THE VIRTUAL RICHMOND, Va. — The first eTruck Series Night in America was a rousing success, so NASCAR up-and-comer Ryan Vargas and his dedicated team are bringing it back, this time as the eTruck Rumble at Richmond Raceway on this upcoming Thursday night.
The first eTruck event, utilizing the iRacing platform, the virtual NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Trucks, and the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway, saw over 300 entrants vying for 20 spots into the 43-truck field. Defending eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion, Zack Novak, took his No. 90 JDR Graphics Toyota across the checkers in the main event.
Now, the event has grown so big that it has backing from Richmond Raceway itself, as well as their partners such as Virginia Lottery, Federated Auto Parts, Toyota, Go Bowling, and Papa John’s. Other partners include Big Green Egg, Lee Faulk Racing and Development, Speed Visions, and Elliott Henderson Graphics.
Just like the last event, the upcoming event will be racing for a charity, this time benefitting Project Hope, “a leader in global health development and emergency relief focused on increasing capacity and access to health care services for communities in need” per their website at projecthope.org.
The proceeds will benefit relief effort for COVID-19.
Again, that’s over A THOUSAND DOLLARS RAISED for Covid-19 relief.
This is great. Thank you guys!
— Ryan Vargas (@RyanVargas_23) April 13, 2020
The original tweet from Vargas was never intended to be as big as it turned into, but some close friends, as well as the whole racing community, gathered behind him in a short period of time.
“I threw the idea out there, kind of as a half-joke,” Vargas said. “I din’t anticipate it going very far. I thought maybe someone will want to do it, and maybe we will get a couple dozen people on there, have some fun, and maybe get a buddy of mine to stream it. Just have some fun with it.
“Within two hours, we circulated throughout the entire racing community, and I knew that this was something that I needed to do. I knew there was a desire for it.
“My buddy, Jon (Palmeri, aka SpeedVisions), he came up with the whole Truck Series Night in America term, and he has that really well established brand with incredible artwork, and I said ‘Hey, if we’re going to do this, let’s make it eTrucks Night‘.
“It just kind of snowballed into what it is now.”
A big difference in the eTruck Rumble as opposed to many of the big events currently is that it allows the iRacing community and race fans to compete against big names in the real world.
This round, Vargas has corralled Indianapolis 500 champion, Alexander Rossi, NHRA champion, Ron Capps, a handful of drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ford Performance driver Hailie Deegan, and many more high profile names to make up a locked in field of 23 trucks for Thursday night.
From there, 20 drivers, from a pool over 220 entrants, will qualify their way in through a series of events on Wednesday night to make the main event on Thursday night at 7:00 pm ET.
“When the whole idea first came about, there were no races where you could race against Ray Alfalla, and Hailie Deegan, and Harrison Burton,” Vargas said. “It was all strictly iRacers or strictly drivers and if this race is going to be promoted through the community, like it has been, we had so many fans retweet it saying they wanted in.
“This whole race was very much social media and fan driven, and so having that base of fans and community members wanting in on it, I think that’s where it was most important, giving all those people a chance to be in that spotlight. That’s what mattered most to us, is still giving them that platform.”
The NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series hasn’t visited Richmond Raceway since 2005 in the real world, but was scheduled to return this Saturday night before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the sporting world.
The unofficial theme, per Vargas, will be for drivers to paint their trucks up in throwback schemes, to celebrate the return of the Truck Series to Richmond, even if it’s virtually.
“With all the promotion that Richmond (Raceway) is looking to put into this, they are basically promoting it as if it is the Truck race,” Vargas said. “We are really happy we partnered up with them this time around, as well as all of their partners. It’s just been such an incredible opportunity to have.”
On top of the crew at Richmond Raceway and Richmond Raceway eSports, Vargas also has plenty of help from his right and left hand men, Jon Palmeri, artist and designer known as Speed Visions, and Austin Blair, a young racer with USAC racing experience. He’s also had plenty of help from many other friends and community members in making sure everything has been smooth to this point.
“Everyone had a big part in it,” Vargas said. “Me, Austin, and Jon had our own parts, but we also had Mark Sebetka hosting races, Bobby Sweeney, Brad Perez, then there’s Brandon Brown over at Richmond Raceway, who is running their eSports program. You have James Pike and Jacob Seelman at Podium eSports. It is a three-man operation, but once everything starts rolling, it becomes a whole team.”
The eTruck Rumble will likely be a once-a-month special event deal going forward, and the action for Round Two kicks off on Wednesday night with the qualifying races to set the 43-truck field.
The main event will be carried on the Twitch channel of Podium eSports as well as on Speed51.com starting at 7:00 pm ET on Thursday, April 16th, 2020.
Follow Ryan Vargas on Twitter for more race details.
All photos by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com