Tensions and drama were high in the eNASCAR Heat Pro League Tuesday night, as the series visited Homestead-Miami Speedway for the penultimate race of the season. With six teams battling for four spots in the Championship race, complete with invitations to Charlotte, North Carolina to compete at virtual ISM Raceway head-to-head for the title.
Entering the cutoff race, Roush-Fenway Gaming and Leavine Family Gaming were tied for the final cutoff spot, with JR Motorsports just one point ahead in third and Gibbs Gaming trailing by just one point. It would come down to two races, one on each competing console (the XBOX One and the Playstation 4) to determine which four teams would move on to the finale.
Microsoft XBOX One Race
Josh Shoemaker (HG Slick 14x) made the most of a fuel-mileage gamble, outlasting the frontrunners and passing Tyler Dohar (JRM Dohar88) on the final lap.to score the Microsoft Xbox One victory.
The race was dominated by Justin Brooks (mrTRACKBAR33), who led the first 17 laps before running out of fuel before the competition caution on lap 18. Nicholas Vroman (HDMOTORSPORTS95) inherited the lead, which he would maintain until Brian Tedeschi (ShellVPower22) took the top spot on lap 24.
Brooks would complete his comeback on lap 38, taking the top spot from Tedeschi. However, he would come up short on fuel, along with the majority of the field.
As the field took the white flag, Dohar inherited the top spot. However, Shoemaker would storm past Dohar on the final lap to score the win for Stewart-Haas Gaming.
“I knew that Slick had a plan in mind, and he played it to perfection just like he did at Daytona,” said Jake Morris of Stewart-Haas Gaming. “Sure enough, he came out on top. He made a nice move to get around the 88. He kept his nose clean like we asked him throughout the race. We needed to be in position at the end, we’re racing for points and focusing on the bigger picture.”
While JRM Dohar88 lost the lead on the final lap, he was relieved to secure a second-place finish and secure valuable points for JR Motorsports in the battle to make the final four.
“I’ll be honest with you, we thought the fuel strategy was playing a bigger part in the beginning of the race. We were expecting everybody to take it easy and not get a yellow, try to trap the field a lap down and go without pitting. It didn’t work, we overcame adversity. That’s what championship-caliber teams do.”
“We were nursing some damage but I knew fuel was going to be on the line so we saved it. We had enough to go for the win there, but points were more important. We didn’t need the victory today. That’ll come in two weeks.”
Sony Playstation 4 Race
Like the XBOX One Race, the Sony Playstation 4 Race came down to a late-race pass, as Josh Harbin (ThAbEaR_95) took the lead from Nick Jobes (NJobes25) to ensure Leavine Family Gaming’s spot in the Championship.
The race featured several intense battles for the lead, taking advantage of Homestead-Miami’s racey, multiple-groove surface. The top spot exchanged hands between the likes of Harbin, Jobes, Joey Stone (Sloppy_Joe_YT) and Mike Braas (MikeRPM44).
There was also the intense battle for the final championship positions unfolding, with several playoff drivers caught a lap down before the competition caution, unable to stretch their fuel mileage to the lap 18 break. Near the lap 40 mark, the lead pack was frequently three-wide as Jason Keffer (JRM_Keffer7) and T.J. McGowan (Voltage20_) battled with the leaders to regain the lead lap.
After a round of green flag pit stops in the final 15 laps, Jobes cycled to the front of the field and appeared destined to bring home the last victory before the championship race. However, a crash involving Brandyn Gritton (SHG_HotRod_14p) brought out the caution just shy of the checkered flag and set up a green-white-checkered finish.
On the final restart, Harbin took the lead from Jobes and pulled away for a crucial win. The victory was enough to lock Leavine Family Gaming into the championship race, and Harbin released an explosion of exuberance on the eNASCAR Heat Pro League live stream upon hearing the news during his post-race interview.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” exclaimed Harbin. “I’ve been saying it since the playoffs started, just finish, baby. Just finish. That’s what I’m talking about.
“Shoutout to LFG for picking me and having faith in me. Shoutout to my teammate, HD [Nicholas Vroman], I know he had a lot of trouble tonight. He drove his heart out to get what he could. Now we’re going to race for a championship.”
Stage Set For Championship Battle
Team Penske Esports finished in the top spot of the standings before the winner-take-all finale in two weeks’ time. JR Motorsports moved into second behind Dohar’s strong run and Keffer’s rally, while Stewart-Haas Gaming and Leavine Family Gaming finished three points ahead of Roush Fenway Gaming for the final two spots.
Tune in for the final race of the NASCAR Heat Pro League on October 23, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. ET to see who will claim the championship. Fans can tune in on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/704nascarheat, NASCAR’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NASCAR/, or at NASCAR.com.
To order your copy of NASCAR heat today, visit https://nascarheat.com/.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: NASCAR Heat / 704Games