This is it.
Since February, the 40 best oval sim racers on the iRacing platform have taken their talents from the high banks of Daytona, to the twists of Road America, through the lair of the Lady in Black and down to the southern-most point of the schedule at Homestead-Miami, and many other venues in between.
17 races of eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series competition in the 2022 season, and it all comes down to one last battle at the virtual Phoenix Raceway.
Like their real-world NASCAR Cup Series counterpart, Phoenix will crown an eNASCAR champion on Tuesday night. However, the action will take place in the heart of the Queen City, in Uptown Charlotte at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The four title contenders will race live and on-stage for all the marbles.
The newly-minted Dale Earnhardt Jr Championship Trophy, iRacing’s new reward to the series winner, will be presented by the man himself, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Our four title contenders – Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing), Steven Wilson (Stewart-Haas Esports), Graham A. Bowlin (Charlotte Phoenix) and Casey Kirwan (XSET) – as well as the rest of the 40-car eNASCAR field, are all set for 110 laps in the virtual desert to conclude another season of competition.
ENASCAR CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY LESSON
iRacing’s eNASCAR Driver’s World Championship Series, as it used to be dubbed, has been around since 2010, the first race of the series ever, at Daytona, won by Earnhardt Jr. The 2010 season wrapped up at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the title that season won by Richard Towler over Brad Davies.
From 2011 to 2020, the title would be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway, four of which would go to Ray Alfalla over the course of 10 years. Michael Conti, Ryan Luza, Zack Novak and Nick Ottinger would also take their respective titles in that time frame.
In 2020, with Coca-Cola coming on-board for the series at the title sponsor, the champion’s share grew to $100,000. Ottinger took that first-ever six-figure payout after finishing the highest of the Championship 4 in Homestead-Miami. The venue changed in 2021 to Texas Motor Speedway where Keegan Leahy scored his title, also raking in $100,000.
POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST RACE IN SERIES HISTORY
While the monetary prize is still the same, the stakes have never been higher. While Novak’s 2019 title could be viewed as a bigger event for the sake of it being broadcasted live on what was once the NBC Sports Network, he only took home $40,000 for the title that season.
This title won’t be on television, once again just a live-stream over Twitch and YouTube, but $100,000 will be accompanied by the new Dale Earnhardt Jr Championship Trophy, resembling the old Winston Cup trophies that NASCAR used to hand out until 2003.
It will also take place for the first time in front of a live audience, at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A live broadcast, a huge payday, and a presentation from a NASCAR Hall of Famer in Earnhardt Jr. This may very well be the biggest race in eNASCAR iRacing Series history.
WHO TO WATCH FOR
The eNASCAR Championship 4 quartet of Zalenski, Wilson, Bowlin and Kirwan all worked to make their way to this place, so it would be an easy play to say they’d be the ones to watch. Other playoff drivers who didn’t make it, like Conti or Ottinger, will be racing from the comfort of their own home and could play potential spoilers.
Drivers such as Blake Reynolds, Logan Clampitt and Liam Brotherton are all making their last starts in the series on Tuesday night. They’ll all be looking to add one last virtual trophy to their collection as they move on following the 2022 season.
The Team Championship will be a point of contention for a handful of drivers during the finale. Stewart-Haas Esports currently holds the lead by 18 points over Jim Beaver Esports. Wilson will be going for the title as Dylan Duval will be looking to get as many points for the team and himself in the final race.
Both of Jim Beaver’s drivers, Blake Reynolds and Michael Guest, are 11th and 12th in the standings, respectively. XSET also has a mathematical shot, 29 points back, but will need some help as Kirwan chases the title and Ryan Luza looks to stave off relegation.
That’s the other thing – Relegation. As it stands, Vicente Salas holds the final transfer spot in 20th heading into the finale. He won’t be there tonight. Alfalla will be chomping at the bit to steal the final place and avoid the Contender Series. Leahy and Brian Mercurio also have realistic shots as well to usurp Salas.
Phoenix Raceway happens to have existed back in the 2010 inaugural schedule, that race was won by Josh Parker. Kevin King and PJ Stergios also have wins at the facility.
Winners at the track that will be in the field include Ottinger (2012), Conti (2013), Alfalla (2015), Zalenski (2017) and Leahy (2018). Here’s the catch – Phoenix Raceway hasn’t been on the schedule since 2018 when Leahy won. The track is also a brand-new configuration that released back in 2021.
While being a past winner will be some sort of recognition heading in, especially for Zalenski as he fights for the title, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will stand out among the pack on Tuesday night.
WHERE TO WATCH
The Countdown to Green begins on 25th October at 8:00 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. BST (26th) with the race itself starting at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. BST. Evan Posocco, Alan Cavanna and Steve Letarte will be on the call live from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Blake McCandless and Camille Salazar Hadaway are also on-site for the pre-race.
The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing social channels.
POINTS ENTERING RACE #18 – PHOENIX RACEWAY
|C4||10||Steven Wilson||Stewart-Haas Esports||4||3000||8||11|
|C4||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||1||3000||4||7|
|C4||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||1||3000||7||7|
|5||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||2||2058||4||7|
|6||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||2||-10||5||8|
|6||23||Mitchell deJong||23XI Racing||1||-10||4||5|
|8||79||Femi Olatunbosun||Clint Bowyer Racing||1||-14||3||6|
|8||21||Garrett Lowe||Wood Brothers Racing||1||-14||2||5|
|10||75||Matt Bussa||Mode Motorsports||1||-28||2||8|
2022 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|25-Oct-22||C4F | 18||Phoenix Raceway||110|