able to take 351 drivers and sort them out through heat races, last-chance races and duels to set its field in less than a week to get its 43-car field. The lineup included eight eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers, and for the first time in their event history, a driver who would also take the green flag in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 in Alfredo.
The Coke drivers included Kirwan, Novak, Guest, Manes, Justis, Mullis, Malik Ray and Vicente Salas. Femi Olat also attempted to make the field but failed to qualify. Mullis was the pole sitter in the event.
There were no stages in the 500-mile event, but each caution set up a different part of the race that brought a different vibe to the race. Kirwan, Ray and Alfredo seemed to have a hold on the field, but former Podium 500 winner Daniel Eberhardt found his way to the front later in the going.
At the line, Kirwan barely edged Eberhardt in a photo finish.
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) February 7, 2021
Kirwan collected a $1,000 payday and is locked into next year’s event.
PODIUM 500 TOP 5:
- Casey Kirwan
- Daniel Eberhardt
- Logan Helton
- Malik Ray
- Anthony Alfredo
Check out the full race replay, courtesy of Podium eSports:
NASCAR HEAT WINTER SERIES: VALENTINE’S 80, Feb. 12
Switching gears to the NASCAR Heat 5 platform, another series that Frontstretch will cover in 2021 is the NASCAR Heat Pro League, which will enter its third season this year.
During the offseason, NASCAR Heat and developer Motorsports Games put on a three-race mini series for both XBOX and PlayStation competitors. The Winter Heat Series invited both professional NASCAR Heat drivers and amateur competitors to compete against one another for prizes and an overall championship.
The Valentine’s 80 took place on Valentine’s Day weekend and featured two races, 32 laps each, for each console. On the XBOX side, rivals Justin Brooks and Daniel Buttafuoco got into it once again racing for the lead late in the race. Brooks made a move for the lead, Buttafuoco threw up a block, and it ended up costing both drivers.
“I thought I could protect the run,” Buttafuoco said in a post-race Twitter video. “It just really doesn’t work like that here. It was my fault. Sorry to Brooks… I wish I could go back in time and re-do that.”
“There’s a reason why, whenever we started racing last year, that you would always thank me for racing you clean,” Brooks said in his own post-race Twitter video, aimed at Buttafuoco. “Sorry only gets you so far when you keep repeating the same thing.”
Slade Gravitt was also involved in the fracas, and in his own Twitter video, advocated for drivers to start racing respectfully with one another before it becomes a bigger problem.
— Slade Gravitt (@Slade_G84) February 12, 2021
Luis Zaiter was able to survive the mayhem and take the victory and championship.
XBOX VALENTINE’S 80 TOP FIVE:
- Luis Zaiter
- Justin Anasogak
- Jordan Bane
- Jeff Noe
- Tom Flitcroft
For the PlayStation drivers, technical difficulties marred the final quarter of the event, so the broadcast duo of Hannah Newhouse and Russell Cox went radio-style for the final laps at Daytona.
Joey Stone took the lead for a moment on the final lap, but the help behind him fell off. Chase Williamson held the low line and was able to hold off a plethora of NASCAR Heat Pro League drivers behind him for the win and championship. Grant Salzano led the most laps in the race but wound up in fourth.
“I knew that I had my buddy Jason Mitchell, he told me before the race that he was going to stay with me,” Williamson told Newhouse and Cox post-race. Sure enough, Mitchell stayed true to his word and pushed Williamson to the win after a late race charge from Stone on the outside.
Stone tweeted after the race that he was initially upset because he thought Williamson had hit him for the win but learned it to be false information.
“Still frustrated that we just can’t seem to have one of these go our way,” he said.
PLAYSTATION VALENTINE’S 80 TOP FIVE:
- Chase Williamson
- Jason Mitchell
- Cody Giles
- Grant Salzano
- Maxwell Castro
The full race replay can be found over on the NASCAR Heat Twitch page.
MONDAY NIGHT RACING: BIG GREEN EGG 250, Feb. 15
Monday Night Racing Presented by Tufco Flooring takes a handful of real racers and a dedicated group of motorsport industry members and throws them on differing tracks in select vehicles every week. Currently in its second season, MNR has the likes of Alfredo, Kyle Busch and NHRA’s Ron Capps competing in the playoffs against NASCAR Marketing Communications Manager Matt Stallknecht, NASCAR Digital Platform Manager DJ Cummings and Nick DeGroot, Motorsport.com’s news manager and editor as well as the season one MNR champion.
After Monday night’s Round of 13 finale at Talladega Superspeedway, those six will be joined by Gabe Wood, a tire specialist from JDM, as well as NASCAR drivers Preston Pardus and Will Rodgers and late model racer Max Kennon.
The race at Talladega was no normal race, however. Instead of stock cars, the MNR crew virtually strapped into Dallara IR-18 Indycars for 94 laps around the famed superspeedway.
The race was marred by nine cautions for 29 laps, but it finished in regulation. MNR Series co-founder Ford Martin took the checkered flag but was penalized for avoidable contact and was sent to the end of the finishing order. DeGroot was awarded the victory, crossing the line sideways across the nose of Cummings’ eNASCAR Dallara.
The Top 5 at @TALLADEGA:
— Podium eSports (@PodiumeSports) February 16, 2021
After Talladega, Martin, Nick Sanchez and Gary Sexton were eliminated from playoff contention. Frontstretch editor Michael Massie competes weekly in the series and was able to bring the Frontstretch Dallara home in 17th.
The next race, utilizing Cup vehicles, is at Dover International Speedway this upcoming Monday night (Feb. 22).
BIG GREEN EGG 250 TOP FIVE:
- Nick DeGroot
- DJ Cummings
- Dillon Welch
- Ron Capps
- Gabe Wood
Watch the final laps from Podium eSports:
— Monday Night Racing (@MonNightRacing) February 16, 2021
ERACR.GG: CARNOMALY 500 PRELIMINARY NIGHTS, Feb. 17/18
The creators of the 2020 Firecracker 400, eRacr.gg is back and ready to go unrestricted at Daytona. Utilizing iRacing’s 2012 NASCAR Car of Tomorrow, the eRacr.gg team, made up of Cassill, Parker Kligerman and Joshua Mendoza, corralled over 375 drivers to compete against one another for 88 spots in next week’s Valvoline Pole Night and Blue Emu Battle 150s. The events mark the next steps in attempting to make the Carnomaly 500.
Three-hundred seventy-six drivers registered for the event and were split into preliminary groups of 47 drivers. From there, in each preliminary group, there would be four heats based on a single lap of qualifying. The top five finishers advanced to the feature, and the final 10 came from the consolation race made up of everyone who didn’t advance through the heats.
The feature races were all made up of 30 drivers, but only the top 11 finishers after either 40 laps or 40 minutes continued their Carnomaly 500 pursuit. Notable names who didn’t advance out of the preliminaries included NASCAR drivers Alfredo, Allgaier, Davison, Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Bobby Labonte were both scheduled to compete but unfortunately didn’t make their preliminary group races. Other notable eNASCAR drivers that failed to advance included Justis, Novak, Kirwan, Jake Matheson, Vicente Salas and Bob Bryant.
The preliminary races took place over the course of two nights, with Cassill, Kligerman and David Schildhouse in the booth. The preliminary races were fixed setup races, but from here on out, the top 88 will have to rely on their setup-making skills as the remainder of the events are open setup.
CARNOMALY 500 PRELIM RACE WINNERS:
- Michael Guest
- Nick Ottinger
- Byron Daley
- Ray Alfalla
- James D Gibson
- Eric J. Smith
- Brandon Hayse Kettelle
- Blake Cisneros
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) February 19, 2021
Check out both preliminary race night replays over at eRacr.gg’s Twitch.
COMING UP NEXT
On the docket for the upcoming week, FTF Racing will travel to the virtual Auto Club Speedway for the Rancho Cucamonga 400k presented by Open Kitchen on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on BottomSplit.
Feb. 22 will feature Monday Night Racing presented by Tufco Flooring at Dover International Speedway for the first race of the Round of 10, sponsored by Big Green Egg. That race will be live on Podium eSports’ second channel at 8 p.m. ET, Podium 2.
Tuesday (Feb. 23) is usually reserved for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, but running at the same time this week will be the Gateway 100 presented by CK Power for the Elite Racing League. Its event is hosted by the folks at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and will kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET on the Elite Racing Network channel.
On Wednesday and Thursday this week (Feb. 24-25), eRacr.gg returns to set the field for the Carnomaly 500 through Valvoline Pole Night on Wednesday and the Blue Emu Battle 150s on Thursday. Broadcasts will begin both nights at 7 p.m. ET on through eRacr.gg’s Twitch.