Didn’t think the final push to secure a spot in the eight-driver eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs was tense enough as it is?
How about sending the field to Talladega Superspeedway for the regular season finale?
All eyes are on third through eighth place in the series standings as tonight’s race takes drivers to the biggest and fastest track on the real-world NASCAR schedule. It was right here at Talladega that Bill Elliott set NASCAR’s all-time speed record in 1987, and over the past few decades, pack racing has come to define the 2.66-mile tri-oval as one of the sport’s biggest roulette wheels. Survive “The Big One,” and your chances at a huge points day are pretty good, but the odds just might be stacked against you.
That’s probably the biggest hope for drivers like Jimmy Mullis, Graham Bowlin, Brad Davies, Corey Vincent, and Chris Shearburn, who all remain mathematically in contention for a spot in the top eight. It’s also the biggest nightmare for Michael Conti, Nick Ottinger, Garrett Lowe, Ryan Luza, Logan Clampitt, and Ray Alfalla, each of whom currently sits in a playoff spot but hasn’t yet joined Keegan Leahy or Bobby Zalenski on the locked-in list.
Last week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway behaved almost like a baby version of Talladega, with multi-car wrecks claiming a number of top drivers’ hopes of victory during the second half of the race. Alfalla and Davies ping-ponged around the standings, trading the bubble spot after their respective wrecks before settling into the same sides of the cutoff line they were at before the race. Mullis’ victory propelled him to within 15 points of Alfalla, giving him the best chance of wrangling the spot away.
The real question is if that kind of racing is what the drivers should expect from here on out. The season opener at Daytona was clean until the very last lap, with drivers making it all the way to the entrance of the tri-oval before crashing across the finish line. Their most recent visit to Daytona featured a little more carnage and a number of big names failing to make it all 100 laps. The coolest heads on the grid are the ones most likely to prevail at Talladega, but will they be able to dodge the chaos if they choose to ride around in the back?
eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action from Talladega Superspeedway kicks off tonight at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live and the iRacing Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube pages. NBC Sports NASCAR analysts Steve Letarte and Parker Kligerman will join tonight’s broadcast. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.