eNASCAR Heat Pro League Ends Successful First Season

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, 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.


TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Harvick Focused on DAYTONA 500 Prize

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After winning the first Gander RV Duel  at Daytona International Speedway, Kevin Harvick anticipates a different race than the last two. The Clash and both Duels were seen as conservative events with single-file racing throughout the events.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a race like we’ve seen the last two races,” Harvick said following the Duel. “It’s just so much different when you get all the cars out there, you have the lines that have so much more momentum than what they’ve had, especially when you start putting stage points out there and things in the middle of the race.”

Harvick will be starting third in Sundays DAYTONA 500. Getting to the lead will be the biggest challenge, but he will use his experience as an advantage.

“The biggest thing, that fluent routine of doing it over and over, looking in the mirror, being as comfortable and relaxed as you can with the wheel, being able to be comfortable and relaxed but also be able to look backwards,” Harvick said. “Leading probably looks easy on TV.  You spend more time looking backwards than you do forwards. There’s definitely an art to it that you get more comfortable with as you go through doing it a lot more.”

As a former winner of the Great American Race, Harvick has seen the sport evolve in the past couple of seasons, including the strategy to win. Stage racing has implemented more aggression, with drivers fighting for points throughout the event.

“You can’t come from the back any more and drive your way up through there at the end of the race.  You have to be fluent with your moves, precise.  If you don’t, you lose a bunch of spots,” Harvick said.

All 40 drivers will be thinking about holding the Harley J. Earl trophy at the end of the race. The focus begins for Harvick as we inch closer to Sunday. Being one of the favorites can’t stop him from going through his game plan.

“If you’re going to win this race, you’re going to need to be good out front,” Harvick said. “You’re going to need to be able to guard, block, pay a lot of attention to who’s coming, who’s going, and the timing of it all. That’s why you have to race as hard as you can, in my opinion.”

Sunday is going to be about survival; there is no room for error. Harvick fully understands that is what it’s going to take to win the DAYTONA 500.


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Elite Opportunity for Suárez at Stewart-Haas Racing

On Monday January 7, Monterrey, Mexico’s Daniel Suárez turned 27-years-old while announcing that he had signed with Stewart-Haas Racing, replacing Kurt Busch. He will drive the No. 41 Haas Automation/ARRIS International PLC.

After a mysterious off-season, the news that everyone was waiting for finally came out. The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion was told last year that he would not be back at Joe Gibbs Racing. During his two full-time campaigns in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Suarez has a best finish of second and scored one pole award.

“This is the best birthday present I could ask for,” said Suárez, who now calls Huntersville, North Carolina home. “We’ve all seen how competitive Stewart-Haas Racing is – all of their drivers won last year and all of them advanced deep into the playoffs. This is the opportunity every driver wants, and now I have it. I want to deliver for this team, our partners in Haas Automation, ARRIS and Ford and, ultimately, for me. We have everything we need to be successful.”

His opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing not only keeps him in the Cup Series but also gives him the ability to prove himself in a top-tier ride. SHR was the headline of the 2018 season as they added Aric Almirola to their team and every driver went to victory lane.

Now, Suárez has the same chance Almirola had going into 2018. Prior to joining Stewart-Haas Racing, seven top-10 finishes are what Almirola scored highest in one season which was back in 2014. Last year, he captured 17 and added a second victory to his career which ultimately locked his spot in the postseason.

Will Suárez be the Almirola story of the 2019 season? Not necessarily as Suárez is in a different situation. He is much younger and has less experience than Almirola, but capturing this opportunity gives Suárez a chance to continue the little success he had at Joe Gibbs Racing and grow it into a possible championship caliber driver.

“In each series Daniel has raced in, he’s advanced quickly from rookie to race winner,” said Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. “In four years, he went from the K&N Series to the NASCAR Cup Series. In between, he won an Xfinity Series championship, and he did it all while learning a new language and a new culture. He’s dedicated, he’s talented and we’re proud to have him as a key part of our race team.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Harvick Hoping Uniqueness of Homestead Plays Into His Favor

HOMESTEAD, Fla – Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of the most unique stops on the NASCAR tour. As the season concludes in South Florida, NASCAR only visits the track for the season finale. 

Its uniqueness  from the other 1.5-mile tracks make it’s a special venue for NASCAR to host all three of its national series championship finales. Homestead raises the difficulty for many teams because most of them only have notes from previous years, with only a few able to test with Goodyear, and just three pre-race practice sessions.

As we conclude the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick locked himself for the fourth time into the Championship 4 and will be racing for his second title. This year, a different tire in comparison to 2017, which may bring swings to various teams.

“A lot of that depends on what your car is doing on a particular weekend,” Harvick said. “I don’t think any year is going to be the same as to what you fight. They changed the tire this year. That’s obviously a little bit different than what we’ve had in the past.”

A few weeks ago, after Harvick’s win in the AAA Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway, the No. 4 team received an L1-level penalty. Some of the consequences included the suspension of crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Robert Smith, as well as 40 points being taken away leaving them just three points above the cut-off line. Therefore, the following weekend at ISM Raceway, they had to finish strong to advance to the Championship 4.

Suffering from a flat tire early in the event, interim crew chief Tony Gibson decided to take two tires which potentially kept them in the race. After finishing fifth, No. 4 team advanced to the Championship 4 and a shot to race for a title.

Although the season has had a few down slopes for Harvick, he knows that pulling off the championship victory at Homestead is not going to be simple.

“But it’s just not that easy,” Harvick said. “Coming here this time of the season, just like us last year, we didn’t run well in the first half of the season. You look at the 22 car, they didn’t run well in the first half of the season. They came on late and have done well. Obviously, that’s the goal, is to go out and try to win the championship. I don’t know that it would be. There’s nothing that’s going to devastate us to the point of not being able to function any more. But to go along with everything you’ve done this year, it definitely would seem fitting to add that to the year end.”

This Sunday’s race will be a lot different from the race back in 2014 when Harvick won his first title. His competitors Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are both racing for their second championship and the second consecutive title for Toyota. Meanwhile, Joey Logano is looking to capture his first championship after missing the playoffs in 2017.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Almirola “Oh So Close” to Championship 4

Aric Almirola entered the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as an underdog. Being one of five drivers that made the post-season based on points, expectations of making a deep title run were low.

However, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver quickly proved those predictions wrong and put up a strong nine-race performance that nearly earned him a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

As his three challengers under the cutoff line crashed out of Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway, the No. 10 team found themselves at the front with a shot at victory.

Despite not having the fastest car, late restarts played into Almirola’s favor. However, he was unable to capitalize as Kyle Busch’s strength showed as he pulled away to his eighth win of 2018.

Almirola placed fourth, marking his second-best finish of the playoffs. However, only first-place mattered for his team at Phoenix.

“We took a seventh or eighth-place car and the next thing you know we were in position to win the race,” Almirola said. “It was a good day for us, but today we needed to win and we didn’t win.”

While it’s a discouraging conclusion to an impressive championship run, many never expected the No. 10 team to be in this position. Beginning the season with a new driver and ending it just short of a title race berth tells the story of a remarkable breakout year. 

“This is our first year working together,” Almirola said. “You look at all the teams we’re racing and they’ve got four, five, six, seven years working together, so what we’ve accomplished in one year is a hell of a lot…”

Outrunning some of the most experienced competitors in the garage this fall attests to SHR’s strength and Almirola’s growth. In his one previous post-season appearance with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2014, he was eliminated after the first round.

With one event remaining in 2018, Almirola has already posted career numbers across the table, including scoring nine more top-10 finishes than his previous high of seven in 2014.

This success sets the bar higher for the No. 10 team moving forward. With a full year under their belts and returning to tracks where they contested closely for wins, Almirola could emerge as a consistent front-runner in the coming seasons. 

Phoenix may leave Almirola wrestling with what-if scenarios heading into the championship race, but off-season reflection and further improvement could fuel another breakout year in 2019.

“It’s been a long grind and I’m tired and I’m ready for the offseason, but I really wanted to go to Homestead with a chance to run for a championship and oh so close.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Kurt Busch Sets Eye on Lone Star State

The 2018 season has been an adventure for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), especially when it comes to performance. All four SHR cars have had a tour of victory lane, and most importantly they all made it to the round of eight of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Unfortunately, at this point of the season, only three SHR cars are eligible to clinch a spot to the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Joey Logano punched his ticket last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Texas Motor Speedway could not come at a better time for the SHR gang. Three of their cars finished in the top-10 back in the spring, ultimately giving Kurt Busch hope entering the AAA 500.

After a solid performance at Martinsville where he started and finished sixth, Busch and his fellow drivers below the cut-off line will most likely need a win in other to advance to the final round.

As we head to lone star state, Busch has three poles and is looking for a second victory.

“Texas is a good track for us and a good market,” said Busch. “I always enjoy coming out to Texas. Hopefully, the weather will look perfect for this weekend. It’s a great track and a big weekend for us as we have State Water Heaters on our car.”

Busch tasted victory at Texas back in 2009, when he raced for Team Penske. The track has changed much since he last won there, being reconfigured in 2016 with one of its significant changes being the decrease in banking in turns one and two.

The modifications have not slowed Busch down. In the fall race of 2017, he broke the qualifying record speed.

“It was an incredible qualifying run last year, and it set a track record,” said Busch. “The feel of the tire and the asphalt were better in the fall than the spring. And, what I saw last year during the playoff race at Texas was a textbook pass for the lead with Kevin Harvick passing (Martin) Truex (Jr.) going into turn one.”

As the new asphalt ages, we should start to see more competitive racing. Last season’s fall race concluded with a pass for the lead with under 10 laps to go and with high stakes going into this weekend don’t be surprised to see something similar.

Busch certainly hopes he can go into Phoenix with another win and a berth for the final four in Miami. With rumors spurring around the garage that Busch has received contract offers from various teams for 2019, capturing a victory at Texas may not only land him a shot to contend for his second championship but secure a ride for next season.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Chicagoland Defines Bowyer’s Resilience and Potential

Clint Bowyer has arguably been the fourth strongest competitor in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season.

While much of the attention has been placed on the “big three” contenders of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr., Bowyer’s two victories and an average finish of 9.9 places him in the conversation.

The No. 14 team’s comeback performance Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway portrayed their strength at the halfway point of the season.

After leading 21 laps early in the Overton’s 400, three costly penalties under the first pit cycle trapped Bowyer two laps down.

However, a fast car and lucky break with how the cautions played out allowed him to return to the lead lap by the conclusion of Stage 2 and earn stage points for placing eighth.

Bowyer ultimately finished fifth in one of the most impressive come from behind performances of the season.

“The guys work very hard on making sure that they are pushing the envelope, which you have to do in this world and against this competition,” Bowyer said. “You have to push everything. Certainly pit road is a big part of that.”

When needing to gain ground on the top contenders who have shown tremendous speed throughout the year, pit road presents the opportunity to gain crucial time.

“You are splitting hairs out there on the race track down to the tenths of a second and you can gain seconds on pit road,” Bowyer said. “Obviously our pit road speed was just a little too fast.”

One mistake often derails a team’s day but facing three consecutive blunders is unheard of, and the ability to limit mistakes is what allows the most successful drivers to rise.

This sequence highlighted a shortcoming of Bowyer’s compared to the top three performers, but his response defined the No. 14 team’s resilience.

Leading early showed the caliber of the car on Sunday and being able to race back through the field further attested to its speed. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver likely would have been the one to beat throughout the day had it not been for the early penalties.

However, having to fight through the adversity and seeing their determination pay off with Bowyer’s sixth top-five of 2018 provided valuable confidence and momentum.  

July will be a very telling month regarding Bowyer’s ability to maintain pace with the big three.

He has proven capable of competing with them each week but now will look to top their performances.

A stellar July propelled two of the last three champions into their title run. Truex Jr. finished first at Kentucky and third at New Hampshire last season while Kyle Busch won all but one race this month in 2015.

Not all champions have fared as well in July, but strong races this month can establish the momentum that can carry a team through August and into the playoffs.

It’s a crucial time for Bowyer to contend closer with the top three drivers and put himself in a position to outduel them this fall.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Old Guys Still Ruling in 2018

A few months ago, the conversation of the off-season as the excitement of the young stars rising into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018. Drivers like Alex Bowman, Darrell Wallace Jr., and William Byron were heading into the year with full-time rides, some even replacing icons.

We were preparing to witness a year with a great deal of young talent, and many believed it would be proven on the track.

As the season kicked off at Daytona, it fired off fairly strong for the young guns with 25-year-old Alex Bowman winning the pole for the Daytona 500. Additionally, rookie Darrell Wallace Jr. finished second in the 60th running of “Great American Race.”

Wallace entered the media center following the Daytona 500 with much excitement and even let loose his emotions after a runner-up finish. But since then, Wallace hasn’t placed any better than 20th and has an average finish of 22.8.

The youngsters have become quiet since Daytona, and the veterans have become the spotlight of the season.

Six races in, the veterans have showcased their experience and proved they are still the ones to beat. In fact, 42-year-old Kevin Harvick went on to win the next three events following the Daytona 500 and even some in dominating fashion.

Harvick expressed his feelings on social media this past week after his teammate, 38-year-old Clint Bowyer, won the STP 500 at Martinsville.

That’s right, no driver under the age of 25 has won a race this season. Many thought that Hendrick Motorsports would be a factor going into the year as they added a few young stars and the new Camaro ZL1.

Quite frankly, it has been the complete opposite.

The fresh young faces at Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman and William Byron, have had an uneasy start to the season. Both drivers combined have only scored one top-10 finish this year, and the new Camaro ZL1 has shown inconsistency throughout the first six races.

Meanwhile, a team with veteran drivers are building toward a having a historic season.

Stewart-Haas Racing has won four of the first six events and is going into the off weekend with a grandfather clock as Clint Bowyer snapped a 190-race winless streak.

Greg Zipadelli, Vice President of Competition for Stewart-Haas Racing, said after the win at Martinsville, “This year as a group they’ve been able to work together, and they’ve been able to work on a lot of little details, and I think it’s shown in the performance to start the year.”

Their impressive performance currently has all four of their drivers in the top-12 in points. But will this trend continue for the rest of the season?

The Cup Series schedule is lengthy, and it’s still early, but we shouldn’t rule out the young guns just yet. They’ve earned a spot in NASCAR’s premier series so they’re obviously talented and it will be thrilling to watch them try to break out and beat the “old guys.”


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Bowyer May Be Next Breakout Performer

The last victory for Clint Bowyer before Monday at Martinsville Speedway came at a drastically different time in his career. The 2012 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway marked his third win of the season and kept him in the midst of a championship battle.

While he ultimately finished runner-up in the standings, it seemed to place him on a path towards stardom in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

However, the next four years played out unexpectedly as Bowyer failed to win a race, suffered the effects of a cheating scandal that derailed and ultimately led to the closure of Michael Waltrip Racing, and only made the Playoffs twice.

Joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 marked a new beginning for the 38-year-old as he once again competed in equipment capable of performing well and proved it with three runner-up finishes.

While he didn’t break through for victory, changing organizations laid the groundwork for a comeback.

Moving to a new team had been key to elevating the careers of both Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Harvick won five races and took home the championship in his first season at SHR after leaving his longtime home of Richard Childress Racing.

Truex Jr. didn’t ultimately decide to change teams, but when NAPA Auto Parts parted ways with MWR following the Richmond scandal, it left him without a ride before a new opportunity at Furniture Row Racing emerged.

After a rough 2014, Truex Jr. found his footing in 2015 and has made his presence known ever since, becoming one of the most dominant drivers in the garage and winning the championship last season. 

Now Bowyer will look to follow in their footsteps, and his performance en route to victory at Martinsville showed that he has the potential to rise similarly.

It’s an ideal time for Bowyer to flourish as SHR continues to experience unprecedented success. The organization has won all but two races in 2018 and nearly won the DAYTONA 500 with Aric Almirola before a last-lap crash.

Bowyer showed signs of his 2012 self in the STP 500 and now has the confidence to match his potential, which may lead to a title run with continued dominance throughout the remainder of the regular season.

“This is a year that’s starting to shape up to where I feel like I’m accustomed to, way back when when I was confident that we were going to go to the end of the year and we were going to compete for a championship,” Bowyer said.

Truex Jr. has been the most prolific breakout star in recent years, but Bowyer is now in a prime position to inherit that role.

While one race can’t determine the future, Bowyer sent a statement at Martinsville and could be dangerous by competing at this level moving forward. 



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Momentum for Almirola After Top-10 at Las Vegas

After his third start in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Aric Almirola “The Cuban Missile” finally captured his first top-10 of 2018. In his new No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion, Almirola finished 10th in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Finally a top-10 for our Smithfield Ford Fusion,” Almirola said. “We have had a solid string of races, and obviously everybody has been working really hard at Stewart-Haas Racing, and the cars are obviously fast.”

A “solid string of races” it is.

At Daytona, Almirola stayed out of trouble and was the leader with a lap to go until he was wrecked in the backstretch by Austin Dillon, who ended up spraying champagne in victory lane.

The following weekend at Atlanta, Almirola ran in the top-10 most of the day but finished 13th after having a hiccup on pit road.

Almirola began the weekend at Las Vegas struggling with a bad handling race car.

“Our car was not very good on Friday or Saturday morning,” Almirola said. “The guys made a lot of changes for final practice and we finally hit on something that felt good for me.”

Almirola started back in the 29th position and successfully drove his way up into the top-15 by the end of Stage 1. Throughout the race, he ran among the top-20 allowing him to finish in the tenth position.

“I am proud of everybody at Ford Performance and Stewart-Haas Racing,” Almirola said. “We had to battle back from a lot this weekend.”

Thanks to a phenomenal job by his team, Almirola could finally get the car to handle to his liking which led him to finishing the weekend off strong with momentum going into Phoenix.

The 2018 season has begun strong for Almirola and the whole Stewart-Haas Racing organization. Starting off a year, with speed and consistent runs can really guide Almirola to having a successful season.

Heading into Phoenix, Almirola sits 12th in the overall point standings. Furthermore, this is the first season that he goes on to the fourth race with a top-10 at a track other than Daytona.

During the offseason, Stewart-Haas Racing made a few changes, most notably bringing Aric Almirola over to drive Danica Patrick’s former car.

This year started off with a historic Daytona 500 and two dominant performances by Almirola’s teammate Kevin Harvick. During the offseason, many expressed concern about Ford’s performance in 2018 since a Toyota dominated the previous season and Chevy was introducing the new Camaro ZL1.

However, the Ford camp has shown early success and it’ll be interesting to see Aric Almirola evolve throughout the season with Stewart-Haas Racing.


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.