EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the eighteenth installment of the 2020 TReSports ePreview! The 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series kicks off on February 11th, 2020, at the virtual Daytona International Speedway. The goal is to have a preview for each team out before that date.
JTG Daugherty Racing is one of the few NASCAR teams fully immersed in the eNASCAR racing world.
Race winners in both the eNASCAR Heat Pro League and the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2019, JTG Daugherty Racing is heading back to the iRacing side with both a new and a returning driver on the team in 2020.
Earlier this past Sunday afternoon, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. collected the first pole of the NASCAR Cup Series season at Daytona International Speedway.
Stenhouse, Jr., now driving for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2020, is often a threat to win when it comes to racing at the two Superspeedway tracks on the schedule, Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway.
The fact that both the former and new drivers of the No. 47 Chevrolet in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series are also threats at Superspeedway races is a fantastic coincidence.
#eNASCAR @iRacing news:@Christian_C37 will once again pilot the No. 37 for @JTGRacing in ‘20. Challiner has 2 career #eNiWCS poles to his name.@JeremyRAllen02, absent from #eNiWCS since ‘12, returns in ‘20 to pilot the No. 47 for @JTGRacing. Allen has two career #eNiWCS wins. pic.twitter.com/FrdV9OqZPW
— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) January 18, 2020
It was Nick Ottinger, winner at Talladega in the 2019 season who first piloted the virtual No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet in 2019. Now, it will be Jeremy Allen behind the wheel, who has two career victories at Daytona and Talladega in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series from years ago.
Allen returns to the series for the first time since 2012. He’s made 25 career starts in the series over the course of three seasons, collecting those two career victories in the process.
On top of that, Allen has four career Top 5 finishes, six career Top 10 finishes, and a best final points standings finish of 16th in his only full-time effort in 2011.
Joining JTG Daugherty Racing was something that Allen looked forward to accomplishing during the free agency period.
“I contacted Blake (Cope), we talked on the phone a few times, and eventually, we were able to work something out,” Allen said. “I’m happy to work for them.”
Also, I forgot to post this from last night. pic.twitter.com/6csV3TdeSL
— Jeremy Allen (@JeremyRAllen02) February 6, 2020
Returning to the No. 37 Chevrolet in 2020 for JTG Daugherty Racing will be Christian Challiner.
Challiner enters his fourth season in the series in 2020. In 52 career starts, Challiner has earned two pole positions, seven career Top 5 finishes, and 17 career Top 10 finishes.
Challiner’s best overall points result was in 2017 when he finished 8th at the end of the season.
Looking to improve on his results from 2019, Challiner knew that returning to JTG Daugherty Racing in 2020 was something he wanted to be in the cards during the free agency period.
“What brought me back to JTG Daugherty was the relationship we built in 2019,” Challiner said. “They took a shot with me in the draft, and throughout the season they were very supportive and great to work with. From this, I really bought into running the No. 37, so when the free agency started, there was little doubt I would be moving.”
Since @CaseyKirwan23 and me have had the same yellow gloves for ages and I needed a new pair I thought I’d change it up a bit. Also might match with a few other things for this year 😉 pic.twitter.com/NJRTrMYWCo
— Christian Challiner (@Christian_C37) January 25, 2020
2019 JTG DAUGHERTY RACING RECAP
In the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing draft, Nick Ottinger was selected by JTG Daugherty Racing at eighth overall, and a few more picks later, Christian Challiner was taken at pick No. 17.
Challiner took over as the driver of the No. 37 Chevrolet, and Ottinger became the new No. 47 pilot.
Both JTG drivers started off the season in a great way, collecting their first Top 5 finishes of the season after Ottinger placed fourth and Challiner took fifth at Daytona International Speedway.
They once again finished back-to-back at Las Vegas, with Challiner picking up his second Top 10 finish in tenth, while Ottinger brought it home in eleventh.
With a tenth place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, Ottinger was looking pretty decent points wise, but then at Richmond Raceway, Ottinger was not on the entry list, dropping him far back in the standings.
The first week back at Talladega, Ottinger did all he could to start making up for the missed week, by winning in a photo finish.
Through the mid part of the regular season, Challiner was not able to crack the Top 10 again until the first road course race of the season at Sonoma Raceway. Challiner finished sixth that day, and his run to stay in the Top 20 in the standings was back on.
Challiner followed up the Sonoma finish with a season-best result of fourth at Kentucky Raceway a few weeks later.
A 34th place finish at Pocono Raceway eventually sealed the door on a possible playoff run for the No. 37 crew, but the teammate car still had an outside chance.
Since the win at Dega, Ottinger collected a fifth place at Kansas Speedway, a third at Sonoma Raceway, and a pair of sixth place finishes at Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
Heading into the regular season finale, Ottinger needed help to knock out either Jimmy Mullis or Zack Novak from the title hunt. Ottinger took home a seventh at Bristol Motor Speedway, and what did him in was a second place effort by the eventual champion, Novak.
Ottinger collected a third place result at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, and the effort essentially solidified his ninth place in the overall standings.
Challiner also collected a Top 10 finish at the ROVAL, an eighth on the day. After a 15th place finish in the Homestead-Miami finale, Challiner wound up finishing 12th in the overall standings.
During the offseason, Ottinger moved on from JTG Daugherty Racing, moving over to William Byron eSports for the 2020 season.
Challiner stayed with the team that took a chance on him in the 2019 draft, and knows going forward that he has to start winning races to be kept in the conversation.
“This season, I want to get back into regular Top 5 and Top 10 contention, and from that, have opportunities to finally pick up a race win in the series,” Challiner said. “It’s eluded us for three years now, and that’s not something I’m proud of.
“Last year, we had a lot of bad luck coupled with a complete loss of performance in the mid-season which resulted in our worst championship position in three years. Ironically, this slump in car performance coincided with a time where I believe I was actually driving at my best, so it didn’t work out quite as bad as it could have.”
Despite the effort, Challiner knows that the 2019 season was not what he wanted, and he knows that there will be some hard work ahead to be better in 2020.
“Twelfth isn’t what I, or any of those I work with want, and I don’t believe it’s representative of our abilities,” Challiner continued “It wasn’t a surprise to me that on the tougher tracks we had a tendency to come forwards, yet on the more car focused tracks, we would struggle to be in the Top 10.
“We’ve made a lot of changes in the offseason which will go a long way to rectifying our performance struggles, and should result in better consistency throughout the season.”
JTG DAUGHERTY SIGNS JEREMY ALLEN FOR 2020
Allen had a long period of absence between his last stint and his upcoming one in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
Looking to return to the series, Allen had to climb back up the ladder of the Road-to-Pro Series and then graduate again from the Pro Series.
Allen was one of the more consistent drivers in the 40 car Pro Series field, usually hovering around a sixth to tenth place effort, unless he was involved in someone else’s mayhem.
In the seven race series, Allen collected four Top 10 finishes, including a third place effort in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was more than enough the advance Allen back on to the roster for the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
For the future, Allen says that he’s gong to take it one step at a time in his return season in 2020.
“I’m just trying to get some respect back,” Allen said. “A successful year for me would be getting inside the Top 10 in points, maybe staying in the series with a Top 20.
“I’m going to try and rattle off some Top 5’s, and hopefully even a win. I don’t know if we can challenge for a championship in my first year, but I think I’m on my way back.”
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season begins at Daytona International Speedway on February 11th, 2020. The race will be streamed live on the iRacing eSport Network, starting approximately around 9:00 pm ET.
Look for ePreview #19 soon!
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