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2020 TReSports ePreview: Mode Motorsports

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the fourteenth 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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Newly retired professional football player, Kyle Long, of Chicago Bears fame, will once again field his eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series team, Mode Motorsports, in the 2020 season. Jake Nichols and Phil Diaz will be his two drivers. Logo from Mode Mediahouse.

In the form of the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series team, Mode Motorsports, NASCAR meets the NFL with the shared interest of one man named Kyle Long.

Long, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end, Howie Long, has had a successful career as an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears since he was drafted in the first round back in 2013.

Recently, Long decided to retire from professional football at the age of 31, citing his multiple injuries in the past few years, and his want to get his “body right”.

Mode Motorsports came to be in 2015, with JR Rodriguez in charge of the operation. Long became a client of Rodriguez in 2016, and the two ended up forming a formidable friendship and partnership.

Rodriguez and the Mode team were responsible for bringing Long into the world of iRacing, as a way to get his mind off of his injuries.

Now Long has over 1100 starts and 50 victories on his iRacing account “Kyle Long3”, and now his name can be associated with a professional eSports racing team.

His retirement will give Long more time to slow down, but not on the virtual race track. His Mode Motorsports team will need to pick up from where they were in the 2019 season to be a factor for the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series team championship.

During the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series season, Mode Motorsports joined the series as the 13th official team in the series.

Phil Diaz will return to Mode Motorsports in 2020 to drive the No. 75 Ford Mustang, the same number that Long wore during his pro football career with the Bears.

Diaz enters his fourth season in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series in 2020.

In 51 career starts in the series, Diaz has one career Top 5 finish at Chicagoland Speedway in 2018. Diaz also has six career Top 10 finishes, and has finished 20th in the standings in all three years of prior competition.

Getting back together with Mode Motorsports in 2020 was a pretty easy deal for Diaz.

“We talked beforehand, so my free agency period was pretty quiet,” Diaz said. “It was one of those things where we were both on board with each other. We had a pretty good relationship last year… they threw an offer at me and it was a good offer, and I’m perfectly ok with it.

“I’m a big guy on loyalty, and I know they are too, I mean, Kyle Long was loyal to the Chicago Bears… we had worked together before they drafted me, and the loyalty helped put everything together and solidify this season’s campaign.”

Jake Nichols moves over from Joe Gibbs Racing to Mode Motorsports in 2020, and will drive the No. 24 Ford Mustang.

2020 will be Nichols third year competing in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series since 2017.

Nichols has 30 career starts in the series, also holding one career Top 5 finish that he earned at Darlington Raceway last season. He also earned a Top 10 finish at Pocono Raceway in 2019, making that two total in his career.

“The free agency period was pretty interesting for me,” Nichols said. “I wasn’t expecting too much going into it, considering I haven’t really proved that much yet.

“When Mode reached out to me, I’ve had a good past with a few of their members, and I could tell that they really wanted me on their team, they really wanted me to represent them. Honestly, they were probably the best team I wanted to be with.”

2019 MODE MOTORSPORTS RECAP

It wasn’t until the third race of the 2019 season that Mode Motorsports officially entered their sim racing team into the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series.

Two drivers who had gone undrafted, Phil Diaz and Cody Byus, were picked up out of the pool of 16 independent drivers to drive for the first additional team to the series outside of the original twelve.

Diaz was placed in the No. 75 car, while Byus was able to continue driving the same number he started the season, the No. 24.

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Cody Byus at Sonoma Raceway on June 11th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

At Richmond Raceway, Diaz earned the team’s first Top 10 finish, a sixth place effort in the fifth race of the season.

The next race at Talladega Superspeedway, Byus took it one position higher, collecting the first Top 5 finish for Mode Motorsports, a fifth place result.

The remainder of the 2019 season was a struggle for the Mode Motorsports team.

For Byus, he never was able to get any higher than a 19th place finish, which he collected at both Charlotte Motor Speedway and the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Ultimately, Byus would finish 36th in the final standings, and that meant he would be heading back to the iRacing Pro Series to try and requalify back in.

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Phil Diaz at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL on September 24th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Diaz, on the other hand, was able to utilize consistency for the remainder of the season, earning eight more Top 20 finishes in the final twelve races.

Those finishes included a trio of 12th place finishes at Sonoma Raceway, Darlington Raceway, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The consistency earned Diaz the final transfer spot back on to the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series roster by only two points over the Four-Time series champion, Ray Alfalla.

For Diaz, it’s important for him to find victory lane at least once during the 2020 season.

“This season, let’s be honest, I want to win,” Diaz said. “I don’t care what type of race it is, it could be a Superspeedway, it could be a Road Course, or a Short Track, I don’t care.”

Meanwhile, his teammate Byus headed back to the iRacing Pro Series, and unfortunately, his luck didn’t turn around.

Richmond Raceway looked to be the best shot for Byus to win in the seven race series After leading the most laps on the night, Byus was relegated to a 29th place finish after an incident on the second-to-last restart.

It didn’t get any better a few weeks later at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Early contact sent Byus into a desperate strategy, and after an unsuccessful execution, Byus wound up turned again in the final caution of the event, resulting in a 31st place finish.

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Cody Byus at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the iRacing Pro Series on December 17th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Heading into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Byus had the best shot at knocking someone out of the Top 20, as he entered the night six points below the cutoff.

At one point, Byus looked like he was going to knock Michael Guariglia out and advance back in, but another late race disaster ended his chances for returning.

Having run the Mode Motorsports colors during the Pro Series, it seemed like Byus would have returned to the team had he returned to the series, but now the team had to find a new driver for 2020.

JAKE NICHOLS JOINS MODE MOTORSPORTS FOR 2020

After getting drafted 20th overall by Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing draft, Jake Nichols had a decent run in his first true attempt at a full season in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series.

Nichols only had two Top 10 finishes on the 2019 season, including a fourth place finish at Darlington Raceway, but his consistency and ability to make the most out of every situation enabled him to have a career-season despite not having flashy stats.

A 13th place in the overall points standings for Nichols in 2019 was helped by half of his finishes being between 11th and 19th. Add in the Top 5 and the two Top 10’s to the mix, and you have a season plenty good enough to be safely locked in to returning to make the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series roster.

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Jake Nichols (20) chases Brad Davies (88) and Phil Diaz (75) at Michigan International Speedway on August 6th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

“I’d love to just have a Top 10 finish in the standings,” Nichols said. “Last year, I was just maintaining, just trying to stay in the series for this year. I think if I got through that first full season successfully that I could really build confidence, move forward, and hopefully try to get some wins this year.”

***

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 #15 soon!

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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