The first in the four-race mini-series got under way on Sunday afternoon on the NASCAR Heat platform. In a slight departure from the regular eNASCAR Heat Pro League, this series has open qualifiers for all races other than the finale, allowing new names to shine through and take on the established Pro League racers.
The entertainment kicked off with the PlayStation drivers taking the field at virtual Dover International Speedway. They were led to green by Thomas Kohick who raised an impressive $1,215 for the Movember Foundation – just $1 more than fellow front-row driver Joey Stone.
The race got off to a fiery start, with Stone, Maxwell Castro and Cohick battling it out at the front. The field were generally well behaved until a fairly large incident involving the No. 62 of Joshua Watson flipping several times and bringing out the first caution of the day.
As they say in NASCAR, “cautions breed cautions” and the yellow flag was bought out just a few laps later with at 36 and then 29 to go, both with incidents toward the back of the field and unseen on the broadcast.
With pit strategies around the cautions making a big difference the order was quite different after the restart. Josh Parker, Josh Harbin and Chase Williamson were the top three with 25 to go and the early leaders were slightly further back but still within the top 10.
The final restart came with 15 laps remaining and the top five was led by Harbin and followed closely by a resurgent Castro then Williamson, Stone and Parker
On the restart Castro jumped Williamson for 2nd and began to put initial pressure on Harbin. With 10 to go however, Harbin (also known as “The Bear”) pulled away as Castro has to defend from newcomer Williamson and began to look comfortable.
Things move quickly in the NASCAR Heat scene and with just 8 laps remining, Harbin began to lose ground to Castro. Whilst under extreme pressure Castro makes the move on the frontstretch and Harbin can’t hold the car on the outside line, hitting the outside wall and dropping back further.
At the checkered flag, Castro took home a deserved victory (and celebrated in a quite emphatic manner). Williamson and Giles came home 2nd and 3rd respectively and secured their spot in the Daytona International championship finale in February.
The Xbox race was just as frantic. The drivers were led to the green by polesitter Matthew Selby, who managed to raise and incredible $1,118 (more than double that of his nearest Xbox competitor!). However, as the race began, the polesitter began to fade early on as Justin Brooks, Tyler Dohar and eNASCAR Pro League Season 2 driver champion Daniel Buttafuoco solidified themselves at the front early on.
The mid-race was plagued with cautions with the first yellow flag came out 11 laps into the race. That was then followed very quickly by cautions with 35 laps, then 27 laps remaining.
Meanwhile the audience were also kept entertained by a look at one of the best fake ‘stache we’ve seen in a while from Jeff Noe…
When the race resumed, Brooks and Dohar occupied the top two places, fighting hard. Newcomer Elijah White was impressing with a good run, taking 3nd from Dohar whilst also keeping champion Buttafuoco at bay.
As tire-wear became a factor in the final stages, Buttafuoco found a gap as White washed out wide to move into second place.
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The final laps saw White slip further as he struggled with his car. Buttafuoco piled the pressure onto the No. 37 of Brooks and as the white flag went out it was looking like a possible repeat of the eNHPL finale but Brooks kept tight and the racing was clean as the JTG Daugherty Throttlers driver took the victory.
By virtue of his 2nd-place finish, Buttafuoco booked his place into the finale. Luis Zaiter took the final qualification spot after pipping Jeff Noe and James Holtzer who both impressed as rookies at the top level.
|1||3||Maxwell Castro||Chip Ganassi Gaming|
|3||15||Cody Giles||Wood Brothers Gaming|
|4||9||Josh Parker||Gibbs Gaming|
|8||2||Joey Stone||RCR eSports|
|17||24||Brandon Hanna||Roush Fenway Gaming|
|19||19||TJ McGowan||JTG Daugherty Throttlers|
|20||23||Corey Rothgeb||Team Penske eSports|
|21||13||Mike Braas||Petty eSports|
|23||7||Brandyn Gritton||Stewart-Haas eSports|
|1||3||Justin Brooks||JTG Daugherty Throttlers|
|3||15||Luis Zaiter||Chip Ganassi Gaming|
|7||17||Jordan McGraw||RCR eSports|
|10||1||Matthew Selby||Stewart-Haas eSports|
|13||23||Brian Tedeschi||Team Penske eSports|
|14||16||Slade Gravitt||Wood Brothers Gaming|
|17||22||Diego Alvarado||Petty eSports|
|20||2||Tyler Dohar||JR Motorsports|
|22||21||Matthew Heale||Gibbs Gaming|