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VIRTUAL RACE PREVIEW: Firecracker 400 & Firecracker 200

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Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

eRacr.gg is a fairly new “premiere eSports event organization” that has quickly made a name for themselves in the online racing community.

eRacr.gg’s Head of Community, Joshua Mendoza, alongside with NASCAR drivers Landon Cassill and Parker Kligerman, have all come together through eRacr to host two of the largest events of the 2020 eSeason, utilizing iRacing.com Motorsports Simulations.

The main event is the Firecracker 400, scheduled for 7:00 pm ET on Wednesday, July 1st, while the Firecracker 200 is scheduled two days earlier, Monday, June 29th, also at 7:00 pm ET.

Both races will take place at the 2007 version of the virtual Daytona International Speedway, and will utilize the 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and 1987 Ford Thunderbird racecars.

The races will be streamed live on Cassill’s Twitch channel, as well as other social media platforms via eRacr.gg.

Cassill, Kligerman, and Burton-Kligerman eSports partner and on-air talent, David Schildhouse, will be on the call.

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William Byron (25) drives away from a massive incident in the eighth ‘INFRA Challenge 100’ preliminary race. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

It all started with 344 individual sign ups, all buying a spot into the event with a $25 entry fee.

From that 344 driver lineup, the field shrunk to 88 drivers after eight preliminary races.

Those 88 drivers then went on to battle in open setup qualifying.

One lap on Wednesday to set the Top 20, and a final chance on Thursday to set the remaining 23 spots for the 400 miler. The top 43 drivers in qualifying will start the Firecracker 400. The next 43 (44th through 86th) set the line up for the 200 miler, and the final two qualifiers (87th and 88th) are sidelined as alternates for the 200 mile race.

Joseph Gulotta earned the pole position for the Firecracker 400. On Wednesday, Gulotta posted the fastest time out of 88 drivers, with a time of 42.725 seconds. The pole sitter receives a grill, courtesy of Big Green Egg. With that said, nobody who re-qualified on Thursday was able to beat that time, either.

On Friday morning, both fields were officially set, and two of the larger-sized events on the iRacing service are ready to roll this week.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8) practices for the seventh ‘INFRA Challenge 100’ preliminary race. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

The setting of the field wouldn’t be without drama, however.

The final qualifier on Thursday, Will Cooley, bumped a 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, Dale Earnhardt Jr., out of the 400-miler field.

Just about 12 hours later, and just before the results became official, Josh ParkereNASCAR Heat Pro League driver for Gibbs Gaming, relinquished his place in the main event, due to a scheduling conflict with the Heat league moving back to Wednesdays, and that put Earnhardt Jr. back into the field.

Many big names didn’t even get the chance to make it into the qualifying round.

NASCAR stars such as Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte all tried their hands in the INFRA Challenge 100s, a set of eight races, 40 laps or 40 minutes a piece, whichever came first. None of these big names were able to get through to the next round.

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Garrett Smithley (53) won the fifth ‘INFRA Challenge 100’ preliminary race. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Garrett Smithley, NASCAR Cup Series driver for Rick Ware Racing, was able to advance out of the preliminaries, driving the Radius house car, but had internet issues during his qualifying lap, and is listed to start 43rd in the Firecracker 200.

Many eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers tried their hand at making one of the big events.

Out of the 40 drivers in the top oval sim racing series, 19 attempted to race in during the preliminaries, and 15 were successful in advancing.

Of those 15, there will be 14 Coke Series drivers in the 400. Blake Reynolds (Team Dillon eSports) missed the 400 field by 0.005 seconds, and will start second in the 200 miler.

SEE: Official eRacr Firecracker Qualifying Results

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The Pole Sitter: Joseph Gulotta. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Official partners for the races include Blue Emu, Valvoline, INFRA Resolutions, Radius, Big Green Egg, Transervice, and Ventract.

When INFRA Resolutions hopped on board, the official purse for both events rose to $12,500.

The winner of the Firecracker 400 will earn a payout of $2,000, and the winner of the Firecracker 200 will get $500. Just to start in the Firecracker 200 will earn back the $25 entry fee.

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Earlier this year, when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2020 NASCAR racing season, iRacing stepped up in a huge way, and together with NASCAR and FOX Sports, brought the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series to life.

Both Cassill and Kligerman participated in the series, along with a multitude of other current and former NASCAR Cup Series drivers.

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Parker Kligerman (77) and Landon Cassill (89) navigate around an incident in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series race at the virtual North Wilkesboro. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

The Pro Invitational Series ended when cars returned to the real track on March 17th, but neither Cassill or Kligerman have stopped utilizing the iRacing service.

Cassill brought back the Landon Cassill Qualifying Challenge, a one lap showdown at the virtual Darlington Raceway. Eddie Kerner, who won that challenge, will also be a part of the Firecracker 400, starting 27th.

Kligerman is the co-owner of Burton Kligerman eSports, which not only fields two entries in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for Ashton Crowder and Logan Clampitt, but also recently partnered with a handful of sim racers on the iRacing platform. Briar LaPradd and Justin Lisonbee are two of those partners who will be in the main event on Wednesday.

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Burton Kligerman eSports driver Logan Clampitt at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

The Firecracker name, of course, comes from the time when NASCAR’s July 4th Cup race at Daytona would be named the Firecracker 400.

Up until last year, the July 4th weekend was held at Daytona, and despite it being renamed both the Pepsi 400 and the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in recent times, many would still refer to it as the Firecracker, just like many still refer to the 600 miler in Charlotte as the World 600.

With Daytona races on July 4th weekend a part of history, it’s nostalgic to bring the same energy over to the virtual world, with the newly released 1987 edition NASCAR racecars on the iRacing service.

The Firecracker races are just the next big thing happening, and both Cassill and Kligerman hope that with its popularity in the sim racing community, that it’s a mainstay for years to come.

CHECK OUT FUTURE eSPORTS EVENTS OVER AT ERACR.GG.

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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