By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
When the checkered flag waved at the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway, Monday Night Racing presented by Tufco Flooring completed their second successful season.
After 17 races, NASCAR driver Will Rodgers was crowned the series’ second champion. NASCAR Cup Series rookie Anthony Alfredo, SCCA regular Preston Pardus, and Motorsport editor Nick DeGroot completed the Championship 4.
The Tufco 125 at Atlanta saw a 60-lap green flag run to start the race, the longest green flag run of the season. NASCAR Drive for Diversity competitor Rajah Caruth finally reached victory lane in the Spacestation Racing colors after making his series debut earlier this season. Caruth and Rodgers celebrated their victories post-race with NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ryan Vargas and JD Motorsports Tire Specialist Gabriel Wood.
“It definitely was a little bit of a nail-biter there waiting on the inevitable potential caution,” admitted Caruth. “Just worked out for us. Started from the back, got pretty lucky with how the race went in terms of green flag runs and when the cautions came out. I got the clean air when it mattered, and it worked out for us.
“That (Rodgers winning the championship) was definitely some great TV time for Spacestation Gaming. They are pretty young in the eSports space of NASCAR. To help out Will, we were in Discord together the whole race. I was telling him what I was doing, and he was doing his stuff accordingly. It just worked out for us.”
For Caruth, until the next season starts, he returns to ARCA Menards Series East competition. His next race for Rev Racing is at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville followed by his hometrack at Dover International Speedway. Caruth will also compete in Late Models at Tri-County Speedway and Hickory Motor Speedway.
The season started with five different winners in five races. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch opened up the season with a masterful drive at Talladega Superspeedway. Parker Kligerman, DeGroot, Pardus, and Nick Sanchez each picked a win in the first five races.
Season 2 champion Rodgers earned his only win of the season in the Pro 2 Trucks at Watkins Glen International. Alfredo, James Davison, Max Kennon, Garrett Smithley, Vargas, and Stefan Wilson also earned victories throughout the season. Davison, DeGroot, and Kligerman were the only drivers to earn two wins in the series’ second season.
Despite the sole win earlier this season, Rodgers insisted on taking the title in style. He spun his No. 55 Spacestation Racing Truck across the line to take the checkered flag. Although he destroyed the truck after the line, he secured the title.
“Absolutely yes (spinning across the line was on purpose),” joked Rodgers. “I figured I’d summon my inner Joey Logano just a little bit early and whip it across. There was enough of a gap behind me, so I finished in style.
“Atlanta definitely isn’t my best track on iRacing, so it was a worry of mine all night. I started 18th and didn’t know what my pace would be like. Within 20 laps or so we got to the top-five and hung out all night. When that last caution came out, I got up to second and fell back to third.
“My spotter Leighton (Sibille) was talking in my ear to let me know how far Nick was back there. He’d tell me every few laps. I knew all I had to do is hit my marks, finish strong, and here we are. Rajah Caruth and I were able to time some restarts, get in the right lanes at the right times and cover each other. Without him, I don’t feel like I would have finished as well as I did.
“That’s a part of being teammates on iRacing. You’ve got to find the right people to work with, who you can trust. He won the race, and I won the championship. Perfect scenario.”
Drama, hard racing, wrecks, and even a little bit of controversy dominated the storylines throughout the season. As previously mentioned, Busch won the season opener by performing his best Dale Earnhardt impression, climbing from outside the top-20 to win in overtime.
Several races ended in photo finishes or wrecks. Davison edged out DeGroot in a photo finish in the IndyCar at the virtual Auto Club Speedway. Another photo finish between Busch and Kennon took place during a Christmas week exhibition race at iRacing Superspeedway. The duo took the checkered flag in a dead heat with 0.000 seconds separating the two.
A huge crash defined the finish of the Street Stock race at the virtual Rockingham Speedway and the Cup race at Dover International Speedway. At Phoenix, Alfredo, Smithley and Vargas collided in overtime, sparking a field-consuming crash, handing the win to Sanchez. Dover had a similar crash with Vargas taking the checkered flag first.
The penultimate race in the virtual NASCAR Xfinity Series cars took place on a somber note. Podium eSports, along with many in the Monday Night Racing field, placed decals on their cars honoring the life of Bryna Eggert, mother of Podium eSports Staff Writer and Kickin’ the Tires Staff Writer and eSports Editor Seth Eggert. Bryna Eggert passed on March 12, 2021, following a lengthy battle with a heart condition. Caruth dedicated his Atlanta win to the Eggert family.
Multiple pro drivers from various disciplines took part in the series throughout the second season. In addition to those that were previously mentioned, Indy Lights driver Anders Krohn, motocross legend Chad Reed, IndyCar driver Robert Wickens, NHRA champion Ron Capps, and SuperCars’ Shane Van Gisbergen all took part.
Other notables that took part in the league, co-founded by Ford Martin and Paul Sutton, for the first time in Season 2 included Greg Stumpff of Off Axis Paint, ESPN’s Mike Clay, and photographer Mark Rebilas. NASCAR spotter and Twitch streamer David Schildhouse also joined the league and was voted Most Popular Driver.
Season 2 also featured several guest commentators in the Podium eSports booth. Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR’s Dave Moody was in the booth for the Super Late Model race at the virtual Michigan International Speedway. Adam Alexander, Larry McReynolds, and NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip called the races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Atlanta.
Season 3 for Monday Night Racing starts Monday, May 3. Sign-ups for those working in the NASCAR industry can be found here.
Monday Night Racing also announced a partnership with the eSports Racing League. A five-race series provided the opportunity for other iRacing members to join the Monday Night League. The qualifier series starts Monday, March 29, in which anyone with an iRating below 5,500 can participate. The champion of the qualifier series earns a spot on the Monday Night Racing grid. Sign-ups for that league can be found here.