The COTA hype continues Wednesday night with the real professional drivers getting a virtual crack at the new venue ahead of this weekend’s race.
iRacing’s virtual Circuit of the Americas will play host to the NASCAR Cup Series stars for round four of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series, the first virtual road course race in series history. This weekend will be the first time that the NASCAR drivers will take on the 3.427-mile / 5.515-kilometer venue, so the virtual race could prove to be useful.
So far through three races, William Byron, Brad Keselowski, and Erik Jones have all found virtual successes at Bristol Dirt, Talladega, and Darlington respectively. With a new wrinkle in play, who will have an advantage, if any at all, for the virtual shakedown? Jones told us a few weeks ago that he felt the road courses are “probably the most important thing we can do on the simulation” towards the real product, so it will be interesting to see how the virtual battle plays out.
In the real world, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr are the two of the best on road courses currently, sharing victory lane in nine of the last eleven road races in the NASCAR Cup Series. Christopher Bell won earlier this season at the Daytona Road Course while Ryan Blaney won a Charlotte Roval race a few years ago. If anything is translatable, it could be a good battle virtually between some of the best in reality.
Virtually though, it will likely come down to a few factors, including sim experience, track training, and maybe who each real driver has on their side to lean on in the virtual series. It could also be a complete mystery as to who takes to the virtual track fastest.
Mitchell deJong won in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series at COTA on Tuesday night, and he could prove to be a good tool for his team owner Denny Hamlin and teammate Bubba Wallace to utilize in practice for this race.
Hamlin and Wallace also have Keegan Leahy on 23XI Racing in the iRacing Series, while Byron owns cars for Nick Ottinger and Logan Clampitt on William Byron eSports, and Dale Earnhardt Jr employs Michael Conti and Brad Davies at JR Motorsports.
Jesse Iwuji will be in the field again as the fan vote winner, as well as the usual crowd of 36 chartered Cup Series teams and drivers, Timmy Hill, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Clint Bowyer. Kyle Tilley, who will be making his NASCAR debut at COTA on Sunday, will also be making is eNPIS debut on Wednesday as well in the Live Fast Motorsports No. 78.
Hypothetically, James Davison has the “points lead” if the series were keeping score, with Bell and Hill close behind. The prerace show will begin at 6:00 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 with the racing set to go off at 7:00 p.m. ET.