Thursday, June 8, 2023

MNR Preview Eldora: Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? And Where’s the Beef?

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Stephen Mallozzi breaks down who’s hot, who’s not and what the biggest beef is heading into Monday Night Racing’s event at Eldora this week.

Following the bye week for the Memorial Day holiday, has decided to not only increase our weekly coverage of the Monday Night Racing Series, but we will also be spicing things up.

Collectively, we’ve elected to start with the introduction of this new weekly column: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, and Where’s the Beef. Inspired by Monday Night Racing’s creation of weekly Madden-esque driver rankings, we will now cover who has the most momentum, least momentum, and the biggest battles heading into each race week.

Here is the breakdown of how the new driver ratings are determined and weighted:

  • 50% of the rating comes from a driver’s recent form, which is a collection of general performance criteria — wins, finishing positions, laps led etc. — over last 14 Monday night racing events.

The second half of each driver’s rating comes from their performance of different types of race tracks on the schedule.

  • 23% of the score comes from a driver’s performance at Intermediate tracks
  • 9% Superspeedways
  • 9% Road Course
  • 5% short tracks
  • 4% Dirt (added the category this week)

Additionally, drivers can earn bonus points, which are added to their final Driver Rating. Here are the paths of which drivers can accrue bonus ratings points:

  • Focus Points: Any driver who has won a race in the last 14 races, each win equals two focus points. Focus points are bonuses added to your score from the weighted criteria.
  • Championship adjustment: Five points added to overall for being past season’s champion (this year is Adam Cabot), Three points for all other previous past champions.

Now, without further ado, here’s our Interstate Batteries Monday Night Racing Pro Series race preview for Eldora:

Who’s Hot?

Presley Sorah (86 Overall): In the most obvious inclusion ever, it would be impossible not to include our first Season 5 multi-race winner on this list. Sorah has really found his stuff as of late.

He started the season with one of the lowest driver ratings in the field, but now finds himself at an 86 after a fairly dominant win at Martinsville and a thrilling victory in the most recent race at Texas Motor Speedway in the Radicals.

Anthony Alfredo (89 Overall): Fast Pasta has been on an absolute tear. At times, his results (which have been pretty freakin’ good) aren’t even reflective of how well he has been driving.

Last week, he battled back from a restart violation that resulted in an end of line (EOL) penalty, and by the end of the race was making moves to take the lead before crashing in the final corner and finishing 21st. Don’t let the subpar finishing position mislead you though, Alfredo won Daytona, is locked into the MNR Playoffs, and is arguably the most well rounded front-runner in the field.

At an 89 overall he has the fourth-best driver rating in the series and I expect him to be in the 90’s soon.

Who’s Not?

James Bickford (80 Overall): Bickford’s first-career MNR win at Watkins Glen was huge. But let’s not forget that before that race Bickford was just 18th in the point standings.

Last week at Texas was not really much better. Bickford was involved in multiple wrecks, including one late in the race, and was relegated to a 26th place finish.

Outside of his win, Bickford has a best finish of just 12th this season. If he wants to be considered a serious championship contender, he needs to find some more of the speed and strategy that won him the race at Watkins Glen. His driver rating has fallen outside the top ten, and his road course win is really helping to keep that ranking afloat.

George Balfanz Jr (45 Overall): After a great and surprising runner up finish in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, Balfanz has trended downward in each of the next three races, finishing 13th at Martinsville, 35th at Watkins Glen, and 36th at Texas.

It isn’t all bad though, as Balfanz ran near the front at Texas, but he needs to start putting together solid finishes if he wants to end up in the MNR Playoffs.

Where’s the Beef?

Collin Fern and James Bickford: On top of having a rough season, outside of his win at The Glen, Bickford was also called a, “clown,” by an unhappy Collin Fern for Bickford’s aggressive driving antics late in the last race at Texas Motor Speedway.


The pair were unhappy after a collision between the two cost Fern a chance at a victory and relegated the Season 4 Championship 4 Contender to a second place finish. Fern had quite a bit to say about Bickford in his post-race interview:

Not sure if these two figured out their differences, but one thing is certain; this isn’t the last these two are going to see of one another.

The Next Race

The Interstate Batteries Monday Night Racing Pro Series heads to Eldora Speedway next, where the drivers will compete in Dirt Street Stocks. Coverage will be provided by Podium eSports on YouTube, and Twitch on Monday, June 6th.

If there are grudges being held, you can expect drivers to attempt to settle scores on the dirt, where a retaliatory shove can be disguised as incidental contact quite easily.

As we head into Monday’s race at Eldora, the pressure is starting to mount for drivers, who want a shot at the Season 5 Championship.

Ryan Vargas, a Season 4 Championship 4 contender, and Adam Cabot, the Season 4 MNR Champion, both find themselves on the outside looking in of the Playoff cutline:

With five races left until the Playoffs, there is no time to rest for drivers.

But the Playoffs aren’t the only intriguing points battle to keep an eye on. A couple of weeks ago, the Series installed a top-35 rule, as an effort to keep championship contenders in the Series in the starting lineups for future races.

Drivers inside the top-35 will have an automatic spot in the field each week.

Brett Baldeck, Ruben Garcia and Ron Capps find themselves as the final three drivers inside the top-35 of the championship standings after Texas, while Bailey Turner, Parker Kligerman, TJ Majors, Mike Clay and Dillon Welch sit in spots 36 through 40.

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