Clean racing marred by netcode, incredible moves get Malik Ray to victory lane
(VIRTUAL) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The opening race of the 2020 iRacing Pro Series came down to the wire, in a 21 lap dash to the checkers, Malik Ray came out victorious against 39 others after a wild last lap at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s just… I don’t have any words,” Ray told Justin Prince on Podium eSports post-race. “I’m at a loss for words. The whole reason why I even won that race was because of all of my teammates… It’s a lot, I’m just really happy.”
The battle for the checkers came down to a group of cars technically aligned between Deadzone Racing and Total Advantage Motorsports, with Ray and Michael Guest fighting for a win for the former, and Allen Boes or Femi Olat trying to get one for the latter.
The alliance took home the Top 4 positions, with Slip Angle Motorsports’ Eric. J Smith rounding out the Top 5.
The event had its share of moments, most created by an unruly netcode in the pack, but the race was under caution only three times for nine laps in the 100 laps that were run.
Ray led the most laps – 34 altogether – in a race which featured 41 lead changes among 14 different drivers.
WE FREAKING DID IT GUYS THATS WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT ON PUT SOME RESPECT ON MY NAME‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️ S/O TO @rowdyenergy‼️‼️‼️‼️I told you guys if i was not wrecked where would I end up, and YALL SEE THE SCREENSHOT!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/FwfdhZcst7— M F R (@MalikRayTTV) November 18, 2020
Relegated driver outlook
18 drivers join the 2020 iRacing Pro Series after relegation from the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. Of those 18 drivers, 11 finished within the Top 20, with Ray, Guest, Smith, 2019 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion Zack Novak, Dylan Duval, and Chris Overland all finishing in the Top 10.
Four relegated drivers find themselves in a big hole following Daytona, all finishing outside of the Top 30 after finding trouble during the event. Brandon Hayse Kettelle (2020 Talladega Coke Series winner) finished 34th, Alex McCollum finished 36th, Kollin Keister (2020 Charlotte Coke Series winner) finished 37th, and Justin Bolton wound up 39th.
Brian Schoenburg started on the pole position, stayed up front for a good portion of the race, but after a strategy call got him off sequence, he found himself mired back in traffic for the final stint. He was collected in a last lap incident and wound up 25th.
Of the 22 drivers on the 2020 Pro Series roster that advanced via the Road-to-Pro Series, some are looking to make their way back into the Coke Series for the first time in years, while others are getting their first crack at top level racing.
Allen Boes (Pocono Raceway, 2015 / Daytona Int’l Speedway, 2016 / Texas Motor Speedway, 2017), Taylor Hurst (Chicagoland Speedway, 2017), and Danny Hansen (Charlotte Motor Speedway, 2014) are all winners in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series from previous seasons, but after falling out of the series in some form or fashion, all are looking to return to the top level once more.
Boes finished the best of the “new” faces, in second behind Ray. Whitt took home a 15th place finish, while Hurst finished 21st, Hansen was 22nd, and Strauss ended up 27th.
Mitchell deJong (his real life and virtual resumé speaks for itself) is entered in the iRacing Pro Series for the first time in 2020. Not known as an oval expert, deJong was able to place in the Top 22 by the end of the Road-to-Pro season, and will be looking to advance up to the Coke Series following the Pro Series. A 12th place effort at Daytona is a good start for deJong.
Big congrats to @MalikRayTTV on getting the win in the season opener of the iRacing Pro Series at Daytona tonight! Hell of a race by Malik everyone involved! On to Auto Club next week! pic.twitter.com/r6cpP7Zi9C— BottomSplit (@BottomSplit) November 18, 2020
Tuesday, the series will head to the virtual Auto Club Speedway. It will be the first time in this format that this series will race at the 2-mile oval in California. the Road-To-Pro Series also did not race at Auto Club in 2020.
In the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race this season, Ashton Crowder took the No. 77 Burton Kligerman eSports Toyota to victory lane. Crowder now finds himself in the Pro Series after relegation, and will look to take his No. 98 Elliott Sadler Esports entry back into victory lane.
- (51) Malik Ray – Deadzone Racing / Joe Gibbs Racing
- (21) Allen Boes – Total Advantage Motorsports
- (33) Michael Guest – Deadzone Racing / Team Dillon eSports
- (5) Femi Olat – Total Advantage Motorsports
- (9) Eric J. Smith – Slip Angle Motorsports / Jim Beaver eSports
- (90) Zack Novak – LockDown Racing / Richmond Raceway eSports
- (62) Anthony Burroughs – Nexxus eSports
- (19) Eddie Kerner – Total Advantage Motorsports
- (41) Dylan Duval – Five Star Racing / Stewart-Haas eSports
- (16) Chris Overland – Slip Angle Motorsports / Wood Brothers Gaming
- (6) Jarl Teien – SIMUCUBE ineX Racing
- (12) Mitchell deJong – Coanda Simsport / Virtual Racing School
- (34) Matt Bussa – Team Conti / Williams Esports
- (52) Jake Matheson – Nexxus eSports
- (7) Blade Whitt – Lowline Racing
- (4) Santiago Tirres – Slip Angle Motorsports / LETARTE eSports
- (77) Ryan Doucette – Nexxus eSports
- (2) Garrett Manes – Elliott Sadler Esports / Richmond Raceway eSports
- (98) Ashton Crowder – Elliott Sadler Esports
- (47) Nathan Lyon – Deadzone Racing
- (74) Taylor Hurst – LockDown Racing
- (42) Danny Hansen – Garrett Smithley eSports
- (20) Steve Sheehan – Independent
- (44) Brian Mercurio – Lowline Racing
- (55) Brian Schoenburg – Norse Force Racing
- (24) Zack Nichols – Norse Force Racing
- (45) Donovan Strauss – Horizon Racing Team
- (22) Isaac Gann – Norse Force Racing
- (15) Michael Guariglia – Deadzone Racing
- (46) Collin Bowden – Deadzone Racing
- (14) Vicente Salas – Elliott Sadler Esports
- (57) Seth DeMerchant – Horizon Racing Team
- (31) Derek Justis – Norse Force Racing
- (48) Brandon Hayse Kettelle – Slip Angle Motorsports
- (72) Michael Gonzales – Total Advantage Motorsports
- (1) Alex McCollum – Legacy Esports
- (17) Kollin Keister – Deadzone Racing
- (32) Steven Wilson – Total Advantage Motorsports
- (10) Justin Bolton – Stewart-Haas eSports
- (75) Jose Solis Jr. – Nexxus eSports
Check out the photo gallery from Tuesday night’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series event at Daytona International Speedway! Photos by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com