As a child, I was very invested in watching TV. When I was around 11, Nickelodeon was my favorite. It had Spongebob, Drake&Josh, and all the other shows kids and teenagers like to enjoy while procrastinating instead of doing homework. But one show in particular was a favorite of mine. It was called The Most Extreme and revolved around ranking animals after specific criteria from tenth to first.
I loved this show, but it lacked a spotlight. So I kept telling my friends about it and pleaded with them to watch it. They wouldn't. It was aggravating. A lot of time passed, and my interests shifted. But for some reason, I feel 11 all over again. Not because I have preserved well, but because I keep telling people to watch something, and they don't listen. Back then it was a documentary about nature, and now it is a virtual NASCAR series. Even though these two have absolutely nothing in common, they create the same amount of excitement within me. So here is my shot. Go watch the upcoming season of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. It is the best sim racing out there, and I will tell you why.
Welcome to the show
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is the premier way to watch virtual NASCAR action. The upcoming 2021 season officially starts on February 8 and continues until October 12. Many drivers have a dedicated community after remaining in the series for years. In 2020, OverTake covered the playoffs extensively and introduced some of the key personalities ahead of the events.
When I started to watch the series, I was oblivious to the idea that it would make me stay up all night instead of just watching the VOD the day after an event. Mainly because I am based in Berlin and usually dont have the time to stay up until 2 AM. But that is exactly what I did going into the final race of the 2020 season. The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series was so enticing that I cracked open a can of energy drink and sat down to watch the final race unfold. I was even part of the press conference that saw Nick Ottinger celebrate his big title win.
.@NickOttinger is the #eNASCAR Coca-Cola @iRacing Series champion, taking home his first title in the series. 🏆— OverTake (@OverTake_gg) November 3, 2020
Watch and listen to his emotional reaction following the win, as it clearly meant the world to him. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/fGny41W7hP
While the reception the series received was good overall, it doesn't come close to reflecting the level of entertainment that this series provides, especially from a professional viewpoint.
A management plus
At the start of January, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series introduced the start of their draft. Finally, the spotlight was put on the teams and who they pick up. An added element of suspense was a prolonged waiting period that sparked all sorts of speculations. People created overviews to keep track of everything. It was exciting.
Almost halfway with the announced eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series teams! Clamp to WBE was the first one I was split on (and I told him as much when he inquired) BUT it paints a much clearer picture moving forward for the remaining 11 teams.#eNASCAR | @iRacing pic.twitter.com/mzZ37Ew7Si— Justin Melillo (@justinmelillo) January 22, 2021
This is something every sim racing series should have. Of course, other series like the F1 Esports Pro Series announce changes to their lineup, but the fans are not nearly as involved as they could be. It is usually a simple post, and that's it. No guessing, no promo, just short info. Think of any big esports series and how people identify with the teams as well. Teams like TSM or G2 have become brands of their own. But most of the time, teams are treated as the means to the end, except Red Bull Racing Esports Team or Coanda Simsport. But as long as sim racing is viewed pragmatically, viewers will never stick around or care. An eNASCAR-like draft is a perfect way to excite an audience in the offseason.
Still a better race story than the rest
The Most Extreme was very good at creating a constant connection between the episodes. When the show listed the most toxic animals, they sometimes squared them off against the strongest. You had the feeling that the producers were trying to tell a story even though they knew it wasn't the main focus of the series. An 11-year-old me would have appreciated the efforts the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series puts into storylines as well. Over the past year alone, I have picked up so many intriguing little rivalries and tales that make it entertaining.
Of course, driving should always be the main factor. But nearly every major sim racing series offers high-level racing. You need drama, feuds and something to fire people up to get them rooting for somebody. Last year's final created a great story to follow. Ahead of the race, four different racers had each earned their way to be in title contention. The rest were trying to keep their positions in the standings and not face late relegation. Nobody was left on cruise control and what followed was a chaotic, yet exciting race that will be fodder for later storylines.
Now let's think back to the final of the 2020 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup. Sebastian Job was ahead by a large number of points going into the last race. Unless he wrecked his car, the championship was pretty much in the bag for him ahead of Joshua K Rogers. Of course, you can't fault Job for being too good, but his points lead hindered potential hype that could have occurred in a playoff environment. Finally, it is the choice of format that creates my displeasure here, and I am willing to concede that nobody would like to lose it all in the last race after a season of dominance. But from a viewer's perspective, it is just so much more exciting.
Adding to that, there have barely been any real storylines about the magnitude of Ray Alfalla's resurrection in 2019. The four-time champion was relegated from the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series after a disappointing year. The same year, he came back to win the pro series and move up to a playoff spot in 2020. You felt happy for him, no matter what. A storyline like that doesn't write itself by pure luck. It is the combination of good management in the series and a top-level production, emphasizing storytelling.
A pleasent experience
This top-notch production is underrated and in large, creates what I call a 'pleasant viewing experience'. The cast of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing series consists of knowledgeable and interesting people on their own. Still, for the finals, they have real-life commentators and analysts to come out and cast alongside the very talented Evan Posocco to enhance the show further. You have the feeling the right people are doing the right thing, and even if you are not fanatically in love with the sport, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is guaranteed to entertain you.
The production goes a little further as well, as they provide media days for the players. They provide additional content, like a short and straightforward hype trailer that shows more about the protagonists than footage of racing cars ever can. It hypes the appreciation for the participants and gives personalities to the names on the screen.
The circumstances that this was organized pre-COVID 19 and that most of the participants live in the US or Canada enhanced plans for such events, of course. But in a world where hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money is on the line, I find it hard to believe that it is impossible to get a person from Australia, for example, in front of a camera, to do a few poses and interact with fans.
It is the addition of small things that make the Coca-Cola series broadcast special. The commentators are always on-point, providing clarity when a casual viewer starts to lose the plot. The love for detail is a definite factor in why this series is so good.
Generally, The Most Extreme did that so well themselves. They created a typical documentary-type series, but enhanced it with small animations and clips from old movies. It made it so much more gripping to watch than usual documentaries for me.
11-year-old me's last chance
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series has brought forth some quality content that is often underappreciated. Of course, there are eNASCAR races on national TV, and it is more established than other sim racing series, at least in classic television. But the online community often seems to overlook the significant amount of effort put into this series.
Ultimately, I am not saying other series don't have exciting racing or a well-managed environment. There are undoubtedly enticing stories and solid productions from others as well. But the Coca-Cola Series is putting it together just right. It is not over the top or too focused on trivial details. It is what esports racing should strive to be from a viewer's perspective.
So the next time you come across an eNASCAR VOD or hype video, you should give it a watch, and maybe my 11-year-old self will get his way this time.
What is your opinion on the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg!