We’re previewing each team competing in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series before the 2021 season.
Owner: Denny Hamlin, three-time Daytona 500 champion and owner of the most-complimented PJs on television, and living legend Michael Jordan.
No. 23: Mitchell deJong
Hometown: Temecula, CA
First season: 2021
3rd in 2020 iRacing Pro Series
Excited to share that I?ll be driving the #23 machine for @23XIRacing this year in the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series!
— Mitchell deJong (@MitchelldeJong1) February 1, 2021
No. 32: Keegan Leahy
Hometown: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
First season: 2018
2020 rank: 6th
Couldn't WAIT to post about this! So excited to get racing with my @23XIRacing teammate @MitchelldeJong1. I'm wearing @realVRS proudly on the hood. Thanks @DoorDash for gaming with ol' Mitch! Team champs 2021. pic.twitter.com/zAypiXYav3
— Keegan Leahy (@KeeganLeahy) February 1, 2021
Denny Hamlin Racing, which transforms into 23XI Racing in 2021 to match the NASCAR Cup Series counterpart, signed Keegan Leahy and Casey Kirwan to compete in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2020 amid much hype.
Leahy won out of the gate – the organization’s first race – at the Daytona season opener, much like three-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin himself. He went on to win at Indianapolis and Darlington and was a weekly contender, if not favorite, to run up front and collect trophies.
Unfortunately for Leahy, once the favorite to win the championship, Kansas spelled the end of the road for his title hopes, when he crashed after dominating the race – the race that everybody expected would lock him into the Championship 4.
Casey Kirwan snagged a win at Michigan, but it was one of the few bright spots of the season – that, and a determined run at Homestead to avoid relegation to the iRacing Pro Series. He departs for the upstart team XSET in 2021.
Mitchell deJong took the year to climb iRacing’s oval ranks, graduating through the Road to Pro Series and the iRacing Pro Series with flying colors. He’ll compete as a rookie for 23XI this season.
Expectations are high for 23XI Racing in 2021 – and for good reason.
For Leahy, the theme is redemption. He’s destined to win a championship, and came close – agonizingly so in 2019 – in all three of his seasons in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series. He’s an ace setup builder and is the gold standard of speed, as evidenced by his six front-row starts in 2020.
Mitchell deJong joins the team as a rookie, but he’s no ordinary rookie. He’s one of the most successful drivers on iRacing by any measure – he won the iRacing Rallycross World Championship in 2018, for starters – and spent more than his fair share behind the wheel of just about anything with an engine, both in the real world and in the sim world. We’re pretty sure he’s the first X Games gold medalist to compete in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
Steve’s bold prediction
This team is stacked. There’s zero doubt about Leahy’s ability to win – and win a lot – and deJong has gobs of raw talent. Denny Hamlin knows how to sign good drivers.
Both drivers will make the playoffs. I think it’s finally Leahy’s year for a championship. Like his team owner, he’s too good not to have a championship ring.
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) February 1, 2021