Four drivers – each one respectively in North Carolina, California, Canada, and Germany – will race for $100,000 on Tuesday evening when the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series crowns its next champion.
The final four includes series rookie and road course extraordinaire Mitchell deJong, two former runners-up in Logan Clampitt and Keegan Leahy, and Bobby Zalenski, who is making his fourth appearance in the final four but still looking for his first title.
The $100,000 prize is the largest the series has ever offered and comes after the popularity of iRacing and sim racing in general ballooned during last year’s pandemic. The amount of practice and time being put in by the final four reflects the substantial amount of money on the line.
William Byron eSports’ Logan Clampitt estimated that he has put in about 1,800 laps of practice at Texas Motor Speedway. 23XI Racing’s Keegan Leahy has completed 800 laps, most of them focused purely on one-lap qualifying runs. Leahy estimated that he’ll reach around 1,500 laps by the time he completes his race-stint practice.
“Each lap counted, is going out of pits, doing the lap, coming back into pits, and then looking at telemetry and changing setup stuff,” Leahy said. “I’ve got 800 laps so far, most of that’s qualifying. I’ll probably have about 1,500 because I’m switching over to race trim. Usually, that’s about what it takes.”
In total, Leahy will have completed about 11.5 hours of on-track, driving time. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a mere quarter of the amount of practice he put in for last year’s playoff race at the Charlotte ROVAL.
Leahy and his 23XI teammate Mitchell deJong have been one of the strongest qualifying teams. Factoring in Bobby Zalenski, who works with deJong and Leahy through a technical partnership with Coanda Simsport, and the trio are well-positioned to start the race from the sharp end of the field.
Stoked to race for the #eNASCAR @CocaCola @iRacing Championship once again tomorrow.
Whatever happens, happens pic.twitter.com/KwwgnmAcDb
— Bobby Zalenski (@bobbyzalenski) October 11, 2021
Clampitt, meanwhile, may be on his own in the final four, but he is not without help from reigning series champion Nick Ottinger and his technical alliance partners. With three drivers coming from one technical alliance and the fourth man entering the race without having revealed his speed to the others, it makes for an interesting point for Letarte eSports’ Zalenski to ponder.
“I don’t think any of them worry me,” Zalenski said. “The only thing is, I don’t know what Clampitt is going to bring for setup. I know what Mitchell and Keegan will bring. I know their speeds because we are all working on the car together and we’ve been working together all year.
“We’re in a very privileged position to have the three of us in the final four which has never happened in the history of the final four, you’ve never had three people from a working group that work on setups together in that final four. Maybe that hurts us, maybe that helps us because we’re all racing each other.
“Clampitt, he might have teammates pushing him by and it’s a result of teamwork that wins him the championship. I don’t know. I hope we can all just raise for ourselves, and the best man wins but you know, some people get help.”
For most drivers, practicing for the race is the main task on their list to prepare. For Mitchell deJong, however, preparations have been a little more fundamental. Originally from Southern California, the former Red Bull Global RallyCross driver now lives in Germany at the home of Coanda Simsport, which has competed in a variety of sim racing champions.
When the green flag drops on Tuesday evening, it will be 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning for deJong. Typically, deJong takes a nap just after dinner and wakes up in time for the race, he explained. For the finale, though, he began to adjust his sleep schedule starting on Saturday to gradually move it more in line with the race.
“I’ll start changing my schedule already to maybe stay up to like, two to four-ish, just gradually change my schedule so it’s not such an abrupt switch once Tuesday rolls around,” deJong said.
Four more days.#eNASCAR | #Championship4 pic.twitter.com/sjCunlGlQR
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) October 9, 2021
The drivers’ plans for the money should they win are all reasonable. Leahy is considering an investment in the stock market and paying off his student loans. Putting it all on red at the casino has been ruled out, according to Leahy.
Even Clampitt, the youngest driver in the final four at just 21 years old, gave a sensible answer.
“I liked to very much save it for the future and future needs,” Clampitt said. “But maybe taking a small vacation somewhere or, you know, upgrading my computer, maybe something like that. Most of it is going to be going away and just kind of save it towards the future.”