It was announced on Monday (24th April) that the virtual edition of The Firecracker 400 would be returning this summer after taking the 2022 calendar year off.
Hosted by eRacr.gg and contested on the iRacing platform, The Firecracker 400 event pays homage to the earlier days of NASCAR Stock Car racing. The event utilizes iRacing’s 1987 NASCAR Stock Cars (the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ford Thunderbird and Buick LeSabre) and the older, bumpier version of Daytona International Speedway.
The official date of the race is on 26th July, a Wednesday, with preliminary races and qualifying scheduled in the weeks prior, as well as a consolation Firecracker 200 race, all on the weekdays to accommodate the NASCAR race weekends in between.
The official dates of the event will be announced later this week during the World 600 community event by Blake McCandless. Sign-ups for the event will also start closer to the running date, per eRacr.gg’s Joshua Mendoza. We’ll update this article when that information becomes available.
THE FIRECRACKER 400 HISTORY
Back in 2020, when racecar drivers were unable to race on the real-world tracks, the motorsports world turned to sim racing. iRacing, in particular, was able to seize the opportunity with many official and unofficial events sprouting up during the shutdown.
In the wake of the success of such events like the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series and the IndyCar Challenge on the iRacing platform, NASCAR drivers Landon Cassill and Parker Kligerman teamed up to create eRacr.gg to put together a recreation of what was once The Firecracker 400.
The summer race at Daytona, before Pepsi and now Coca-Cola got the sponsorship rights, used to be called the Firecracker. It also used to run on the Fourth of July, every year, and it was during the morning to afternoon hours as it was before lights were installed around the 2.5-mile superspeedway facility.
This tradition lasted up until 1987, funny enough, which is the same year of the virtual cars that are being used by eRacr.gg. While iRacing doesn’t have a scan or a retro version of the Daytona track from the eighties, it does have one from 2007, one of the last years before the track was paved, which gives this utilized version some character.
A TOP BILLED iRACING COMMUNITY EVENT
Brandon Kettelle was the inaugural winner of the event in 2020. In 2021, it was Michael Cosey Jr. While the winners and the racing is important, it is also important to recognize the detail that has gone into these events over those two seasons.
There was some conjunction with the NASCAR Hall of Fame to bring in some of that real-world NASCAR knowledge to the show. The booth was led by both Cassill and Kligerman alongside David Schildhouse, all three dressed up in dress attire to call the action.
There were multiple broadcasters and camera operators, led by the direction of Chris Hanel, and multiple stewards led by eRacr.gg’s own Mendoza. The event included audience interaction through Twitch through the entirety of it in both years, and it garnered a lot of attention from the oval side of the iRacing community.
One of the neatest parts of it all was the real-world talent that attempted to make – and in some cases qualified into – the field of 43 starters. NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt Jr and Bobby Labonte, NASCAR Cup Series drivers William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series talent such as Anthony Alfredo, Ryan Vargas, Garrett Smithley, Rajah Caruth and even IndyCar talent such as Ed Carpenter have all tried their hand.
That doesn’t even include the tons of top talented eNASCAR drivers such as Ray Alfalla, Michael Conti, Nick Ottinger, Casey Kirwan, Zack Novak and more who have thrown their name into the ring.
In total, the first two events have seen more than 340 entries take part in the preliminary rounds, taking 88 drivers from there into qualifying where only the Top 42 make the main race.
AN EXTRA YEAR TO PREPARE
The race was not able to materialize in 2022 due to schedule constraints. Landon Cassill had returned to full-time racing competition with Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to start 2022 and Parker Kligerman was taking on more opportunities, all of which have led to his full-time 2023 Xfinity schedule with Big Machine Racing.
Despite the race not happening, community events led by Blake McCandless filled up some of that void, with races such as the World 600 and the Rockingham 508. One event McCandless and the rest of the community left be was The Firecracker, in hopes that it would eventually return under the eRacr.gg banner. Sure enough, it has.
The format for 2023 hasn’t yet been announced, but it would be expected to be similar to previous iterations. Other details, such as the entry fee, prize pool and official partners are yet to be announced as well.
THE 2023 FIRECRACKER 400 SCHEDULE (ADDED 27 APRIL)
- 12th July (Weds) – Preliminary Night 1
- 13th July (Thurs) – Preliminary Night 2
- 18th July (Tues) – Qualifying Night 1
- 19th July (Weds) – Qualifying Night 2
- 24th July (Mon) – The Firecracker 200 [consolation race]
- 26th July (Weds) – The 2023 Firecracker 400 [main event]