EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the tenth 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.
Richmond Raceway’s racing history dates back to their first open wheel race that took place in 1946 on the fairgrounds dirt track.
The first NASCAR-sanctioned event at Richmond Raceway took place in 1953, and was won by Lee Petty, still on a dirt configuration.
The track was paved in 1968, and 20 years later, in 1988, the track was reconfigured to the layout that is still used today, a 0.75 mile “D”-shaped short track oval.
On a September race weekend in 2017, the Richmond Raceway Sports Complex hosted their first NASCAR Heat 2 eSports tournament, and their dive into the world of eSports had officially begun.
The Richmond Raceway eSports initiative came to fruition at the beginning of 2018. About a month after the team was formed, Richmond Raceway eSports joined the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series under the name of the “Chaos Crew“.
The Chaos Crew had six members on the team, including current eNiWCS drivers Nick Ottinger, Michael Conti, Logan Clampitt, Brian Schoenburg, and Jimmy Mullis.
When the eNASCAR iRacing draft came around in 2019, Richmond Raceway eSports, with sponsorship from Sunoco, was one of the original twelve teams taking part in the draft.
Their former Chaos Crew members Conti, Clampitt, and Ottinger were off the board before Richmond Raceway eSports was finally able to get one of their guys, the aforementioned Jimmy Mullis, with their first pick at pick No. 11.
Hey, @jmullisracing, 2019 was fun… But 2020 is gonna be legendary!
— Richmond Raceway eSports (@RReSports) January 7, 2020
After a successful 2019 campaign, Mullis returns to drive the No. 46 Toyota for Richmond Raceway eSports in his third-straight season with the team.
In 51 career starts since entering the series in 2017, Mullis has two career victories at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2018 and Pocono Raceway in 2019.
On top of that, Mullis earned a single pole position at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season, has nine career Top 5 finishes, and 23 career Top 10 finishes.
Mullis had his best career points finish of fifth last season.
For Mullis, coming back to Richmond Raceway eSports in 2020 was his hope during the free agency period.
“This is my third year under the Richmond Raceway eSports banner,” Mullis said. “I knew going into the free agency period, especially with not only my results in 2019, but also with the relationship that were built throughout last year that I would want to return to Richmond.
“I had a few teams reach out to me, but I knew from the beginning where I wanted to be, and nothing was really going to change that.”
T H E C H A M P I S H E R E
— Richmond Raceway eSports (@RReSports) January 7, 2020
Right before the team reintroduced Mullis for the 2020 season on social media, they dropped a bombshell on the eNASCAR iRacing world.
Fresh off a championship season with Roush Fenway Racing in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series, Zack Novak was courted to Richmond to drive the No. 90 Toyota for Richmond Raceway eSports, fueled by Sunoco, in the 2020 season.
Novak had just won his second official eNASCAR iRacing Series title, and both were won before he turned 18 years old. Novak was also the inaugural eNASCAR IGNITE Series Champion back in 2018.
Entering his fourth season, Novak has 52 career starts in the series, as he also entered the series in 2017 together with Mullis. Novak has six career victories, six career pole positions, 17 career Top 5 finishes, and 24 career Top 10 finishes.
“Richmond is extremely invested,” Novak said. “As you saw from last year, they care a lot about providing their drivers with the best experience possible. I got a call the Monday after free agency started, and they said they were extremely interested in bringing me on board.
“I got an email that same night detailing everything. Tuesday morning, I was pretty much sold.”
— Richmond Raceway eSports (@RReSports) January 7, 2020
The duo of Mullis and Novak is pure perfection for the pair of real life friends, as they are both beyond excited to be working together for Richmond Raceway eSports in the 2020 season.
Novak had gotten to meet many of the people involved behind the scenes at Richmond Raceway eSports last year during the NASCAR Cup Series spring race weekend, and said that he was treated right by the team members without even being a part of it.
“I’m really, really good friends with Jimmy, and for the spring race (at Richmond Raceway), he let me come with him,” Novak said. “I got to meet a lot of the people from Richmond Raceway, and they are all really, really cool people.
“We’ve been almost like brothers, as some will say, so to have this all come full circle is really special,” Mullis said.
2019 RICHMOND RACEWAY eSPORTS RECAP
After Mullis was chosen in the 2019 iRacing draft at pick No. 11, Richmond Raceway eSports had another pick almost right away at pick No. 14.
Malik Ray was chosen to drive the No. 90 Sunoco Toyota for the team in his rookie campaign, and together with Mullis, the duo were poised for success in 2019.
The team itself started off the season with five straight races of having a driver finish inside of the Top 10.
Mullis finished second behind race winner Novak at Daytona International Speedway to start the year, and then collected three-straight ninth place finishes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, and Texas Motor Speedway.
Ray earned his first career Top 10 finish the following race, conveniently enough at the virtual Richmond Raceway, crossing the line with a tenth place finish.
The Top 10 streak ended at Talladega Superspeedway, where Ray and Mullis were just outside of it, finishing 12th and 13th, respectively.
Kansas Speedway saw another Top 10 finish for Ray, and Sonoma Raceway was the next Top 10 finish for Mullis.
Kentucky Speedway was a runner up effort for Mullis, and just like Daytona, he was just shy of finding victory lane, finishing right behind Novak.
The following event was at Pocono Raceway, and it was arguably the highlight of the season for Richmond Raceway eSports, collectively.
Mullis finally broke through to claim his first and only victory of the season, while Ray fought his way through the field at the end to claim his best career finish of third place.
Mullis held on to qualify for the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series playoffs after an 11th place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Unfortunately, a pair of 26th place finishes at Darlington Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway forced Mullis into a must-win scenario at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in order to advance to the Championship 4.
Mullis wound up finishing sixth at the ROVAL, and was eliminated from advancing to race for the title.
Meanwhile, Ray was out there fighting for a spot in the Top 20 in the points to maintain his place on the driver roster for the 2020 season.
As Homestead-Miami Speedway came and went, Mullis led near the end, but gave way to Novak and Keegan Leahy to battle it out for the title.
Mullis came home in third, and that was enough to place him fifth overall in the final standings. Ray came home in 12th, and that was enough to finish 18th overall in the standings.
In the free agency period, Mullis re-signed with the Richmond Raceway eSports as he had hoped to, while Ray ended up heading over to Joe Gibbs Racing for the upcoming 2020 season.
For 2020, Mullis says that his goals aren’t too off from where most everyone else wants to be.
“I’m sure everyone says the, but of course I want to win,” Mullis said. “This year, I have a lot of confidence coming off a strong 2019 season, and I look to just continue improving my craft, and try to put myself in a position to be a championship contender again.”
If Mullis wants to be the champion in 2020, he will have to take the title away from his new teammate in the 2020 season.
RReSPORTS SIGNS THE 2019 CHAMPION, ZACK NOVAK, FOR THE 2020 SEASON
A season that started and ended in victory lane, and also ended with some extra cash and a championship trophy.
That was Zack Novak’s 2019 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship season driving the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
Novak collected victories at Daytona, Kansas, and Kentucky in the regular season, but even with all of that, he wasn’t locked into the playoffs entering the regular season finale at Bristol.
Novak finished in the runner up position, and it was enough to earn the eighth and final spot in the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series playoffs.
Another runner up position for Novak at Darlington Raceway in the first week of the playoffs was a huge boost toward a Championship 4 berth.
Through the season, Novak showed speed throughout, but luck wasn’t always on his side.
Sometimes, the speed wasn’t always there from the setup department, and it was tough for Novak to keep the consistency through the season.
Regardless, after a 17th place finish at Indianapolis and a 15th place effort at the ROVAL, Novak had enough to be a player in the title race at Homestead.
Novak went up against Keegan Leahy, who also had speed throughout the season, but also lacked consistency.
Then there was Bobby Zalenski, who had strong runs throughout the season, but could only show up in victory lane at the road course events.
Finally, Blake Reynolds had that consistency that the others strived for, but went winless on the season.
It seemed like no single driver had a leg up over the other coming into the championship battle, which made the finale even more intriguing to watch it as it was being broadcasted live on NBC Sports Network.
When it was all said and done, Novak earned that title. He held off the onslaught from Leahy, and he out-strategized both Zalenski and Reynolds.
What does a champion do once they reach the pinnacle? For Novak, it means continuing to set his expectations higher.
“Ever since my rookie season, when I didn’t make the playoffs, I’ve set that standard for myself, that I want to be a playoff driver every year, Novak said. “I think that’s a little too low now, though, with the ‘defending champion’ tag on me.
“I think this year, the expectation is making the final four, at least getting that far, and then seeing where that goes. Obviously, I’d like to repeat, but who knows with the change to Phoenix (being the season finale race), who knows how that’s going to play out for me and everyone else.”
With Novak moving over to Richmond Raceway eSports in 2020 alongside Mullis, the pair can brag that they have the highest average points finishing position from the drivers who competed in the 2019 season.
Knowing that statistic, those two and Richmond Raceway eSports may be the biggest threat out there for the team title in the 2020 season.
— Richmond Raceway eSports (@RReSports) January 10, 2020
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 #11 soon!
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com