The first season of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League came to a close Wednesday night in dramatic fashion.
Stewart-Haas Gaming’s drivers, Brandyn Gritton, who competed in the PlayStation 4 races, and Josh Shoemaker, who competed in the Xbox One events came away with the inaugural championship.
It didn’t come without some dramatics though, as Leavine Family Gaming’s driver in the Xbox league, Nick Vroman would jump from third to first on the final lap after then-leader Diego Alvarado, competing for Petty eSports, would stall in front of Shoemaker who running second.
Vroman would get the win and managed to increase LFG’s points to force a tiebreaker between themselves and Stewart-Haas. However, due to Gritton and Vroman leading more laps, they would be crowned champions.
“I thought it was a great way to recap what was a very exciting season,” Colin Smith, President of 704 Games, told POPULAR SPEED. “I think we were able to open up a lot of people’s eyes to the potential and the possibility of e-sports, as it relates to NASCAR, and we could not have asked for a better finish in terms of the event, and the quality of production, and teams we had participating.”
The finale took place in NASCAR Plaza’s Studio 43 in Charlotte and streamed on eNASCAR.com, with NASCAR’s social channels plugging the event. To the league’s credit, this really gave the event a big fight feel which Smith said was by design.
“It’s really important to have a lot of what we’re trying to do is create that type of atmosphere when we do host all of these drivers, and all of the teams on location, and we want to do more of that next year where we have the opportunity to actually create potentially a series of events around the race, themselves,” Smith said.
It was not just the NASCAR team that made the event a big deal, as involvement with the teams gave the league an added bit of legitimacy. On the day of the event, Stewart-Haas Gaming even released a video featuring Stewart-Haas Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers wishing their teammates good luck.
“It was great to see some of the teams really embrace this and do some fun things with it, which is what we recommended at the very beginning of the year. Don’t treat this like it’s your traditional racing. It’s a game. It’s e-sports. Like have some fun with it,” Smith said.
He also noted he has been “extremely” pleased with team participation and thinks teams are feeling the same way, as he noted that some organizations were able to gain new sponsorship thanks in part to the newly found league. One example of this was Wood Brothers Gaming, who was able to attract a new sponsor for their eteam in Spin earlier this season.
Overall, Smith considers the first season of the league a success.
“Our demos are really strong. Like I said, the participation from the teams, and from NASCAR has been really strong, and the collective power of all those groups coming together, whether it’s brainpower, markets, or muscle, you name it, is pretty convincing. So, I think year one we learned a lot,” Smith said. “I think we’re walking out of year one with our heads held collectively high, but I also think that everyone feels there’s a lot more that we can, and should, be doing as we head into year two.”
On the topic of year two, Smith said there is a lot of things that the league is looking into such as: a bigger driver pool, a more compact schedule, a possible celebrity pro-am race, and most likely a prize pool to reward the drivers for how they compete.
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