*Editor’s Note: Presley Sorah, who serves as an eSports writer for TobyChristie.com and also competes in the Monday Night Racing Interstate Batteries Pro Series, will take readers on a behind-the-scenes journey of how the race played out from his seat each and every week during Season 6.
The Monday Night Racing Interstate Batteries Pro Series is back underway for Season 6 of the iRacing-based league, which has grown in prestige and popularity over the last few seasons.
The season opener on Monday utilized the former NASCAR Cup Series Car of Tomorrow (COT) at Talladega Superspeedway.
A mix of returning faces from Season 5 as well as new drivers, along with a car/track combination I’ve never raced before made this an unpredictable first race back for me, personally.
The league held multiple practice races over the two weeks leading up to the season opener, and I felt that my speed improved tenfold from each previous race. I quickly began to understand some of the different aerodynamic tricks while driving around other cars and picked up on a few qualifying strategies as well.
The final practice race took place on Sunday night, a night before the big show, and this race had the biggest turnout of them all, which helped information translate closer to the actual race conditions on Monday.
The season instantly started off on the right foot for me, by posting the second-fastest qualifying time. Although pole would’ve been nice, I typically struggle with superspeedway qualifying so I was more than happy with a front-row start.
As the green flag flew, I nailed the start, jumping out to a 5-6 car length lead by turn one. I managed to narrowly lead the first lap and then found myself in a battle amongst the rest of the top 5 for the next 5-10 laps.
After some laps with little change, I got shuffled to the outside lane and had to fight to hold my track position. It was clear I had pushed the tires a little harder than the drivers around me because I began to struggle on corner exit and pushed wide several times.
Those small mistakes led to me falling to the bottom half of the top 10 by the first green flag pit stop. I called out my pit lap in the in-sim voice chat.
All drivers in iRacing are connected to a couple of different voice channels. One is to communicate with all of the drivers in the event, and another for us to chat with any team members we have helping us in the race, such as spotters who can cycle through camera angles and keep us up to date on if cars are around us or crew chiefs, who can adjust pit stop settings and other car setup items.
My decision to pit brought several other drivers with me.
Unfortunately on the first pit stop, I made contact with a lapped car in the blend lane as he was leaving his pit box and I was pulling into mine. This caused me to get shoved past my pit stall.
Since I had to crawl the car around the track for an extra lap, I ran out of gas in turn 4 and had to let the car coast into my pit box for service. The pit incident put me in survival mode in around the 30th position until we got a caution.
Thankfully I stayed on the lead lap and was able to stay on strategy by pitting with the rest of the lead group under this caution.
With the help of my crew chief/spotter duo Robert Dorman and James Pike, I methodically worked my way back through the field and got back into the top 10.
As the tires began to wear again, a car in front of me pushed up into the wall and caught the right front of my car pretty badly. I was forced to pit again and chose to fix all of my optional damage and we were once again in survival mode.
It wasn’t long before I was back towards the front, although still with damage and with slightly older tires than those around me. After some very intense racing, a racing incident caused me to get tagged from behind entering turn 3, which caused me to incur three minutes of optional damage.
My car was very hurt by this point so we played some strategy games and elected to wait to take my quick repair. For those new to sim racing, a quick repair is an automatic repair option in some iRacing servers and/or special events that allow you a chance to completely repair your car on pit road the moment you stop your car into the box.
Monday Night Racing allows one quick repair per race, and with how wild things get, it’s a strategy game of knowing when to hold it and when to use it. My team and I decided to hold onto ours.
Another caution with around 15-20 laps to go allowed me to pit and use my quick repair, putting me right back up to speed.
On the following restart, it was go time. I restarted in the mid-twenties with only 13 or so laps remaining, and after making some big moves by avoiding a couple of crashes, I found myself right back in the thick of the battle at the front.
I was now inside the top 10 with a handful of laps left and every spot mattered. I tried to take every gap I could find right before another caution put us into a green-white-checkered finish.
I restarted just outside the top 5 on the GWC, and thankfully my lane got a good jump. I worked my way to the bottom of the track at the white flag and watched the big moves for the lead unfolding in front of me. A couple of spins, contact by guys around me, and help from my spotter Robert allowed me to sneak by into the fourth position in turn 4 and that’s all I could gain by the time we got to the finish line.
All things considered, I was very happy with a fourth-place finish in my Shaq Eye Gear No. 98 machine. Any time you can escape Talladega with a top five it is a good run, and I already racked up some good points to start the season.
Race two of the Monday Night Racing season is with the ARCA car at Twin Ring Motegi, next Monday, November 14th. To watch all of the action, tune into Podium eSports at 7:45 PM EST or follow Monday Night Racing on Twitter for more information.