NorCal Racing

Novak Wins eNASCAR iRacing Championship · Kickin’ The Tires

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By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

As the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series Championship was broadcasted on NBCSN for the first time, 17-year-old Zack Novak out-dueled his competitors to win.

The iRacer was drafted 10th by Roush-Fenway Racing and was one of the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Novak was joined by G2 Esports’ Keegan Leahy, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bobby Zalenski, and Team Dillon Esports’ Blake Reynolds.

Novak explained that his first goal all season was to make his team, Roush Fenway, proud.

“Right when I got drafted, I obviously I wanted to win, but that wasn’t really my plan. I wanted to make sure that I made them proud and, just did what I was supposed to do and go out and just get good finishes and not make a fool out of myself, represent sponsors as well.”

The championship battle came down to the last corner of the last lap as Leahy battled with Novak. The duo raced clean as the Roush-Fenway driver used the momentum of the outside to pull away and clinch the championship.

Although Novak was confident, a new ‘build,’ or aero package, came into play mid-season.

“I definitely had some confidence in myself. I wasn’t really sure after the new package (build) came into play at Auto Club Speedway, but we started off the season really, really good, winning Daytona. Then finishing second at Las Vegas and we have quite good speed on the old package. 

“I was kind of nervous that we wouldn’t show up with great speed on the new package. Like I wasn’t sure how everything would adapt and whatnot. We showed up really, really strong at Auto Club. I think after about race three to race four in the season, it really did thinking that I had a legitimate shot at the championship.”

The new aero package erased some of the progress Novak and his iRacing focused team, Lockdown Racing, had made preparing for PEAK. A combined 70-hours of work per week between himself, Taylor Harris, and Jimmy Mullis of Richmond Raceway eSports ultimately got the car up to speed.

Experiencing a mid-season aero package change is nothing new for the 2018 eNASCAR IGNITE Series Champion. Novak has over seven years of experience on iRacing.

New aero packages popped up sometimes every three months as iRacing’s simulation worked to mimic the real-life aero package. The eNPAS drivers have experienced mid-season aero changes dating back to the series’ first season 10 years ago.

The newest eNASCAR Champion explained how some changes were expected.

“There was a lot of different set-up of changes. Some stuff carried over with set-ups, a lot didn’t. That was a big factor in learning how to set up the cars and obviously you had to learn how to drive the cars because they’re completely different. 

“Actually, a pretty good comparison as iRacing released a new Xfinity car recently. It drives very similar to our old package we had. I went and drove that, and I was very bad to say the least because it’s just so difficult to drive.” 

Novak’s championship is the first for Roush Fenway Racing since Chris Buescher won the NASCAR Xfinity Series title in 2015. It was an emotional win for the sim-racer as his family joined him shortly after he took the checkered flag. 

The championship win is much more than simply just a computer game win. Novak’s championship earned him $40,000 as well as a test in a US Legends Car at New Smyrna and a NASCAR Pinty’s Series stockcar with Canada’s Best Racing team.

Prior to joining the ranks of iRacing, Novak had raced ¼-Midgets. It was a friend of his from those racing days that put the Clinton, CT native on the journey that eventually earned him a championship.

If the right situation were to present itself, Novak explained he just might return to competition.

“It just depends on timing. Obviously, the right situation, I don’t want to jump into anything to just do it. I would like to properly think it out and find a situation that’s right for me and it be something that I can do comfortably. 

“I am going to a New Smyrna in a week and a half to do a Legends test, which honestly, I didn’t even know I was doing that last night so that’s really cool. But that might change my mind. That might tell me that I want to get in the car right away.”

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