The first man to win two races in the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series still believes he has something to prove heading into the playoffs with a schedule that lacks the road course tracks he dominated on to book his ticket to the postseason. Often regarded as one of the best sim racing drivers on the planet in any discipline, 23XI Racing’s Mitchell DeJong, an oval win this postseason would be monumental in his rookie campaign.
“Absolutely,” he has something to prove, DeJong told RACER.
“The road courses are definitely nice to win, and they’ve definitely helped us getting into the playoffs here. But, getting into NASCAR, you want to win on the oval, that’s kind of the big thing. So, I definitely have my sights set on that. I mean, if we could get a win now it would be pretty ideal – preferably the very last race if we make the final four.”
A win in the final race of the season that nets him the championship will be a little sweeter than a road course win, DeJong explained. In order to make it to the final four, he has his sights set on the first two races of the four-round postseason, Darlington, and Bristol.
“My kind of mentality is to do really well in these next two races. I think both Darlington and Bristol are going to be tracks where you can make a really big difference in terms of driving there,” DeJong said.
“I think [those two races] will be critical to getting the most out of yourself and out of the car, and really maximizing your race at Talladega and the finale [at Texas Motor Speedway] will be a little bit difficult to control the race. You will have to get the majority of your points and your position here in these first [two rounds] so that’s my goal.”
DeJong is perhaps the most experienced sim racing driver in the world. He has competed in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series using McLaren Formula 1 cars, the VRS GT iRacing World Championship in GT3 machinery, the Porsche TAG Heuer eSports Supercup, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual when he appeared with Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani in a Porsche factory-backed entry.
It goes without mentioning his many real-world motorsports triumphs in the Red Bull GlobalRallycross Series, which includes an X-Games gold medal.
Oval racing is a lot different from what DeJong is used to he explained.
“It just races a lot different,” he said. “You know, I think it’s really cool because pretty much everything I’ve raced is just all about driving as hard and as fast as you can for the entire race, and usually you get your finishing position based on that.
“But what I find so intriguing about NASCAR and how the races play out is, everyone has such great race awareness, and it’s more of a mental and strategic game throughout the whole thing. You have to have a very big picture and understand how the race is playing out.
“You have to have really good race craft and there’s just a lot of little aspects to it that can plague your race rather than just driving 100 percent all the time, and I think I really enjoyed that nice change and breath of fresh air.
Another factor complicating his races is the fact that DeJong, unlike every other eNASCAR driver, does not live in North America. Instead, the Californian spends most of his time in Germany, living at a house owned by VRS Coanda Simsport, one of the top sim racing teams. It’s from here that DeJong and his teammates in other series’ races.
This means that most races start at around 3am for DeJong. He has tried to alter his sleep schedule to fit the North American-focused race schedule, but he can only do so much as other commitments take precedence. Ideally, he is able to get a long nap in after dinner that brings him to an hour or so before race time.
“What I’ve been doing lately is just taking a nice long nap after dinner, waking up around midnight and doing the race,” he said. “So you definitely need to think about all these things because a little lapse of focus or being a little tired really does impact your race; it’s super important to have all that together.”
DeJong and nine other drivers will start the playoffs on August 31 at Darlington. The race can be watched on iRacing’s Twitch and YouTube channels at 6pm ET on Tuesday.