On Wednesday night, the first ever eNASCAR Heat Pro League Champion will be crowned in Charlotte, North Carolina, as competing racers have been invited to the Queen City for the season finale. Much like the real-life NASCAR counterparts, a Championship 4 has been determined over the past 11 races, setting up the climactic finale at the virtual ISM Raceway.
Four teams – Team Penske eSports, JR Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Gaming and Leavine Family Gaming – earned spots in the Championship 4 through the three-race playoff following an eight-race regular season. Each team consists of two drivers, with each driver competing on either the Xbox One or Playstation 4 gaming system. The Championship 4 team with the most combined points in those two races will be honored as the inaugural eNASCAR Heat Pro League Champions.
Team Penske eSports entered the postseason leading the points standings, an honor they carried throughout the playoffs. The points reset for the decisive finale, but Penske Xbox One racer Brian Tedeschi (ShellVPower22) is ready for the challenge after arriving in Charlotte on Tuesday.
“Everything’s pretty much set up,” Tedeschi told Speed51. “All my equipment is there. I got in from Indy about 11ish today. The biggest thing was getting a lot of practice in. We were able to fine-tune the car a little bit. Corey [Rothgeb], my teammate and I did some mild adjustments. I think we’re ready. It’s kind of nervous, but we’ll see.”
One of the hottest drivers in the playoffs has been Josh Harbin (ThAbEar), representing Leavine Family Gaming in the Playstation 4 ranks. Harbin won the first playoff race at the virtual Las Vegas Motor Speedway, then scored a clutch win two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway to ensure Leavine’s spot in the Championship 4.
With that momentum comes confidence for Harbin, who is ready for one final battle to decide the championship.
“I’m confident. This is what we’ve done for 11 weeks,” Harbin said. “We’ve worked hard to get here, battled, scratched and clawed, did everything we had to do. Every time the bell has been rung, we’ve answered it.”
Both drivers feel the pressure to represent their teams well in the deciding race. For Harbin, it’s a matter of rewarding Leavine Family Gaming for believing in him and the eSports platform.
“It’s not so much for me as my team. I feel like I owe it to them and everybody who believed in me and what we were doing here,” Harbin explained. “My teammate [Nick Vroman] is just as important to this team as I am. We win as a team and lose as a team. Whatever happens, win, lose, or draw, we’re champions in my mind.”
Tedeschi, meanwhile, has an opportunity to represent one of the winningest names in all of motorsports on another championship stage.
“It’s an honor to represent the Penske organization in general. Just a lot of history and tradition with it. I’ve got quite a few people behind me there. They’ve put a lot of pressure on me by winning the IndyCar Championship and the IMSA Championship, and now the Bathurst 1000.
“Penske has that tradition of winning in general, so Corey and I want to keep that, especially in the first NASCAR Heat Pro League Championship. We already have the first win ever, so it would be cool to get the first championship ever.”
Harbin is excited to be on a stage such as Wednesday’s finale, as he has watched eSports grow over the past decade.
“This is a tremendous step forward in our community. We’ve been doing this for 10 years, some of us have been doing it for over a decade. To get this platform and contribute towards it, be a part of the history of it, is fantastic. Long after I’m gone, whether they remember me or not, we got to help build it. That’s what matters.”
Tedeschi also has real-life racing experience, a former champion in Mini-Cups and Legends cars and a Late Model winner at Grundy County Speedway (IL). Still, an eNASCAR Heat Pro League title would compare with the rest of his racing accolades.
“I would rank it as high as some of the other championships I’ve gotten in motorsports,” said Tedeschi. “It’s just an honor to represent NASCAR and Team Penske, our marketing partners Shell and the Shell V-Power brand. We’re really setting the path with this.”
It’s a sentiment Harbin echoed, especially in the case of the series’ inaugural championship.
“The old saying is, ‘Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.’ No matter what happens, if we hold that trophy up, whether we ever win another race ever again, we’ll go down in history as the first people to ever win the Pro League championship. They can’t take that away from us, and I’d love to etch my name in the book right there.
“I’ve already etched my name in as the winner of the first race on Heat 4, the first-ever eNASCAR Heat Pro League race in the playoffs,” he added. “To accomplish another milestone and cap it off after the tremendous playoffs I’ve had would be icing on the cake. Either way, we’re going to walk out of here with or without the trophy and we’re going to be happy.”
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