May 19th, 2021 by Chris Leone
Last night, the world’s top sim racers gave NASCAR Cup Series machinery its first taste of Circuit of the Americas as part of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series’ debut race at the facility. Tonight, it’s the real-world Cup drivers’ turn to test out the Austin-based facility, best known in its first decade of existence for hosting the United States Grand Prix, in a preview of what to expect this weekend.
At 3.426 miles and 20 turns, COTA has challenged many of the world’s best drivers in open-wheel, sports car, and even action sports events since opening in 2012. But its addition to the Cup schedule for 2021 has proven one of the most highly anticipated races of the year, not only for the intrigue of it as a new circuit, but also for drivers having some of the most track time they’ll have all year with the return of practice and qualifying. Just like the inaugural dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Pro Invitational kicks off the week by giving drivers a virtual taste of the track before multiple days of real-world action.
If last night’s event for the sim pros was any indication, Turn 1 will be the place to make or break the entire race. When third place starter Nick Ottinger got into second place starter Bobby Zalenski on Tuesday night, it jumbled up the whole field, and enabled polesitter Mitchell deJong to make a clean getaway and lead every lap of the race. A similar incident as Cup drivers barrel into the tight uphill lefthander for the first time could do the same for whoever qualifies up front tonight.
As for who will take the victory, though, that’s anyone’s guess. William Byron took the victory on the dirt at Bristol, while Brad Keselowski outfoxed James Davison to take the Talladega win and Erik Jones won in the debut of the Next Gen cars two weeks ago at Darlington. But with COTA serving as the first road course in series history, expect the most experienced iRacers to be the ones to stand out.
eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race action from Circuit of the Americas will kick off at 7PM ET on FS1. The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for the world’s top sim racers will return to action from Charlotte Motor Speedway next Tuesday at 9PM ET on eNASCAR.com/live, while the real-world stars will complete the FS1 portion of the Pro Invitational schedule on the virtual streets of Chicago on June 2 at 8PM ET on FS1.
For more information on the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, visit www.eNASCAR.com. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.