The second season of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League is almost in the books, and unlike last year, the fight is for the individual glory, as opposed to the team aspects of Season One.
Not unlike 2019, when the inaugural season took place, the series is composed of 14 teams, each with two drivers, one on the XBOX one console version of NASCAR Heat 5, and the other on the Playstation 4. The difference in Season Two is the importance of the individual driver, as each driver on either console in the series fought for a spot in the championship event.
Two veterans from Season One, PS4 driver Josh Parker (Gibbs Gaming) and XBOX driver Slade Gravitt (Wood Brothers Gaming), will both be a part of the fight for the title in Season Two. They will be going up against Justin Brooks, Dan Buttafuoco, and Brian Tedeschi from the XBOX ranks, as well as Maxwell Castro, Brandyn Gritton, and Josh Harbin from the PS4 side.
“I was the second-best driver in the driver points on PS4 last year, but we [Wood Brothers Gaming] finished eighth in the Team Standings. I guess you can easily assume the formula to what that meant. It made me a little upset, to say the least.”
– Slade Gravitt, #21 Spin Ford, Wood Brothers Gaming
Each of the 28 drivers, driving on Fanatec-provided wheel and pedals, competed through three segments, each composed of four races each, and the highest in the standings per console advanced through to fight for the title. Both Parker and Gravitt advanced through in Segment Three. Parker found his stride, winning back to back races at Auto Club Speedway and Road America en route to the segment title. Meanwhile, the XBOX dominant duo of Brooks and Buttafuoco continued to exert themselves over the rest of the field, but Gravitt stayed consistent through the segment, and had the most points of those not already in the title hunt, advancing to the championship event.
Segment One winners were Brooks (JTG Daugherty Throttlers) and Castro (Ganassi Gaming). Segment Two victories went to Buttafuoco (Germain Gaming) and Gritton (Stewart-Haas eSports). Gritton was part of the winning duo on SHR eSports back in 2019. The championship field is rounded out by Tedeschi (Penske eSports) and Harbin (Leavine Family Gaming), both advancing out of the wildcard race at Daytona International Speedway.
It all goes down in 2️⃣ weeks.
— NASCAR Heat (@NASCARHeat) August 5, 2020
The #eNASCARHeat Finale! 3 Races, 8 Drivers, 2 Eliminated until a champion is crowned in the final event! Will your driver get the job done?
— Henderson (@ehgdesign) August 7, 2020
These eight drivers, as well the 20 others who won’t get a chance the title from both consoles, were all shipped ASUS computers, and for the first time in series history, all 28 drivers will compete against one another, putting away the consoles to race on the PC edition of NASCAR Heat 5.
There will be three races in the Championship event, at Michigan International Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Bristol Motor Speedway. Each race will eliminate the two lowest-finishing drivers until a Championship Four is set for the final race at Bristol. The highest finisher there will be crowned the overall champion.
All 28 drivers will be competing for the race wins and prize money, but only one of the eight championship hopefuls can become the Season Two Champion.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to be speed that’s going to be a factor at Bristol, it’s going to be survival, with 28 cars going for $30,000.”
– Josh Parker, #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, Gibbs Gaming
SIM RACING VETERAN JOSH PARKER AIMING TO CONQUER CONSOLE RACING
In his second season in the eNASCAR Heat Pro League, Josh Parker is a name that has been associated with eNASCAR and sim racing for over a decade now.
From a NASCAR Racing 2003 and iRacing background, Parker qualified for the inaugural eNASCAR Heat Pro League draft last year, and drove for Ganassi Gaming on the PS4 side in Season One. Parker collected a win during his time driving the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevy, the PS4 race at Kansas Speedway. After being let go during the offseason, Parker was picked up by Gibbs Gaming for their vacant PS4 spot, replacing Daniel Buttafuoco (who moved over to Germain Gaming) in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
“Both organizations find different opportunities to get their sponsorship and brands out there, and they both nail it,” Parker said about driving for both Chip Ganassi and Joe Gibbs in the eNASCAR Heat Pro League.
“I was supported last year by Credit One and Elijah [Burke] and everyone there, and they were all about this. Then I get drafted by Joe Gibbs, and it’s the same thing. Luckily, one of the PR guys, Boris [Cook], is a big sim racer himself, and I run with him in the SIM500 league on iRacing… that helps that he knows what it’s all about.”
— Josh Parker (@JoshParker81) November 19, 2019
The veteran sim racer, the only sim racer in history to be a winner in iRacing’s highest level and in NASCAR Heat’s highest level, continues to compete on both disciplines. Earlier this year, Parker was a winner in the eNASCAR iRacing Road-To-Pro Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and also qualified into the INFRA Firecracker 400 on iRacing before eventually yielding his spot (to NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) due to a conflict with the eNASCAR Heat Pro League schedule.
This season, Parker feels like having knowledge on both platforms is more of an advantage than he’s ever had before. “I have found benefits of just getting more and more track time,” Parker said. “For instance, I ran a bunch at Auto Club on iRacing… obviously, the two physics are completely different, but it definitely helped me get the win on NASCAR Heat because I’m just so used to the track.
“With the new draft package that they have in real NASCAR, iRacing has that in their game. The similarities are actually closer because there is a lot of draft in NASCAR Heat. I found out that it’s helping more this year than ever… The more track time you have, the more seat time you have, the better you’re going to be, no matter what it is.”
Looking forward to the title races, Parker says he’s got confidence in the first two races in the event, at Michigan International Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. “I’m confident at Michigan. Phoenix, I won my first-ever [eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing] Series race at that track, so it’s always a good place for me to go to. I’m confident there.”
— Josh Parker (@JoshParker81) August 16, 2020
Bristol Motor Speedway was on the schedule last season, and Parker wound up finishing 13th out of 14 drivers. Now, it’s the place where the champion is crowned, and he’s more worried about surviving than having speed.
“Bristol is absolutely my worst track, but I’ve spent a lot of time on there this week, and I’ve gotten it down to where it’s more comfortable. Last year, I was on a controller, and this year, I’m on a wheel, which is what I’m more comfortable with in sim racing. I’ve always been on a wheel, so I think that was a big difference last year with me being on a controller… Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to be speed that’s going to be a factor at Bristol, it’s going to be survival, with 28 cars going for $30,000.”
HOT SHOE SLADE GRAVITT HOPING TO SHINE IN SEASON FINALE
When the eNASCAR Heat Pro League was introduced to the world at the real Charlotte Motor Speedway, Slade Gravitt, the No. 1 pick on the PS4 platform, took the virtual checkers in the first race of the series at the virtual edition of the same track.
Now, Gravitt is locked in, advancing from the XBOX platform, and looking to prove his ability and versatility amongst the field on Wednesday night.
Gravitt started his sim racing career when he purchased a Playstation 4 to play NASCAR Heat Evolution, and gradually, through racing online and with his peers on NASCAR Heat 2, got to become one of the top racers on NASCAR Heat 3 platform. “TJ McGowan, Jason Keffer, Ace, those were guys who helped me out a lot… Every time I say something, I mention them, because without them, I’m not sure I’d be here today.”
In the inaugural draft, Gravitt was drafted by the storied Wood Brothers Racing team for their PS4 ride, the No. 21 Spin Ford, and that’s something Gravitt never takes for granted. “It means a lot to me,” Gravitt said. “I can’t express how grateful I am to run for this team.”
— NASCAR Heat (@NASCARHeat) May 28, 2019
The Wood Brothers kept Gravitt for Season 2, but this time, he would compete with the XBOX crowd so that they could draft former Roush Fenway driver, Cody Giles, for the PS4 ride.
“The setups on XBOX are a little bit looser,” Gravitt said when comparing driving on both consoles. “The game just feels different on XBOX, I really don’t know how to explain it.”
Like Parker, Gravitt made the switch from controller to the Fanatec wheel before the season began, and that could prove to be a difference maker in the finale. After all, Gravitt has a chip on his shoulder following Season One. “I was the second-best driver in the driver points on PS4 last year, but we finished eighth in the Team Standings. I guess you can easily assume the formula to what that meant. It made me a little upset, to say the least.”
Gravitt has an advantage that no other driver has in the field – he’s competed with a majority of the drivers, having raced in both PS4 and XBOX lineups over the two seasons.
“People do drive different on XBOX… I feel like it’s harder to win on XBOX, but it’s easier to get Top 5’s. I think Justin Brooks and Dan Buttafuoco are two of the fastest guys in the league, maybe the two fastest guys in the league, but PS4 has a lot more depth – it’s a lot harder to get Top 5’s on PS4 because first through 11th or 12th is almost the same speed. On XBOX, you have groups – you have the front two or three, then there’s another group of three or four who are the same speed, then another group of three, and another group of three.”
— Slade Gravitt (@Slade_G84) August 17, 2020
Gravitt is the only driver in eNASCAR Heat Pro League history to have a win on either console, earning that distinction after winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway back in Segment One. However, as Gravitt explained, wins have been tougher to come by on the XBOX side due to the duo of Brooks and Buttafuoco.
If Gravitt has any advantage in his mind, it’s knowing what most of his competitors mindsets are, having raced both sides. “Seeing how guys make moves, and know what they are going to do at a certain time… I know some guys on PS4 like to be calm throughout the entire race, then when it comes down to five to go, that’s when they go. Some guys are going all the way every single lap.”
Any advantage will be important, and Gravitt knows his past successes at the three championship tracks are some of his best on the schedule. “To go off Season One, these three tracks should some of my favorites. We won Michigan last year. Bristol, third race of the year, we got second, and then Phoenix, we finished 10th (after late race contact).”
Regardless, the last race at Bristol is going to be a tough race to conquer for everyone. “At Bristol, track position is going to be 100 percent key. The fastest guy could be running 16th, and it’s going to be really hard for them to get to the lead,” Gravitt said.
Tune into eNASCAR.com/live at 8:00 pm ET on Wednesday night to catch the Season Two Championship Finale.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com