February 23rd, 2021 by Chris Leone
Homestead-Miami Speedway will always hold a special place in eNASCAR lore. It’s where Zack Novak took the 2019 championship in a photo finish with Keegan Leahy in the first-ever nationally televised eNASCAR points race, and it’s where Nick Ottinger became eNASCAR’s first $100,000 champion last fall. It’s also where Denny Hamlin battled Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win in the first-ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race last spring, in a race that proved transformative for both sim racing and professional motorsports as a whole.
But for the 40 drivers of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, there’s no time to overthink tonight’s visit to Homestead. It’s the second round of the 2021 season, the first intermediate oval on the calendar, and for some, the best early opportunity to get their championship hopes trending in the right direction.
Two weeks ago, and 18 years to the day after his team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a real red #8 Chevrolet to the checkered flag at the same track, Michael Conti kicked off the 2021 season proper with a victory at Daytona International Speedway for JR Motorsports. The former series champion was pacing the field when a multi-car wreck happened behind him, shuffling much of the lead pack in the final corner and rewarding a handful of drivers who were at the top of their game on wreck avoidance that night. Conti’s win means that, provided he can stay in the top 20 in series points, he’s already punched his ticket into the 2021 playoffs, which have expanded to 10 eligible drivers for the first time.
With wins now at even more of a premium, both XSET’s Ryan Luza and Letarte Esports’ Chris Shearburn should be looking forward to tonight’s race. Luza, who had won here before in 2017, began a three-race winning streak here last spring, while Shearburn hung on through last year’s dramatic season finale to score his first career eNASCAR win. Still, they’re not the only returning winners on the grid; Wood Brothers Racing’s John Gorlinsky won the first-ever eNASCAR tilt at Homestead in 2011, while Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ray Alfalla joins Luza as the only drivers to win here at this level more than once.
NFL running back Antonio Williams of the Buffalo Bills will serve as tonight’s grand marshal. Williams, who rushed for 63 yards and two touchdowns in his NFL debut last month, recently became an investor and advisor in the career of NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Joe Graf Jr. of SS GreenLight Racing. Both Williams and Graf will make an appearance on tonight’s broadcast.
Coverage of eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series action from Homestead-Miami Speedway begins at 9PM ET/6PM PT on eNASCAR.com/live, iRacing.com/live, and NASCAR and iRacing social media channels. The season continues next Tuesday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Jimmy Mullis won last fall. For more information on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit www.eNASCAR.com. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.