Our second Traxion.GG ePreview for the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series takes a look at NASCAR Cup Series driver Austin Dillon’s team, a branch of his driver management firm named Team Dillon Management, that esports team being Team Dillon Esports.
Another returning team to the Coke Series in 2023, TDE will also have a brand new lineup for the upcoming season. Team Dillon has been around since the first year that official teams were introduced in 2019. This will be their fourth different lineup of drivers since that first season.
However, unlike the veteran lineup that Jim Beaver Esports is now boasting, Team Dillon will have two rookies in the fold. As Corey Vincent moves on from the team following the 2022 season and Taylor Hurst fails to return to the series following another run through the Contender Series, Team Dillon Esports will have some Altus flair this year.
ANOTHER NEW LOOK CREW, FULL OF ROOKIES
For the last two eNASCAR seasons, Team Dillon has been host to two of LockDown Racing’s finest, two former race winners in Vincent and Hurst. This year, it’s a brand new world, yet to be explored, as both the new drivers and the backend team are new to Coke Series competition.
From the Altus Esports camp, Team Dillon Esports will have Jordy Lopez Jr behind the wheel of the No. 3 Chevrolet. What’s been the entitlement-sponsored ride for the last few seasons, dating back to when Blake Reynolds drove the car in 2020, the No. 3 bore the responsibility of representing the Coke brand.
Jordy switches from his usual No. 4 which he drove in both the Road to Pro Qualifying and Road to Pro Contender Series leading up to advancing to the top level for the 2023 season.
He’ll be joined by his Altus Esports teammate Tucker Minter, who will be the new driver of the No. 33 this year. Another Altus driver, another rookie, and another number change, as Minter moves from his usual No. 10 ride. The two share the same sentiment on one another, as they both expect to test one another throughout the year.
“I feel like Tucker, as a driver, pushes me to do better and vice versa,” Jordy remarked on his official Team Dillon teammate for 2023. “It’s been like that all year, and on our team, me and him are very close in speed, so we kind of just like build off of each other as far as like our practice goes.”
“Jordy and I know that the benefit for us is that we really push each other,” Tucker added. “I think you saw that in Road to Pro Qualifying and Contender series, where Jordy and I qualified within a thousandth of a second of each other, twice. Which I’m still bitter about, because I was on the losing end of that both times and I thought I was faster in qualifying both of those weeks.”
ALTUS CAME TO CONTEND IN 2023
This season during the Road to Pro, Altus Esports showed up with seven players on the field – an increase from four drivers the previous season. Lopez and Minter were joined by Chris Hill, Seth DeMerchant, James Wenzel, Michael Cosey Jr and Ryan Doucette, the latter two also advancing to Coke.
In the 2021 Contender Series, only Jordy, DeMerch and Cosey were in contention, along with Christian Pedersen, but not one of them was able to make it up to the Coke level. Jordy made it the closest, 24th in the standings, three spots shy of advancement.
Basically doubling their numbers gave the team double the chance, and sure enough, it worked out where there will essentially be three teams representing Altus this season, Team Dillon Esports having both drivers on the card.
SECOND TIME’S THE CHARM FOR JORDY
One of the three Altus drivers who returned through the Road to Pro ladder after missing out in 2021, Jordy Lopez came into 2022’s season swinging. The very first race of the new Contender series saw Lopez put it on the pole at Phoenix, leading laps and ultimately coming in second.
While he didn’t claim a win throughout the seven race stretch, he did put up impressive numbers nonetheless. Jordy had that pole, three Top 5 finishes and ultimately finished second in the overall points, essentially locked in a week early based on drop weeks and what not.
“It means the world,” Jordy said of making it into the Coke Series. “It was a long year of going through the Road to Pro process again. Things were kind of nerve wracking going into Contender considering how it ended last year, but I have a group of guys that worked hard and we were able to to do our best to bring at least four of us in.”
With the stock of being the second best prospect coming into the series, Free Agency was a breeze for the incoming rookie.
“It was like 9:03, like three minutes after Free Agency started on Monday, I got a call from (TDE Team Manager) Austin Craven,” Jordy explained. “I had an option somewhere else, but I just felt like this made more sense to me, so I went with Team Dillon and I was locked pretty early.”
“I told (Austin) to bring Tucker on board too.”
TUCKER READY TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF IT
No doubt wanting to keep the gang together in some regards, perhaps the two strongest pieces of the Altus puzzle are together on one of the most prolific teams in the series.
The Darlington Contender victor, Minter finished sixth in the final standings following the drop. While he wasn’t as far up the standings as Lopez was, the new driver of the No. 33 in 2023 had one more Top 5 finish (4) and that win in round 6.
“It’s just super cool to actually be in the series,” Minter said. “I’ve always wanted to be a race car driver and I feel like iRacing kind of provides an avenue for people who their family doesn’t race or doesn’t have the means to race.”
Tucker has been on the service since 2014 and tried to go up the Road to Pro ladder in 2020. Over the Fall, Tucker was one of the guests in attendance for the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Championship Finale at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Seeing the epic conclusion may have given him everything he needed, confidence-wise, to succeed in Contender and make it in for 2023.
“It’s been super rewarding to finally make it,” Tucker continued. “This year, having the spoils of media day and everything, I feel like it would’ve been cool to make it all the previous years, but to make it this year with media day and everything being back is awesome.”
Of course, like Jordy, Tucker realizes the benefits of having each other as Team Dillon teammates in their first full season. “Having a teammate that pushes you to a high level, (Jordy) doesn’t really do the setup stuff as much as I do, but it kind of helps me out if I’ve been sitting there working on the setup and I’m feeling real comfortable,” Minter explained.
“Jordy would come out and I see that he’s quicker than me. Well, OK, now it’s time to work on my driving versus work on the setup, or, you know, vice versa. He already sees what I’m doing. It pushes him and it’s fun like that.”
With the addition of both Milwaukee and Monza this season, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series begins to shape its own identity among the other official NASCAR racing series. No longer will the series be an exact slice from the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, but there are still plenty of similarities.
“I think it’s cool that we’re going to a lot of new tracks,” Tucker said.
“One track I’m looking forward to is Milwaukee,” Jordy said.
Milwaukee is something fresh for most oval racers, even with it being on the service for as long as it’s been. Some drivers haven’t even raced on the venue before! “I like short tracks, and this track seems fun,” Jordy continued. “It’s unknown to everyone going into the race, so should be fun.”
Monza is definitely the odd ball on the calendar. With no chicanes either, the racing becomes more like a Watkins Glen race, more about the speed and cornering than the braking and technical aspects.
“I’m not a huge fan of Monza,” Jordy said. “Never really was able to be fast here, so I’ll just do what I can to get solid points.”
“I don’t know if Monza would have my first choice,” Tucker said. “I think it’s cool that the Coke Series kind of has its own edge to it though, rather than just being a preview of what the NASCAR weekend is going to be. It’s cool that we’re kind of exploring out to some new tracks.”
Looking at the rest of the schedule, that does closely follow the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Tucker is really looking forward to one in particular.
“I’m definitely looking forward to Richmond,” Tucker said. “I won there in Road to Pro (Qualifying Round 1) this year. It’s my home track, and I typically run well there… knock on wood… so I really am looking forward to Richmond.”
Tucker also thinks Martinsville would be interesting to see on the schedule. That sounds like some Virginia home cooking, if you ask me.
REALISTIC GOALS FOR 2023
With Corey Vincent and Taylor Hurst, Team Dillon Esports finished 11th out of 20 teams in the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Team Standings. While the team takes on two rookies to the series in 2023, who is to say that this can’t be improved upon?
The rookies know how tough it can be on them, statistically speaking. In 2022, only one rookie – the Rookie of the Year, Donovan Strauss – managed to stave off relegation and stay in the series without falling back into the Contender Series.
While aspirations are high, both Jordy and Tucker know that it’s going to be a tough battle ahead.
“My goal is realistically is, since I’m a rookie, I’m not really expecting much, but I do want to get a win,” Jordy said. “I want to at least make the playoffs for my first year, but if not that, I want to stay in the Top 20 to not have to do Contender again. I feel like I learned a lot during contender. Like if I just stop overthinking things, things just happen. If you practice hard enough, things will come your way. That’s the philosophy I’m going to take, and I’m just hoping for the best.”
“I would say it’s definitely a goal to make the Final Four, but if you look historically at the rookie season for a lot of people in Coke, it’s not stellar,” Tucker stated. “One goal is to not be relegated. Even though I like racing the Xfinity car, I don’t want to have to face that again. I’d be happy with probably three Top 5s and six Top 10s. I think that’s a realistic goal for somebody new to the series.”
This is the second entry of a 20-part eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series ePreview series for Traxion.GG. The 2023 season begins officially on 14th February with Race 1 at Daytona International Speedway. Race broadcasts start at 8:30 pm ET with the Countdown to Green on eNASCAR.com/live.