Preview: Monday Night Racing Gearing Up for Season 3 Playoffs
Some of the biggest names in all of motorsports are gearing up for the start of the Monday Night Racing playoffs.
The drivers competing for the title include Shane Van Gisbergen, Adam Cabot, Rajah Caruth, Brad Perez, Matt Stallknecht, Anthony Alfredo, Max Kennon, David Schildhouse, Josh Slate, Gabe Wood, Robby Lyons, D.J. Cummings and Ford Martin.
This season’s playoffs will take competitors to iRacing’s virtual Las Vegas Motor Speedway to race with the NASCAR Cup Series cars for the start of the Round of 13 on July 19. The race will be 110 laps and utilize 75 per cent fuel loads, forcing drivers to have to think about fuel and strategy.
Van Gisbergen, who also competes in the Repco Supercars Championship, has the most bonus points to start the playoffs with 12 after winning four races during the regular season. Alfredo, who drives for Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series, won the regular season points title by 23 points over Kennon.
“I’m very excited to be in the MNR playoffs,” said Cabot, who won the Indiana 500K in May to lock his spot into the postseason. “I feel like I’m going in as a bit of an underdog and I’m hoping to surprise some people.”
Alfredo, who finished 24th at Las Vegas earlier this year in the Cup Series, said it also felt good to be in the playoffs. Last season, during the championship race, his computer broke while leading. This campaign, he has been a lot busier due to his real-world racing commitments, limiting his practice to the open session held before the race.
“I think the race will be most challenging because the Cup cars are almost wide-open for the majority of a run at Las Vegas, which makes the field really tight together on speed and creates a lot of close racing,” said Alfredo.
Series founder and playoff driver Ford Martin said the playoff schedule suits his driving style. He also said running the Sim Seats All-Star Race, which used the Radical SR8, helped. The race featured big packs running multiple grooves at Texas Motor Speedway last week.
“I think the biggest challenge will be running in packs, but the drivers around me need to know to be patient and let the race come to them,” said Martin. “It’s a long race. We are going to be in packs with this high downforce, low horsepower package.”
Cabot said he has done a few practice runs so far to figure out the best lines to run as well as how much the tires will wear. It is the only car he regularly runs on iRacing. He added that he is very familiar with “what it takes to go fast, when to push and when to save.”
He feels the pressure to perform is a good thing.
“There’s a bit of pressure to perform, but I like that,” said Cabot. “I tend to do better in high pressure situations. When everything is on the line and a certain finish is needed to advance to the next round in an elimination format like this, I find I’m usually able to dig down deep and find a little extra.”
Alfredo expects a lot of drama and excitement to open the playoffs. Cabot said he thinks he will be a contender for the race.
“Vegas hasn’t been a great track for me recently, but the familiarity I have with the car has me feeling pretty confident,” said Cabot. “I should be able to contend for the win.”
Martin’s expectations for the race is to put together a top 10 run. He said while this season has been rough with one top 10, he feels Las Vegas fits his racing style.
As for the championship, he is more worried about the playoffs and the series going well for MNR. If he can get past the first round, he will be happy. He said he expects that to be tough.
“The playoff grid is the most challenging it’s ever been so it is going to be a real test especially since each round is only two races you don’t get a mulligan,” said Martin. “You have to be all in and make no silly mistakes.”
Cabot feels the schedule also suits him. He hopes to finish in the top five as much as possible. He feels if he can do that, he can make it to at least the Round of 7.
“I think I have as good of a chance as anyone to win the championship,” said Cabot. “The playoff schedule caters to my oval stock car experience and skill set. I think I’ve shown so far this season that I have speed in those races.
“The key will be execution - if I can limit pit road mistakes and have my crew chief call the right strategies, I’m confident I can make the Championship 4. At that point, it’s just an all out brawl.”
Live coverage of the race begins at 7:45 p.m. ET on the Podium 2 Twitch channel. It can also be watched on Facebook and Twitter.