On 29th August, at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET on a Monday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, up-and-comer Presley Sorah won what may have been the biggest trophy of his sim racing career. Sorah, in his Monday Night Racing Pro Series rookie campaign, was able to take the championship in his first attempt.
Both Sorah and NASCAR Xfinity Series contender Anthony Alfredo were locked in an intense battle coming to the close of the live championship event. With the laps winding down at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only one of the four drivers could hoist the Bob Jenkins Memorial Cup at the end of the night.
Sorah and Alfredo managed to put themselves in position to take one less pit stop than their other two championship competitors, NASCAR NEXT Alumnus James Bickford and Brandonbilt Motorsports’ Technical Director Collin Fern. The four of them all sat on the stage, feet apart at the Carolina Esports Hub.
The virtual fuel would be close, however. The two up front needed to both save and drive as hard as possible to stay ahead. On iRacing, once the fuel starts sputtering, that could have spelt the end for either driver.
On the final turn of the final lap, things got physical. Alfredo gave the bumper to Sorah, who was waiting to pick up the throttle as late as possible to have full power to the finish line. Another bumper, this time, Sorah was out of the groove. As Alfredo came up off of the corner, Sorah came down. They collided.
Chaos ensued. The sprint to the line became a crawl as both became momentarily stationary. Behind them, the field closed in, including their championship rivals on the extra pit stop strategy. The fifth place truck, NASCAR Truck Series driver Corey Heim, he was one of the first on the scene with the rest of the field.
The battle wasn’t for the win as both David Schildhouse and DJ Cummings, two previous title contenders in past seasons, were well ahead of the scuffle. Alfredo and Sorah were wrecking for third on the track, but it would be first in the title bout.
As Heim came into the vicinity of the wreckage, he went directly into Alfredo’s door and sent him flying. At the same time, Aussie Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen also flew in and careened into Sorah. More trucks would collide and the title contenders were no longer in control.
When the virtual dust settled, Sorah was declared the champion. He was sent just far enough into the virtual stratosphere to land mere feet across the finish line, ultimately in eighth. Alfredo’s flight was not as lucky as he was sent over the pit wall, coasting across the line to finish in 13th.
The other two got close, but it wasn’t enough. Bickford missed out on a championship by three spots and less than three seconds, finishing 11th. He missed pit road on lap 104 and cost himself a couple of seconds getting back up to speed.
In a race that went caution free, that was likely the difference. Fern also passed Alfredo to finish third in the standings, coming home in 12th.
The conclusion to the season was unpredictable. The only thing that was certain was that there would be a new champion at the end of it all. The rookie Sorah capitalized, seized the moment, and on the biggest stage of his sim racing career, he walks away with the title.
GETTING TO CHARLOTTE
“I was confident enough that we already had the hotel booked and the tickets to the event purchased.”
Getting to the Championship 4 was never in doubt for Sorah. The winner of the Monday Night Racing Road To Glory, the runner up in Anthony Alfredo’s Esports Racing League, and a former eNASCAR Ignite Series title contender, Sorah has always been confident in his skills with the virtual racecar.
Sorah had two wins on the season, the first to do so in Season 5 within the first four races on the schedule. His first win came at Martinsville in the Global Mazda MX-5s, a combination that MNR utilized that can be accredited to Mooncar, a casual hosted series on the iRacing platform run by Travis “Moonhead” Brown.
The second win was also something you might find in Mooncar, Radical SR8s at Texas Motor Speedway. Both unlikely combinations that have the ability to put on extremely close, side-by-side racing action. While having that Mooncar experience likely helped, Sorah was still a threat throughout the entire season.
“I expect to win every race because that’s the standards I hold myself to,” Sorah said. He also had a duel win to his credit, as Monday Night Racing had their first Daytona Duels to set the line up for the season-opening Sunrise 500.
That race didn’t pan out for him, as didn’t a lot of races where he found himself as a race winning contender.
No other wins would come for the remainder of the season for Sorah, but it was enough to get him to the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on a Charlotte stage as one of the Championship 4 drivers. Despite the fall off for the rest of the Regular Season, it was smoother seas for the rookie in the chase for the title.
“Once we got to the playoffs, it got much better,” Sorah said. “I was knocking off Top 5’s and just running closer to where I hold myself to. I think my consistency in the playoffs is really what got me the Championship 4.”
“The way the playoff format is, two races per round and then three guys go home, you can’t really have an issue and I didn’t really have any issues the whole playoffs. I just kind of knocked off a bunch of really good finishes.”
FLYING TO THE FINISH LINE
The battle to the line wasn’t what anyone expected, especially Sorah. “I was surprised (Alfredo) was even able to still get to me,” Sorah explained about entering the final corner of the final lap. “That’s about the furthest you can drive it in there without knocking the fence down on exit.”
“Once he moved me, I was not happy, because I passed him completely clean,” Sorah continued. Alfredo definitely sent it harder than anyone into the final corner, a shot at the title on the line. Contact was made once, then twice, and then Sorah was out of the groove. As Alfredo came up to exit, Sorah came down to defend.
“I turned back into him… I feel like some people thought that I was just trying to intentionally wreck him, which is not what I do,” Sorah said. “My entire goal, turning back left, was to just pop him enough to slow him back down to my speed, to give me a chance coming to the line.”
It turned into chaos, as the netcode combined the trucks momentarily, sending the pair into the wall off of the Turn 4 exit. “It killed my engine on that first hit.”
Sitting motionless, a football field away from the finish line with his opponent also wrecked and two other title contenders on the charge, Sorah was thankful for the hits by both Shane van Gisbergen and Garrett Smithley. Unconventional, something you’d never see in the real-world series, but it worked out.
“I knew my only shot, since the engine was dead, was just to get hit a couple more times across the line,” Sorah said. “Thankfully, Garrett Smithley came along and knocked me across the line.”
A CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR
One of the things that Monday Night Racing has been able to provide for their drivers is opportunity. Again, with the trip to Charlotte happening whether he went back home to Indiana with the Bob Jenkins Memorial Cup or not, Sorah was seizing every opportunity he could in the interim.
A de facto Championship Tour commenced in the days following the battle for Sorah. “Some of it was planned and some of it wasn’t,” he said. One thing that wasn’t planned was a trip to Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina.
After liaising with Bryan ‘Boris’ Cook, Joe Gibbs Racing Chief Digital Officer, Sorah took his hardware to the shop to meet with Team Owner Joe Gibbs.
The visit included a shop tour, all in part thanks to the fact that the Monday Night Racing series was sponsored in Season 5 by Interstate Batteries, a long time sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. The team even made a celebratory post about Sorah following his achievement.
Sorah did have plans already made for the Charlotte trip. With the revival of North Wilkesboro, Sorah made his way to the historic facility to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr and some of the best Late Model drivers wheel around the old pavement. He did, however, have another reason.
“I wanted to go to the race, but I had to get my helmet wired with the radio stuff and Racing Radios was down there in the infield. They were doing stuff for the drivers that actually had racing that night, and I needed a helmet done for Thursday.”
The final leg in Charlotte wound up being a test in a Limited Late Model, originally scheduled to be at Caraway Speedway but changed last minute over to Hickory Motor Speedway. Orion Motorsports provided the test, and while it could lead to future
“It was 91 degrees, so it was hot, slick, with scuffed tires on Hickory Motor Speedway. It’s a fun combination, Sorah said. “(I was able to) bounce some feedback off of Blake (McCandless) and Travis (“Moonhead” Brown) since they both had races there earlier this year.”
The Bob Jenkins Memorial Cup has also been to the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indiana, with Sorah able to pose with fellow Monday Night Racing competitor and his Crypto Autosport teammate, the two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps (who won that weekend). The trophy has also been to the hometown of Jenkins, Liberty in Indiana, for an unveiling of a dedicated mural.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE MNR CHAMPION
While Sorah will look to defend his title when Monday Night Racing returns for Season 6 on 7th November 2022, running the Generation 5 NASCAR Car of Tomorrow at Talladega Superspeedway, he also has a huge aspiration to get his real-world racing career off of the ground.
Unlike most of the Monday Night Racing field, Sorah doesn’t have a direct tie-in to the motorsport world. Most of his competitors work in the industry, whether they drive, work for a team, produce media surrounding races or even work for sanctioning bodies themselves.
Sorah got into Monday Night Racing after it was briefly opened to the public to qualify in through either Anthony Alfredo’s Esports Racing League or the one-time season of the Monday Night Racing Road to Glory. Sorah just missed out winning the ERL title to Adam Cabot, who became MNR’s Season 4 champ.
Sorah didn’t miss his opportunity in the Road to Glory, winning that title handedly over Nick Olsen and Bailey Turner, who also advanced to the main series. While he’s been going hard at the online scene for the last five years, with the eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series as his sim racing end goal, the fact is that the Indiana native wants to experience the real-world product.
“Being a NASCAR driver has always been my dream, so that’s what I’ve always been working on since I was old enough to even be able to form the thought of what I wanna do when I’m older,” Sorah said. “I don’t have a backup plan. It sounds stupid, but I’m 100 percent all-in on racing all the time. I’ve live it, breathe it, all that.”
The late model test could prove to turn into future rides, given the right sponsorship opportunities. As of now, Sorah is working on trying to race short ovals locally in Indiana, with a goal set of running a NASCAR Truck at one of his home tracks, Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
As far as the sim stuff goes, while the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series would be a great addition to any racer’s resume, Sorah is more than pleased to be a part of Monday Night Racing. “I wanted to get involved with Monday Night Racing from the get-go when I first heard of it,” He said.
“In my opinion, it’s the best league on iRacing, even above the Coke Series, just because of the aspect of having the real-world drivers in there. I mean, Dale Earnhardt Jr raced the season opener, Kyle Busch has raced a bunch. Alfredo, Vargas, Shane van Ginsberg and all these guys have raced in it.”
“It’s the real guys you watch race on TV on Sundays. In my opinion, that’s the top league.”
Monday Night Racing will return for a sixth season in November. More details surrounding the series, including broadcasts, schedules and rosters, will be announced closer to the start of the season.