Brandyn Gritton helped deliver the inaugural eNASCAR Heat Pro League championship to Stewart-Haas eSports in 2019, and he’s aiming to deliver a second title to the team in 2020.
The eNASCAR Heat Pro League championship race is at 8 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, and Gritton is one of the eight drivers eligible to take the trophy. The 24-year-old sim racer from Kokomo, Indiana, has already enjoyed a championship-caliber season with 166 laps led and two victories – June 25 at virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway and July 1 at virtual Eldora Speedway. In the 13 races run this year, Gritton has six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
"I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get back to the championship race, and being able to make it and show strength all year provided the confirmation that I needed – to know I belong," said Gritton, whose day job is a yard driver for Saddle Creek Logistics Services. "The toughest challenge I’ve had this year is just having the target on my back of being the defending champion. I feel like each and every driver had the goal of beating me at the beginning of the year, which led to a lot of tense moments on the track. Last year, I felt like we were more of the underdog. This year, we’re the team that everyone wants to topple."
The eNASCAR Heat Pro League races on NASCAR Heat 5, the latest game in the NASCAR Heat franchise. It puts competitors in virtual machines from the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series on virtual tracks that emulate the real-world versions each series visits. Gritton’s win at Atlanta came in an Xfinity Series Ford Mustang, and his victory at Eldora came in a Truck Series Ford F-150.
"Winning the championship this year would mean so much more," Gritton said. "Last year, the championship was awarded to the best team, but this year it’s all about the driver. I want to back up what we did last year."
The championship finale consists of three races at three different tracks, all in NASCAR Cup Series cars. Gritton will race the No. 14 Smithfield Ford Mustang.
The first race will be 35 laps at Michigan International Speedway, with only the top-six championship drivers advancing. The second race will be 45 laps at Phoenix Raceway, where the championship contenders are whittled down to four. The final race will be 80 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, with the highest-finishing Championship 4 driver taking the title. Starting lineups will be determined by eNASCAR Heat Pro League officials. All competitors in the championship will compete on ASUS Gaming PCs and monitors, marking the first time Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (PS4) competitors will perform on the same platform.
"The ASUS Gaming platform is different, but I like it," said Gritton, who has been a PS4 stalwart throughout his eNASCAR Heat Pro League career. "Not only does it allow us to compete with the Xbox drivers, but it puts everyone on a completely level playing field. We’re all learning together and no driver has any type of advantage."
Twenty-eight drivers will participate in the championship race, even though only eight are eligible for the series title.
"This is the first time we’ll have all 28 drivers on the track at the same time and it’s going to be chaotic, especially with how short the races are," Gritton said. "The most important goal will be surviving. If I stay out of trouble and focus on advancing, Bristol is a place where I know I can win."
Joining Gritton in the season-ending event is his Stewart-Haas eSports teammate Matthew Selby, but he is ineligible for the championship.
"It’s been really helpful to have such a close friend in Matthew Selby as my teammate," Gritton said. "We may have different driving styles and comfort levels, but we both know what it takes to make fast setups. That has allowed us to step our game up, even from the high of last year."
The championship race can be viewed on the following channels:
— Stewart Haas Racing —