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2020 TReSports ePreview: LETARTE eSports

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the nineteenth 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.

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Steve Letarte’s LETARTE eSports returns to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2020. Santiago Tirres and Chris Shearburn will drive for the team in the upcoming season. Logo from Steve Letarte.

Currently an analyst on NASCAR on NBC, and formerly a crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports, Steve Letarte is another well known advocate of, as well as a team owner in, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.

Letarte’s history in NASCAR is best known for his crew chief stints for both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr while working at Hendrick Motorsports.

After retiring from that position at the end of the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series season, Letarte moved to the NASCAR on NBC booth to cover the second half of the NASCAR season alongside Rick Allen, Jeff Burton, and as of 2018, his former driver-also-turned-analyst, Earnhardt, Jr.

Letarte’s NASCAR on NBC booth teammate, Burton, had teamed together with another driver/reporter on the team, Parker Kligerman, to bring Burton Kligerman eSports to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for the 2019 iRacing draft.

His other booth teammate, Earnhardt, Jr., had brought his real life Xfinity Series team, JR Motorsports, in to the eNCiS as well.

Letarte joined in on the fun too, and brought in LETARTE eSports to the series a few races into the start of the 2019 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing season.

Having not participated in the original eNASCAR iRacing draft, before the fourth race of the season, LETARTE eSports was able to select two drivers out of the pool of independent drivers not already taken.

Now in 2020, LETARTE eSports is bringing one of those original drivers back, as well as a rookie to compete for the upcoming season.

The rookie taking over the No. 4 for LETARTE eSports in 2020 is Santiago Tirres.

Tirres advances to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for the first time in 2020, having competed in the Pro Series since 2016.

In the 2019 Pro Series, his standout race was the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Tirres started on the pole and finished in fifth.

Tirres was uncertain how the free agency would go, but found relief when Letarte reached out to him to join the team for 2020.

“My experience is probably a little different than a lot of the drivers, but I was really uncertain, to be honest,” Tirres said. “We weren’t really sure what to expect. A lot of people were keeping quiet as far as their offers, even though we all talk to each other.

“I didn’t really get an offer until really late… Steve just texted me out of the blue, and that was really the only group that reached out to me. I think it’s still really cool, as soon as you see a team reach out to you, that they want you to be a part of this, I was like ‘yeah, lets make a deal,’ and we got to talking.”

Returning to pilot the No. 36 Chevrolet again in 2020 will be Chris Shearburn.

In 51 career starts in the series, Shearburn has four career Top 10 finishes, ten career Top 10 finishes, and a couple of poles earned at Daytona in 2017 and Charlotte this past season.

2017 and 2018 both saw Shearburn finish 14th in the overall points standings.

Shearburn, 38, is the most seasoned veteran on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series roster, and has quite the history in sim racing.

“I started online racing back in 1994 or 1995 on the original NASCAR Racing by Papyrus on what was called the ‘Hawaii’ network,” Shearburn said. “I did take almost eight years off before getting back into it again in 2016, but I am a racer at heart, and this is about the only form of racing I can realistically do these days.

“It’s insane how far it’s evolved in just the past few years alone, but especially compared to what it was like back in the 90’s.”

Signing back with LETARTE eSports was something that Shearburn looked forward to getting done during the 2020 free agency period.

“The free agency period was interesting,” Shearburn said. “I did get a couple offers, but in the end, Steve had wanted me back even before last season ended, so I would’ve had to have gotten a really big offer that I just couldn’t pass up to not return to Letarte eSports again this season.”

2019 LETARTE ESPORTS RECAP

After three races had clicked by on the 2019 eNCiS schedule, LETARTE eSports came into existence with Nathan Lyon piloting the No. 4 RacingJobs.com Chevrolet, and Chris Shearburn driving the No. 36 RacingJobs.com Chevrolet.

To that point, Lyon had a best finish of 18th at Auto Club Speedway, and Shearburn had a best finish of 24th in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

Unfortunately, the season didn’t get any easier for either of the LETARTE eSports drivers.

Lyon picked up his best effort of the season at Talladega Superspeedway in an eighth place effort. One race later, Shearburn also picked up his best effort to that point in the season with an eighth place run at Kansas Speedway.

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Chris Shearburn navigates the ‘Carousel’ at Sonoma Raceway on June 11th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Charlotte Motor Speedway was Shearburn’s standout race for the 2019 season.

Shearburn took the pole position that day, and led the most laps during the event.

Coming down to the end, Keegan Leahy and Blake Reynolds were able to slip by, but Shearburn still finished out the race strong with a third place effort.

Lyon continued his struggles, only picking up a best finish of 13th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the playoffs.

He ended up finishing the season in 35th place in the overall standings, and was headed back to the iRacing Pro Series to attempt to qualify back on to the 2020 eNCiS roster.

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Nathan Lyon climbs the elevation in Turn 1 at Sonoma Raceway on June 11th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Shearburn kept plugging away, earning a ninth place finish at Michigan International Speedway and a tenth place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

However, a missed start at Chicagoland, coupled with a six-pack of finishes outside the Top 20 placed Shearburn back in 26th in the overall standings, and also heading back to the Pro Series.

In the Pro Series, both Lyon and Shearburn were able to put stock back in their resumés, and both advanced back into the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for 2020.

In seven starts, Lyon picked up four Top 5 finishes, including a win in the last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. During the free agency period, Lyon opted to sign with Roush Fenway Racing for the 2020 season.

Shearburn also had a good stretch during the seven-race season. A second place at Atlanta Motor Speedway and another Top 5 finish at Darlington Raceway locked Shearburn in with a 12th place overall finish in the standings.

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Chris Shearburn on track at Richmond Raceway in the iRacing Pro Series on November 5th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Coming back to LETARTE eSports for 2020, Shearburn knows that to collect the results he’s looking for, he has to turn his luck around before anything else.

“I think, like everyone else in the series, obviously I’d like to win the championship, but I think realistic goals, I’m aiming to win at least one race and contend to make the playoffs at the end of the season,” Shearburn said.

“My luck in this series, the previous three seasons, has not been great, so just to have consistent runs and be able to finish where I was running would be a huge accomplishment for me.”

That wasn’t all that Shearburn said that he had in mind for goals for 2020.

“I’m also eyeing breaking the record for oldest race winner in the series, which is why winning at least one race is definitely a top goal this season,” Shearburn said.

“I’d say any tracks that use the lower downforce package are key races where probably most of us are all looking forward to, but to narrow it down even further, I think Richmond, New Hampshire, and Phoenix are all tracks that I historically do well on, so I definitely have those circled on the calendar for sure.”

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Santiago Tirres drives around Richmond Raceway into the sunset on November 5th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

LETARTE ESPORTS SIGNS SANTIAGO TIRRES FOR 2020

Also competing in the 2019 iRacing Pro Series was Santiago Tirres, who was trying to break through to the big leagues after a few prior attempts in the series.

Tirres was able to accomplish that, ending the season in the Top 20 with a 17th place finish in the final standings.

Tirres says that he’d looking forward to competing in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for the first time in 2020.

“I enjoy the competition,” Tirres said. “I think it’s fun… well maybe not the testing, but if it’s going well, it’s fun. I enjoy trying to get better everyday. There will be a big learning curve for sure.”

As far as his goals for his rookie campaign?

“My goal is to make the Top 20,” Tirres said. “Obviously, I feel like I could do a lot better than that, but I would be happy if I was able to come back next year.”

***

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 #20 soon!

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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