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2020 TReSports ePreview: KLR eSports

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the seventh installment of the 2020 TReSports ePreview! The 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship 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.

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Kyle Larson Racing eSports will field entries in 2020 for Steve Sheehan and Bob Bryant in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series. Logo from Kyle Larson.

A few years ago, Kyle Larson made some comments which personally stuck with me.

In an interview with iRacing a few years ago, which is up on their YouTube page and was also reported on by NESN, Larson said, “The level of competition on iRacing is better than real life.”

He’s not wrong.

Larson, who most recently won the 2020 Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma with sponsorship support from iRacing, has been known to make possibly controversial statements at times, but more than not, his insight and emotions are far from incorrect, just misunderstood.

There are a lot of highly competitive sim racers on the iRacing platform that get to practice and race every day, and for some, that’s the only way they’ll get to experience racing at any level… and some do it exceptionally well.

Larson races online for both fun and for practice, and he even has his own sim racing rig.

To determine the 40 best eNASCAR drivers in all of iRacing, there are many hoops that these racers need to jump through to make it, against some of the fiercest of competition.

Many try, but only a few succeed, and that truly makes the 40-car fields on Tuesday nights some of the most competitive races in anything motorsports.

In 2020, Kyle Larson Racing (KLR) eSports joins the ranks of teams in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series for the first time.

For a brand new team, KLR eSports might have signed on two of the most experienced sim racers in the entire series.

With that said, neither driver on KLR eSports participated in the 2019 season, so they were two who had to jump through those aforementioned hoops to get on the 2020 roster, and both succeeded in doing so.

Returning to the series for the first time since the 2013 season, Steve Sheehan will take control of the new No. 1 KLR eSports machine in 2020.

Sheehan ran two full seasons in the eNiWCS back in 2011 and 2012, also running part time stints in 2010 and 2013.

In 45 career starts in the series, Sheehan has collected four career victories and six career pole positions. He also has amassed eleven Top 5 finishes and 17 career Top 10 finishes.

“I kept up with (eNiWCS), I saw the exposure totally evolve, and the way social media and regular media are… just what we’re doing now (during media days), it’s completely different,” Sheehan said. “Sim Racing deserved it ten years ago, and now finally it’s getting some really awesome exposure, and I’m very excited about it.”

His pedigree is full of years of experience, championships, and winning, but in 2020, Bob Bryant will be a rookie in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series, driving the No. 42 for KLR eSports.

Bryant has zero starts at the top level of sim racing, and he says that there’s a reason why.

“I’ve always had the competitive itch,” Bryant said. “I’ve been running iRacing as long as it’s been available to the public, and just hadn’t done it competitively.

“I kind of took a ten-year hiatus and spent a lot of time in the corporate world, and never really could scratch that competitive itch… the competition here is incredible, the talent that’s in the series is unmatched. I think this is going to be by far and away the most stacked field in the history of sim racing anywhere.”

2019 BRYANT / SHEEHAN PRO SERIES RECAP

Before making the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series driver roster, both Bryant and Sheehan were required to qualify for the 2019 iRacing Pro Series.

Having run and advanced from the Road-to-Pro Series, both drivers were matched against 38 others to race for 20 spots on the 2020 eNiWCS roster.

A seven-race series with one drop week, the iRacing Pro Series ran a slew of different tracks to determine who would be moving up.

At Daytona International Speedway, Bryant started off with a respectable sixth place effort, mixing it up in the closing laps for the victory.

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John Gorlinsky (25) takes victory at Daytona International Speedway on October 22nd, 2019. Bob Bryant (31) crosses the line in sixth. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Sheehan was mired mid-pack, and ended the day with a 17th place result. Still, both drivers started the season on the positive side of the cutoff, which meant staying there would be easier than having to fight back from an early deficit.

Both of the future KLR eSports drivers had solid efforts the following week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Bryant led a bit in the event, but ultimately fell back to finish fourth on the day. Sheehan stayed clean, and brought his No. 6 Chevrolet home with a Top 10 finish.

Richmond Raceway was not kind to either driver. Sheehan would ultimately drop this week, finishing in 28th position. Bryant didn’t fare much better, as he wound up 22nd overall.

Determined to put the rough week behind them, Dover International Speedway turned out to be a great night for both Bryant and Sheehan.

Bryant started the night on the pole position, and once again, he ran up front for the majority of the event.

Sheehan collected his first Top 5 finish of the short season, and finished right behind Bryant, who took home another fourth place effort.

Their momentum continued through the fifth race of the Pro Series season, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Sheehan took his second straight fifth place finish, while Bryant recovered from an earlier spin to finish in seventh.

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Bob Bryant (53) goes for a spin through the quad-oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway on November 19th, 2019. He recovered to finish seventh. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

With another seventh place effort at Darlington Raceway in the penultimate race of the 2019 Pro Series season, Bryant locked himself to a Top 20 finish one week early.

Even though he had an outside shot at the title, circumstances for Bryant forced him to use his drop week in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished fifth in the overall points standings.

Sheehan, on the other hand, had a little tougher road to clinching his spot.

At Darlington, Sheehan collided with Michael Guest on the backstretch, which slowed down his pace for the remainder of the event.

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Steve Sheehan (6) tangles with Michael Guest (54) at Darlington Raceway on December 10th, 2019. Sheehan was still able to gain enough points to advance, persevering for a 26th place finish. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Sheehan still salvaged a 26th place effort, but he still needed to have a decent showing in the season finale at Homestead.

Ultimately, Sheehan took home a 24th place effort in the finale, and it was enough to clinch advancement with a 16th place overall points finish.

With the Pro Series behind them, the KLR eSports teammates are looking forward to competing in the top level of sim racing competition in 2020.

Both drivers have their sights set high entering the season, and they agree that winning should always be the goal for any racer.

“I want to win the championship,” Bryant said. “I do this to win. I do this to have fun, but I want to win. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought I was going to run 35th every week.”

“I don’t think I’d be any type of racer (if I didn’t want to win),” Sheehan said. “I think every racer has to have the goal to win. Honestly, my goal every race that I’m ever in is to get the pole, lead every lap, and win every race.”

***

The eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series season begins at Daytona International Speedway on February 11th, 2020. The race is expected to be streamed live on iRacing’s Twitch stream, with the start time usually at 9:00 pm ET.

Look for ePreview #8 soon!

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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