Bussa Kettelle Collide Enascar 2020 Atlanta Round8

The second battle: Coca-Cola iRacing Series relegation bubble watch

With one race to go in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship, there’s plenty of talk around which of the four championship finalists will bring home the trophy (and, of course, $100,000) Monday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But there’s another fight with lots at stake: the top-20 relegation battle.

In the Coca-Cola iRacing Series, the top 20 drivers in points at the end of the season are guaranteed to race again next year, while the bottom half of the field is relegated to the iRacing Pro Series – an off-season series used as a feeder to the top league. The top 20 from the winter Pro Series advance to the 2021 Coca-Cola iRacing Series field.

These drivers find themselves on the relegation bubble heading into Homestead’s finale.

15. Bob Bryant, Burton Kligerman Esports (+45)

Sim-racing veteran Bob Bryant’s rookie season in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series wasn’t too shabby after signing with Burton Kligerman Esports midway through the season. While he hasn’t yet scored a victory, he’s scored a pair of top-five finishes – and looked awfully sporty Tuesday at Texas until getting caught up in a crash. At 45 points above the cut line, Bryant’s not mathematically clinched, but in practicality, he’s in.

16. Chris Shearburn, Letarte Esports (+40)

Chris Shearburn has shown flashes of speed throughout the season – including scoring a pole at Michigan – but hasn’t had consistent results to match. His four top-five finishes help boost him into the safe zone in terms of relegation. He’ll almost certainly be locked into his fifth Coca-Cola iRacing Series season in 2021.

17. Caine Cook, Renegades (+34)

A year has made quite a difference for Caine Cook, who had to fight through the Pro Series over the winter to return to the top level after a 28th-place points finish. This year, he has consistently contended for top-10 finishes, scoring six of them along the way – all adding up to a hefty cushion heading into Homestead.

18. John Gorlinsky, William Byron Esports (+14)

A strong start to 2020 looked promising for John Gorlinsky’s comeback season. In his first starts since 2013, Gorlinsky scored back-to-back sixth-place finishes – then struggled to post consistent results afterward, averaging a series-high 8.5 incident points per race. He’s now just 14 points above the relegation cutline heading into Homestead, a cushion that’s safe, but he’s not invincible. Gorlinsky won at Homestead back in 2011, so he’ll look to channel that COT-era magic Monday.

19. Dylan Duval, Stewart-Haas Esports (+3)

A ninth-place finish at Texas moved Dylan Duval into the top 20 just in the nick of time, but he’ll need to fight at Homestead to keep his head above water. When he starts Monday at Homestead, he’ll tie Thomas Lewandowski for 17th-most series starts all-time; a top-20 points finish would inch him closer to the top 10 if he’s guaranteed a full-time ride next year.

20. Nathan Lyon, Roush Fenway Racing (+0)

After battling through the Pro Series over the winter to return for his sophomore season in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series, Nathan Lyon’s made improvements this season to put himself in contention to guarantee a Season 3. He’s quietly riding a streak of top-15 finishes in playoff races, and one more at Homestead should keep him out of the Pro Series this winter.

21. Matt Bussa, Williams Esports (-0)

For the second season in a row, it seems like Matt Bussa’s had as much bad luck as anybody – a far cry from a Championship 4 bid in 2018. Promising runs throughout the summer, including a runner-up finish at New Hampshire and leading laps at Michigan, prove Bussa’s still got it, but he’ll need another run like that in order to dodge relegation.

22. Christian Challiner, JTG Daugherty Racing (-2)

There’s little doubt Christian Challiner’s fourth season in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series has been a frustrating one. His single-car speed proves he’s one of the fastest on the circuit – eight times he’s qualified top 10 this year – but his three top-five finishes aren’t quite enough to make up for a handful of wrong-place-wrong-time crashes. Challiner’s never scored a top-10 finish at Homestead, but he’ll give it his best shot Monday to make up his two-point deficit.

23. Casey Kirwan, Denny Hamlin Racing (-3)

Casey Kirwan’s high hopes for 2020 didn’t quite go as planned. A win at Michigan over the summer – leading a team-appropriate 23 laps along the way – was certainly a bright spot for the reigning Most Popular Driver, but the lows (10 finishes outside the top 20) soured the high notes (six top 10s). Kirwan’s never faced Pro Series relegation before, and he’ll need to eke out three points over the competition to guarantee his spot for 2021.

24. Zack Novak, Richmond Raceway Esports (-3)

Few could have predicted the reigning Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion would struggle in his title defense to the point where he finds himself fighting for his life at Homestead – a stark contrast to a year ago when he bested Keegan Leahy on the final lap to win the championship. Novak’s been shut out entirely for the season and has only led 14 laps. It’s a bizarre twist of fate, but he can still guarantee a spot in next year’s field with a good finish at Homestead.

25. Kollin Keister, Roush Fenway Racing (-8)

While Kollin Keister’s rookie season was highlighted by a statement victory in the season’s longest race at Charlotte Motor Speedway – then leading a significant portion of the Atlanta race the following week – missing two races cost him a stress-free Homestead race. He’s run well at intermediate ovals, as evidenced by Tuesday’s Texas race where he came a corner from winning, but he’ll have his work cut out for him Monday.

26. Brandon Kettelle, Clint Bowyer Esports (-20)

After 63 tries, Branton Kettelle finally became a Coca-Cola iRacing Series winner this year at Talladega. Unfortunately for Kettelle, it wasn’t enough to offset a tough season where the No. 14 often struggled for speed. He’s never finished in the top 10 at Homestead, meaning he’ll need to try something different to make up a 20-point deficit in order to avoid relegation.

27. Michael Guest, Team Dillon Esports (-23)

The results sheet of Michael Guest’s third season in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series didn’t quite match up to the speed shown in a handful of races. Texas was a good example: Guest led a handful of laps and looked like a serious contender for a top-five finish – or more – but posted a 34th-place finish at the end of the evening. He’s going to need some help at Homestead if he doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s relegation process.

28. Eric J. Smith, Jim Beaver Esports (-33)

Eric Smith’s sophomore season was a modest improvement over his rookie year. Even though he didn’t post a win this time, he doubled his number of top-10 finishes – and finished runner-up in back-to-back superspeedway races. Smith’s hopes of an automatic lock into next year’s series look gloomy, but he survived the Pro Series last winter.

29. Michael Guariglia, Jim Beaver Esports (-35)

Michael Guariglia nearly stole the show with a win at Kansas, but settled for a career-best fifth-place effort when the checkered flag fell. He’ll need to once again swing for the fences Monday to overcome a 35-point deficit if he wants a guaranteed starting position in next year’s Coca-Cola iRacing Series.

30. Chris Overland, Wood Brothers Racing (-36)

It wasn’t a pretty 2020 for Chris Overland – but was it really for any of us? Overland’s eighth season in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series didn’t yet bring him his first-career win, and he likely faces relegation for the third year in a row. Mathematically, he’s still got a shot to advance, but it would take a wild set of circumstances. And, well, it’s still 2020; a wild set of circumstances is basically the norm now.

Tough luck for Justin Bolton, Malik Ray, Phil Diaz, Jarl Teien, Alex McCollum, Steve Sheehan, Santiago Tirres and Brian Schoenburg: they’re mathematically eliminated from making the top 20 and will return to the iRacing Pro Series over the winter to try to advance to the 2021 field, joining the top-20 up-and-coming Road to Pro Series drivers.

Catch the finale of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season Monday (Nov. 2) at 8 p.m. ET at eNASCAR.com/live.