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2023 eNASCAR Coke Series roster eligibility all but confirmed following Contender finale

eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series: Casey Kirwan scores the 2022 Championship

Following the seven-race eNASCAR Contender Series program, the roster is nearly set for the upcoming 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season.

One of the longest seasons in all of professional sim racing has finally come to an end following the eNASCAR Contender iRacing Series finale on Tuesday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

While Cody Byus scored the victory and Joey Brown took the Contender Series title, the focus of the night was to see which 22 drivers would become eligible to join the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series pending iRacing’s evaluation process.

18 drivers were already locked in coming into the Contender Series finale with two drivers opting out of returning for the 2023 season. The roster will be made up of 40 drivers and up to 20 teams of two drivers each. Since 2020, the series has had a full assortment of teams.

22 CONTENDERS GRADUATING IN 22

Cody Byus was victorious in the last race of the Contender season at Texas.

Following the result of the eNASCAR Contender iRacing Series finale at Texas, 22 drivers are now eligible to join the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. Those drivers are, in the order they finished in the Contender standings:

  • Joey Brown
  • Jordy Lopez Jr (rookie)
  • Allen Boes*
  • Kollin Keister*
  • Cody Byus*
  • Tucker Minter (rookie)
  • Vicente Salas*
  • Kaden Honeycutt*
  • Derek Justis*
  • Wyatt Tinsley (rookie)
  • Darik Bourdeau*
  • Collin Bowden*
  • Parker White (rookie)
  • Dylan Ault*
  • Timmy Holmes (rookie)
  • Tyler Garey (rookie)
  • Ryan Doucette
  • Brandon McKissic (rookie)
  • Malik Ray*
  • Kevin King
  • Michael Cosey Jr (rookie)
  • Daniel Faulkingham (rookie)

Of this list, 10 drivers are returning after falling into relegation following the 2022 Coke finale at Phoenix back in October. Those drivers are marked with an asterisk in the list above, and notably includes previous Coke Series winners Allen Boes, Kollin Keister, Cody Byus, Vicente Salas and Darik Bourdeau.

Malik Ray (1) will return to the Coke Series while Daniel Faulkingham (39) will make his debut, qualifying in as the last driver on points.

Nine drivers will be entering the series for the first time in 2023. Those designated rookies climbed their way through the eNASCAR Qualifying iRacing Series ladder at the start of 2022 and managed to finish as one of the Top 22 drivers at the top of the ladder. They are notated with (rookie) next to their name.

Three more drivers entering the 2023 season are returning to Coke Series competition after not being included in the 2022 season. Two of those drivers are previous multi-time winners in the series who had to, like the rookies, work their way up through the ladder system despite their previous successes.

Joey Brown returns for the first time since 2014, the longest gap between seasons of the three returning drivers. Brown ran two seasons, full-time in 2013 where he finished 15th overall, and has three prior victories in the series at Charlotte (2013), Atlanta (2013) and Kentucky (2014).

Joey Brown was the dominant driver in the 2022 Contender Series, winning the overall title after seven races.

Kevin King also returns after a long hiatus, his last prior Coke race coming in 2016. King has four total victories, collecting wins at Phoenix (2011), Dover (2012), Homestead-Miami (2012) and Texas (2014) during his six-season run from 2011 to 2016, his best season in 2012 when he finished third overall.

Unfortunately for Ryan Doucette, his previous experience isn’t quite at the level of Brown or King, but he was more recently in the series and has prior experience in the team era, driving for Clint Bowyer Racing in his rookie season in 2021. His best career finish was a 12th place effort at Michigan in 2021.

18 DRIVERS RETURNING IN 2023

The Top 20 finishers in the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series points locked in their place on the 2023 roster back in October. However, two of those drivers opted not to accept their invite back to the series and that’s why Contender wound up taking 22 drivers.

Blake Reynolds announced that he was one of those drivers not returning back October. The former Contender champ, back when it was called the Pro Series, was this year’s best of the rest, the top driver in the standings not in the playoffs. Reynolds made the Championship 4 and finished fourth in 2019.

2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series mid-season team outlook
Blake Reynolds is one of two drivers that finished in the Top 20 in 2022 that will not return for 2023.

The other driver that won’t be returning has not yet been announced yet. There were five other drivers who hung up their virtual helmets after the 2022 Season, but they were not in the Top 20 at season’s end. That included Logan Clampitt, Liam Brotherton, Parker Retzlaff, Nickolas Shelton and Kyle Peddle.

HOW THE TEAMS LOOKED IN 2022

It’s not guaranteed that these will be the same 20 teams in the 2023 season, as every year there seems to be some turnover as some teams exit and other teams come into the fold.

In the last off-season, both JTG Daugherty Racing and McLaren Shadow exited the series while the Charlotte Phoenix and iRacing Motorsports joined the team roster. We also saw Richmond Raceway Esports change into Rise Esports, Kligerman Sport become eRacr and Roush Fenway turn to RFK Racing.

There is expected to be more changes this offseason, but those moves have not yet been announced. Here’s how the teams looked in 2022 and what gaps would need to be filled based on the Contender results:

eNCCiS CLASH: Casey Kirwan wins inaugural eNASCAR Clash at the LA Coliseum
TEAMCAR 1CAR 2
23XI Racing23 – Mitchell deJong45 – Keegan Leahy
Charlotte Phoenix43 – Kollin Keister48 – Graham Bowlin
Clint Bowyer Racing14 – Nicholas Shelton*79 – Femi Olatunbosun
Elliott Sadler Esports2 – Liam Brotherton*31 – Garrett Manes
eRacr.gg42 – Darik Bourdeau69 – Collin Bowden
Joe Gibbs Racing18 – Bobby Zalenski51 – Ray Alfalla*
iRacing Motorsports7 – Malik Ray12 – Derek Justis
Jim Beaver Esports9 – Michael Guest15 – Blake Reynolds*
JR Motorsports8 – Michael Conti88 – Briar LaPradd*
LETARTE Esports36 – Brian Mercurio*40 – Dylan Ault
MODE Motorsports24 – Cody Byus75 – Matt Bussa
RFK Racing6 – Parker Retzlaff*30 – Kaden Honeycutt
Rise Esports5 – Zack Novak46 – Jimmy Mullis
Spacestation Racing54 – Kyle Peddle*55 – Allen Boes
Stewart-Haas Esports10 – Steven Wilson41 – Dylan Duval
Team Dillon Esports3 – Corey Vincent33 – Taylor Hurst*
William Byron Esports25 – Nick Ottinger97 – Logan Clampitt*
Williams Esports19 – Vicente Salas20 – Donovan Strauss
Wood Brothers Racing16 – Blade Whitt*21 – Garrett Lowe
XSET4 – Ryan Luza95 – Casey Kirwan

Drivers whose names are crossed out above are not returning to the Coca-Cola Series in 2023. These teams and respective drivers are not any sort of locked for the 2023 season either.

Combinations such as Michael Conti with JR Motorsports will likely stay the same, as it’s been since 2019. Other drivers may not choose to return to their same team. Some teams may not even be returning. This will hopefully be announced before Free Agency begins next year.

BACK TO THE FIRST STEP OF ROAD TO PRO LADDER

Briar LaPradd (88) would have had enough points to get back to Coke in 2023, but because the series utilizes drop weeks, he missed the cut and will have to go back to the Road to Pro Qualifying Series.

Ray Alfalla, Briar LaPradd, Brian Mercurio, Taylor Hurst and Blade Whitt were all relegated out of the Coke Series and did not advance back above the cut line following the Texas Contender finale.

Both LaPradd and Mercurio were rookies in 2022 and will likely look to get back to the top level through the Road to Pro ladder once again. Whitt was in his second season in the series, both years falling out into relegation, this season unable to return back.

Taylor Hurst is a former winner in the series, a seven-year veteran with that lone win at Chicagoland. After getting relegated in 2019, Hurst skipped over the Contender round that season and went straight back into the Road to Pro ladder where he was able to re-qualify in 2021. Unfortunately, he’ll have to do that all over again if he wants to return for the 2024 season.

Ray Alfalla was eliminated from returning to the Coke Series after the sixth Contender race at Darlington.

Perhaps one of the biggest stories to come out of this year of eNASCAR is the fact that the most decorated eNASCAR driver of all time, 4-Time champ Ray Alfalla won’t be a part of the 2023 Coke Series field, and it’s not from unforced retirement.

Alfalla won earlier this year at Nashville Superspeedway, which would have locked him into the eNASCAR Playoffs if he would have finished in the Top 20 in the standings in the regular season. Instead, Alfalla was relegated by season’s end, and the former Contender Champion was nowhere near what was expected in the seven-race series.

It does look like Alfalla will be attempting the Road to Pro ladder for the first time in his career, having been a part of the top series since its inception back in 2010.

***

As we get closer to the start of the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season, keep it pinned here at Traxion.GG for more news and details surrounding the upcoming series as things are revealed by iRacing. We’ll have coverage of the eNASCAR Silly Season as it happens.

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