Top 88 confirmed for 2023 Firecracker 400 presented by Thrustmaster T818

Justin Melillo
88 drivers are moving to the next round of the 2023 Firecracker 400 presented by the Thrustmaster T818 following two days of preliminaries.

The third running of the Firecracker 400 presented by the Thrustmaster T818, one of the largest iRacing oval community events out there that’s put on by Landon Cassill, Parker Kligerman and Joshua Mendoza of, has officially whittled their 350+ entry list down to the Top 88 following the Preliminary Rounds this week.

On Wednesday, 12th July and Thursday, 13th July, a total of eight preliminary groups of more than 43 drivers showed up to take on the classic 2008 version of Daytona International Speedway in iRacing’s 1987 NASCAR Stock Cars.

Each preliminary group would have a number of internal Heat Races to advance 24 drivers to a Feature, plus a 15-lap consolation race that added 10 more. In total, each preliminary would have 34 drivers vying for 11 transfer spots to the Round of 88 next week starting on Tuesday, 18th July.

Shawn M. Butler NARROWLY wins Preliminary Race #4 over Chris Overland.

Many big names on the oval side of the iRacing community showed up for the event, including a whopping total of 25 current eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers and more than 20 former eNASCAR drivers. Some real-world talent also participated, including Rajah Caruth, Garrett Smithley and Conor Daly. Oh yeah, Ryan Vargas was also a part of it and he was one of the 88 to advance.

From those 25 Coke Series drivers, however, 20 were able to transfer through. There were a few underdog stories that pulled through, including Lee Olson (Prelim 4), Justin Forbes (Prelim 5) and Ethan Mozes (Prelim 8), all drivers that fell under the median Strength of Field for the entire event.

There were some other incredible moments as well, such as Jesse Bunnell opting for a two tire call in the third preliminary feature, barely hanging on for a transfer spot after running outside the transfer most of the race. In the fifth preliminary feature, Jason Fellenbaum did the impossible and went from 28th to 9th through the smoke.

There were some heartbreaks as well, myself included. In that third preliminary race again, Zack Novak, Logan Clampitt and Briar LaPradd were all dominant, but opted to pit early for strategy. Novak sped and his race was over. Clampitt and LaPradd wound up trapped a lap down when the caution flew, and while they got the wave around, they were not in position to advance.

Each preliminary seemed to have its fair share of overaggressive driving. In preliminary feature 5, an incident that involved David L Brown and former Coke Series winner Bob Bryant well up into the transfer spot wiped out a lot of cars that were in position to transfer. Unfortunately, the No. 53 Traxion.GG Thunderbird that I was driving was caught up in the chaos and wound up outside the transfer after being in position the entire race.

The Traxion.GG ride gave it everything. It was not meant to be.

That’s part of it, however. More than 350 hopeful drivers signed up for this event, and only 88 can make it out of the first stage. It’s what makes this event unique and special to many, myself included.

More notable names advancing include the first and only two previous Firecracker 400 winners, Brandon Hayse Kettelle and Michael Cosey Jr. eNASCAR commentator Blake McCandless and his brother Philip both also made it through, and some 1987 pros such as Shawn M. Butler, Larry Pace, Michael P. Frisch and Kevin McAdams are also moving on.

Here are the 88 drivers that will move on to the Qualifying Round of 88 next week on both Tuesday and Wednesday (18th and 19th of July):

Preliminary Night 1- First four Top 11 Results:

1Blake McCandlessLogan HeltonJordan HerrleyShawn M. Butler
2Corey CarpenterKollin KeisterKevin McAdamsChris Overland
3Tyler GareySeth DeMerchantEddie KernerAaron Smith
4Tucker MinterColton SalekJordy LopezBlake Reynolds
5Alex KolonicsConnor HarringtonCollin BowdenDylan Ault
6Dustin MontgomeryMike McConvilleThomas MillerMitch Drewnowski
7Patrick GitterYousuf GhalyAlek MartinezJeremy B. Davis
8Jackson CrowderConor HornNathan RabideauDylan Basen
9Wyatt TinsleyJustin NasseirPhilip KrausNate Stewart
10John GorlinskySander NijhofJesse BunnellNick Ottinger
11Teemu ToikkaChris TreppaJohn Ellis Jr.Lee Olson

Preliminary Night 2 – Second four Top 11 Results:

1Justin BoltonMichael Cosey Jr.Daniel ButtafuocoTimmy Holmes
2Parker WhiteKyler WynnRay AlfallaTJ Burske
3Larry PaceGarrett ManesBryan BlackfordCasey Kirwan
4Ryan DoucetteBrendan BurcroffJake NicholsFemi Olatunbosun
5Daniel AdamMichael P. FrischBobby ZalenskiWilliam Schmitt
6Kyle PutzCollin FernEric J. SmithNathan Lyon
7Adam CabotMichael GuestMichael ContiJordan Werth
8Brandon KettelleJonathan GokeMatthew ZwackSantiago Tirres
9Jason FellenbaumMatt KloosRyan VargasEli Sasak
10Justin ForbesNick OlsenBrandon HawkinPhilip McCandless
11Malik RayWill NortonMatt BussaEthan Mozes

Tune into the broadcast starting next week on 18th July for the first round of Top 88 Qualifying. More than $12,500 is up for grabs, as well as a brand new Thrustmaster T818 in prizes.

The Top 20 drivers on the first Qualifying night will lock into the 2023 Firecracker 400 presented by the Thrustmaster T818. The remaining drivers will have to either try again or stand on their time to try and make the Top 42 in the 43-car field. One provisional will be awarded by the administration.

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