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eNCCiS Preview: All-Star Race with NEXT Gen Cars at Nashville Superspeedway

Only two points paying races remain on the regular season calendar before the 2021 eNASCAR Playoffs begin. Before that, however, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series contingent get to have a little fun on Tuesday night. Starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on eNASCAR.com, the best oval drivers on iRacing will race for a chance to win $3,500.

The 2021 All-Star Race will feature NASCAR NEXT Gen cars from the Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota camps, racing on the Nashville Superspeedway on iRacing. A total of 21 drivers are locked into the main event by virtue of winning a race in the last two seasons, winning a pole in the last two seasons, or winning a championship in the entirety of the series.

Four drivers not on the 2021 roster — Kollin Keister (Charlotte 2020 winner), Brandon Kettelle (Talladega 2020 winner), Kenny Humpe (2015 Series Champion) and Richard Towler (2010 Series Champion) — have all been invited to compete in the feature event.

Brandon Kettelle was relegated from the series last season and is working his way back through Road to Pro. He’ll drive a favorite number of his with a sponsor he made a relationship with, Radius, back during the eRacr.gg Firecracker 400.

17 other drivers that are still in the series, all listed below, are also exempt from having to run the All Star Open having won something recently. Those drivers are:

  • Ray Alfalla (2011, 2012, 2016, 2018 Series Champion)
  • Michael Conti (2014 Series Champion)
  • Ryan Luza (2017 Series Champion)
  • Zack Novak (2019 Series Champion)
  • Nick Ottinger (2020 Series Champion)
  • Keegan Leahy (Homestead-Miami 2021 winner)
  • Logan Clampitt (Atlanta 2021 winner)
  • Bob Bryant (Auto Club 2021 winner)
  • Vicente Salas (Richmond 2021 winner)
  • Chris Shearburn (Kansas 2021 winner)
  • Mitchell deJong (Road America 2021 winner)
  • Bobby Zalenski (Pocono 2021 winner)
  • Jimmy Mullis (New Hampshire 2021 winner)
  • Casey Kirwan (Michigan 2020 winner)
  • Ashton Crowder (Auto Club 2020 winner)
  • Corey Vincent (Atlanta 2020 Pole Position)
  • Graham A. Bowlin (Texas 2020 Pole Position)

The 23 full-time drivers in the series will also get their shot at the prize, but they have an extra step in having to advance from the All-Star Open. The 40-lap Open kicks off the night at 8:00 p.m. ET and the Top 2 finishers will advance to the All-Star Race. No tire changes will be available, and there will be a competition caution at lap 25.

After the Countdown to Green, the main event will kick off around 9:00 p.m. ET. 60 laps are scheduled with competition cautions set at laps 20 and 45. Drivers in the main show get one extra set of tires, and the overall winner will pocket the $3,500 prize. Second place takes home $1,000 while third place will get $500.

NASHVILLE NEXT GEN RACING

Not much is known for these cars or this track. The NEXT Gen cars are scheduled to launch in the real world in 2022, and have only really been used at this level of competition for the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series at Darlington Raceway and the Chicago Street Course.

These drivers will have five gears to shift in this future vehicle. Aerodynamics are a little different, and the rear bumpers feature a rounded surface that has a diffuser underneath.

Nashville Superspeedway is a 1.33-mile oval that joined both the NASCAR schedule and the iRacing track roster in 2021. The track is concrete in the real world, so it drives a little differently in the sim as well as far as tire grip is concerned.

The original plan announced back in February was to have the All-Star Race at the fictional iRacing Superspeedway, but it was changed and announced two weeks ago during the New Hampshire broadcast.

Honestly, I don’t know too much about what to expect on Tuesday night. Being a fixed-setup event, it’s possible that some of the guys who normally don’t dominate, someone like a Casey Kirwan or a Blake Reynolds could show up and steal the show. Expect the unexpected.

ALL STAR HISTORY LESSON

Last season, things got a little bit… spicy… in the All-Star event at North Wilkesboro.

This will be the third official season with an All-Star event. 2019 saw two of them live on NBC Sports Network, the first two sim races broadcasted live on TV. Nick Ottinger won the first race barely over Ryan Luza at Iowa Speedway, nearly two years ago to the day. Zack Novak was the other All-Star that season, defeating Michael Conti in the closing laps at Rockingham.

Last year, the series took NASCAR Camping World Trucks to North Wilkesboro and saw fireworks fly on the final corner of the final lap. Blake Reynolds put the bumper to Logan Clampitt, getting him sideways. As Clampitt tried to save it, Reynolds got to his outside. At the same moment, Clampitt went from looking at the infield to looking at the outside wall, the two trucks tumbling out of the corner. Graham A. Bowlin stole the show and the win in his rookie season.

There have been unofficial All-Star races in the past. Clampitt won the last of those in 2018 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after the trio of Ray Alfalla, Bobby Zalenski and Garrett Lowe collided in front of him out of Turn 2 on the final lap.

The ones in 2019, however, were pretty special to the series in general, as it took what was normally a secluded world of sim racing to the general population’s homes on cable network television. Parker Kligerman was a big part of bridging that gap, as he went from real racer and NBC broadcaster to sim racer, explaining the nuances of racing on the computer. Since then, the series has seen new heights.

TWO REGULAR SEASON RACES REMAIN

After an All-Star is crowned, the focus will be back on the 2021 eNASCAR Playoffs. 11 drivers have won, but only 10 can make the playoff field. Right now, Ray Alfalla is the odd man out, 25 points behind the preliminary 10th place driver, Chris Shearburn.

The points racing resumes in a week at Watkins Glen Int’l, and the regular season concludes at Michigan Int’l Speedway. The series hasn’t been to Watkins Glen since 2016 where Nick Ottinger was victorious. Michigan, on the other hand, is a staple race on every calendar. Last season, Casey Kirwan held on for the win.

Tune in the the action over at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing social channels. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight, 30 minutes earlier than the Countdown to Green normally starts.

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