The fix(ed setup) is in: eNASCAR goes fixed setup racing again at Talladega

Since 2010, most every race in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series has run with open setups among the field of top-ranked oval iRacers. With the ability for drivers and their teams to adjust every possible detail under the virtual hood, races would often see parity, comers and goers, some cars better than others on short runs versus long runs—not unlike what might be seen on the big screen on Sunday afternoons in its real-world counterpart.

Through the years, this stayed true, sans some exhibition events every so often like the eNASCAR Clash or any given All-Star event. In 2023, this sentiment slightly changed when the first fixed setup points races were scheduled at Talladega Superspeedway, the Chicago Street Course, and Pocono Raceway. With the schedule including back-to-back race weeks, races were deemed fixed in order to not put a strain on drivers and teams in their testing efforts.

In a fixed setup racing environment, the parity gap closes significantly. All 40 drivers are on the same base setup, with only minor changes available, such as wheel pinion or brake cylinders. These adjustments are mostly options meant for setup comfort as opposed to setup race-ability, although some might argue a performance gain in certain fixed setup changes available.

The 2021 Talladega event saw a seven-car breakaway, mostly made up of Team Conti-alliance members.

It becomes more of a spec-series at the moment. It trades setup preferences and nuances for a more uniform event, taking some of the simulation-engineering side out of the equation. The sentiment is mixed among the drivers, surely. However, in those three races last season, the racing was closer than ever, even at Chicago’s street course, which saw Bobby Zalenski eek one out over Parker White and Steven Wilson. Pocono also had a fantastic finish in which Michael Guest collected his first-career win in the series in a duel against Nick Ottinger, Matt Bussa, and Malik Ray.

FIXED SETUP RACING ON THE MENU AGAIN IN 2024

Talladega makes its return on the 2024 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series schedule as one of the three fixed setup events this year, and it marks only the fifth event in 252 points-paying races to be a fixed setup event. Chicago Street will also return this season as a fixed event. Atlanta was one earlier this season.

In last year’s Talladega race, there was a record 36-lead changes among 15 drivers through 71 laps. The final one came on the last lap, with Malik Ray in control ahead of Darik Bourdeau and Graham Bowlin. The trio got disconnected, allowing for both Casey Kirwan and Collin Bowden to build up huge runs out of Turn 4. Coming to the line, Kirwan hopped in front of Bowden, the force shoving the 2022 champion into the lead just barely over Ray.

Casey Kirwan leads all drivers in points scored during fixed setup events, with 99 points earned over the three races. Dylan Duval (89), Nick Ottinger (84), Matt Bussa (83), and Collin Bowden (76, pictured leading) round out the top 5.

This was the series’ first taste at fixed setup racing. Previous Talladega races had mixed successes, such as the 2021 race which saw allied drivers break away from the rest of the pack and control the race. Besides for those drivers in control, it wasn’t ideal for the rest of the field or the viewers at home to witness.

Granted, 2020’s Talladega race had an insane finish with Brandon Kettelle getting his first career victory, although the package was slightly different at the time. 2022’s race also saw an insanely close finish, perhaps since the trip being the first for the NASCAR Next Gen, those setups couldn’t get too “scienced-out” for a team to be overly dominant.

The addition of these fixed races doesn’t necessarily mean that the series will end up as a fixed setup series, but it does add a fun wrinkle, and possibly some free time for the non-driving team members who build the race-used Coke setups on a bi-weekly basis.

Will tonight’s addition of a fixed setup be another instance of being a great equalizer? Will the same superspeedway aces continue to put a chokehold on the field when it comes down to it? Find out when the green flag drops at 8:00pm ET on eNASCAR.com/live!

Previous eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series fixed setup race winners:

  • Nick Ottinger, Iowa Speedway NBCSN All-Star, 2019 (exhibition)
  • Zack Novak, Rockingham Speedway NBCSN All-Star, 2019 (exhibition)
  • John Gorlinsky, Daytona Int’l Speedway Clash, 2020 (exhibition)
  • Graham Bowlin, North Wilkesboro Speedway All-Star, 2020 (exhibition)
  • Logan Clampitt, Daytona Int’l Speedway Clash, 2021 (exhibition)
  • Jimmy Mullis, Nashville Superspeedway All-Star, 2021 (exhibition)
  • Casey Kirwan, L.A. Coliseum Clash, 2022 (exhibition)
  • Steven Wilson, Chicago Street Course All-Star, 2022 (exhibition)
  • Casey Kirwan, L.A. Coliseum Clash, 2023 (exhibition)
  • Casey Kirwan, Talladega Superspeedway, 2023 race #6
  • Bobby Zalenski, Chicago Street Course, 2023 race #11
  • Michael Guest, Pocono Raceway, 2023 race #14
  • Wyatt Tinsley, Daytona Int’l Speedway Clash, 2024 (exhibition)
  • Malik Ray, Atlanta Motor Speedway, 2024 race #3

The quest for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship, and the road to $500,000, continues tonight at 8:00 pm ET, live on eNASCAR.com/live. Tune in to the pre-race Countdown to Green starting at 7:30 pm ET.

For more information on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit eNASCAR.com or iRacing.com/eNASCAR. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit iRacing.com.­­