The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is made up of 20 teams with two drivers in each team. Behind those 20 teams, however, is a world of shadow teams who can truly make a difference in how a driver performs. These shadow teams, also called setup or backend teams, formed long before the main teams that are used in the series’ official standings and broadcasts.
At the start of the 2019 season, iRacing and NASCAR moved the series to its current 20 team, two drivers each, format to help the series grow. This ushered in the age of William Byron eSports, Stewart-Haas eSports, Gibbs Gaming, McLaren Shadow, 23XI Racing, and others having a stake in the series.
Before 2019, however, it was teams like Deadzone Racing, Team Conti, Lockdown Racing, and Lowline Racing whose names were mentioned. These teams have little official structure and are mostly comprised of groups of friends who climbed through iRacing’s ranks together.
The largest of these teams, Deadzone Racing, has 12 drivers in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series and plenty more in the Road to Pro series trying to make it into the Coca-Cola Series. Those 12 drivers are spread across seven different teams. While Ryan Luza, Graham Bowlin, Malik Ray, Allen Boes, and Femi Olat are all on different teams, they’re all a part of Deadzone Racing.
They practice together, build setups together, bounce ideas off one another, and work together in the races. These teams are rarely, if ever, mentioned on the broadcasts and outsiders would have little idea they existed if they didn’t look for them.
Deadzone Racing was formed by a group of friends who used to play NASCAR 09 together on the Playstation 3.
“People move to their teams because that’s who they’re friends with,” Blake Reynolds, a member of Deadzone Racing who drivers for McLaren Shadow explained.
“They start having success and then it’s like, ‘OK let’s build up our team.’ So, they start adding more and more people. They’re like-minded or someone really needs to be on a team, usually, every team has that one person where they didn’t have anywhere to go but they’re well-liked so they get added.”
Part of the reason Deadzone Racing is so large is because of the unique structure of the team. Deadzone acts as a kind of catch-all for drivers who may be without a team but need the benefits that come with teammates to find success. For a fee, Deadzone offers its services, mainly setups, to drivers with few other options. While some drivers, like Reynolds, make up the core group of drivers, others could be a part of Deadzone to simply gain access to the team’s setups.
William Byron eSports’ Logan Clampitt compared the relationship between the backend teams and the main teams to the technical partnerships that exist in NASCAR between teams like Penske and Wood Brothers.
“The main purpose [of the teams] is working on setups togethers and kind of having a Penske and Wood Brothers type of relationship,” Clampitt said. Clampitt’s backend team is Team Conti, named after fellow Coca-Cola Series driver Michael Conti.
Outside of the abnormally large Deadzone Racing, the teams average about four drivers. That does not include the team’s setup builders, akin to crew chiefs, and spotters that make up the team. For Team Conti, they average about two to three behind-the-scenes crew members per car.
These backend teams are also considered when the main teams look to sign drivers at the start of each season.
“I think some of the teams really do consider, you know, these guys are on the same setup, and they work with each other already, so they want to try and recruit both drivers like William Byron eSports recruited me and Nick [Ottinger]. I think some of them really want to try and aim for that but some of them, sometimes they don’t mind at all,” Clampitt said.
Ultimately, adding the official teams that make up the series now was a good move on iRacing and NASCAR’s part, Clampitt believes.
“Obviously, we still have our [backend] team names but the public doesn’t see them as much,” he said. “We’ll still represent them and whatnot, but I think overall it was a good move. It’s really good publicity for the series. We kind of dreamed of these teams coming into the series so I think it’s a big positive for these teams to be coming in.”