Stewart-Haas Gaming won the inaugural eNASCAR Heat Pro League championship Wednesday night, winning a title battle that came down to the final lap of the final race of the season. Ultimately, the championship was decided on a tiebreaker in Studio 43 at NASCAR Plaza.
After Brandyn Gritton (SHG_HotRod_14p) dominated the Playstation 4 race at the virtual ISM Raceway to start the evening, Stewart-Haas Gaming carried a one-point advantage over Leavine Family Gaming for the Xbox One race to close out the year. A pit strategy gamble to stay out while most teams pitted late for a splash of fuel matched Stewart-Haas’ Josh Shoemaker (SHG Slick 14x) against Leavine’s Nick Vroman (HDMotorsports95).
Ultimately, Vroman outdueled Shoemaker in a chaotic final lap to take the last win of the season, tying Stewart-Haas and Leavine in the final points tally. However, Stewart-Haas was crowned champions by virtue of most laps led between the two races at ISM Raceway.
After a hard-fought title, Shoemaker struggled to put into words how his championship drive felt.
“I don’t think it’s settled in yet,” Shoemaker said. “I think I’m still on that high at the moment. I think it will later, but at the moment, it’s just amazing.”
The final run required patience and strategy, as Shoemaker’s car went several laps beyond its scheduled distance for the run on tires and fuel.
“It was all about saving tires at the end, slowing the car down to run 22 laps. It was only set up to run 18 or 19 laps. I had to really back it down. I only had two laps left of fuel. It was close.”
After Gritton’s dominant victory to start the night, all he could do during the Xbox One feature was stand and watch through the nerve-wracking final laps. However, he had complete confidence in his teammate to seal the deal.
“It was unnerving, but at the same time, he’s done this before,” Gritton said. “We practiced all night last night. He had it, I knew he had it. He’s one of the best racers in the world, and I didn’t lose faith in him for a second.”
While the dramatic conclusion of the Xbox One race will be the standout memory from the inaugural championship race, Gritton’s dominance proved crucial, as he led 58 of the 70 laps in his race to provide Stewart-Haas racing a nearly insurmountable advantage in the event of a tie.
“It was easy for me because my race didn’t have a caution,” Gritton explained. “I was able to hit my line every lap and lead laps. He had cautions completely change the game for him. The cars were great, and we’re glad to be here.”
Team Penske eSports finished third out of the Championship 4 teams competing for the title, six points behind the leaders. JR Motorsports rounded out the final participants, 12 points behind the leaders.
For more information on NASCAR Heat 4, visit www.nascarheat.com.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com