Why is the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series important? The short answer to that question is because of people like Team Dillon eSports rookie Jordy Lopez. The long answer to that question is a story of mistakes and maturity, determination and Dominican pride, and a young kid’s self-confessed fascination with being first.
The son of a couple from the Dominican Republic, Lopez was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, a port city on the west side of the Hudson River in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. He spent a significant amount of his childhood with his grandmother in Harlem, the historic neighborhood north of Central Park.
His journey to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series started out on the Nintendo 64, the acclaimed video game system that dominated the late 1990s. From the N64 he moved to the original Xbox, then to Forza Motorsport 2 on the Xbox 360 in the late 2000s, then to a computer and the Need for Speed series in the 2010s. Finally, a chance encounter with a promotional code revealed the next step in his childhood fascination with being first.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I got a promotion code for three free months on iRacing,” Lopez told RACER. “I’ve never tried it before and the first race that I did, I was instantly hooked. I was mainly doing road stuff and then I tried the street stock. I wasn’t expecting to get anything out of it, and it turned out to be something I liked.”
He quickly rose through the eNASCAR ladder and was approaching the highest level of oval sim-racing in 2015, but that’s where problems began to emerge. Lopez, a teenager at the time, got involved in a social media rift with another competitor in the series. Based on his conduct, he was removed from the series.
“I just avoid confrontation now. I just stick to the guys around me and I don’t really get involved in any drama,” he said of the 2015 incident.
In 2020, again at the doorstep of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, Lopez made another, more serious mistake. While in a voice chat with friends, he used a racial epithet that was captured on fellow eNASCAR competitor Malik Ray’s stream. iRacing suspended him from the eNASCAR Road to Pro series, ending his chance at reaching the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series that season.
Afterward, Lopez took full responsibility for the incident. “I learned from it, and it was a lesson that I needed to learn,” Lopez said. The now 28-year-old feels his maturity has increased exponentially as a result of those mistakes.
Two years later, a humbled version of Jordy Lopez finally reached the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. That’s where our story of Dominican pride begins.
Like anyone raised in and around Manhattan, he speaks in terms of street names and numbers. For example, he explained he normally stays south of Dyckman Street in Washington Heights, the neighborhood that has become known as Little Dominican Republic. His parents speak only Spanish and Spanish was Lopez’ first language. When he was climbing the eNASCAR ladder, the flag of the Dominican Republic adorned the roof of his car, and it’s still present on the name rail of his Team Dillion eSports No. 3 Chevy.
Lopez’ has always felt comfortable representing his cultural background in eSports and eNASCAR.
“I never felt like my heritage held me back at all,” he said. “I only have myself to blame for the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I never had that feeling on iRacing where I felt unwelcome. For the most part, everyone out there treats you with respect.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me, to be honest. I just feel happy that I’m able to represent my country. Both my parents, they only speak Spanish so growing up Spanish was my first language and I go to the Dominican Republic a lot. I’ve been very close to my family.
“My heritage has always sort of just been with me and I haven’t felt like I’ve had challenges with being a minority. I think it’s kind of cool that I’m putting a flag on the map.”
That flag was placed not only on the map but at the top of the timing screen during the most recent eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race when after eight tumultuous years of trying, Lopez finally led a lap at the highest level of eNASCAR competition.
His first laps led in the series were far smoother than his first in-race interview, however.
Lopez didn’t know he needed to mute the broadcast director – after all, he had never done this. That meant that in addition to listening to Blake McCandless’ questions and providing his answer, he had to listen to director Drew Adamson tell his commentators when the next ad break would be and which camera shots they were going to cut to.
After stammering and stumbling through an answer, Lopez got back to racing, guiding his Coca-Cola-sponsored Chevy to his first top-three finish in the series. His result solidified his spot in the top 10 of the championship and strengthened Team Dillon eSports hold of the team’s championship.
Lopez is part of a trio of rookies who have dominated the first half of the 2023 season, including his Team Dillon eSports teammate Tucker Minter who won the opening round at the virtual Daytona International Speedway.
Like any rookie, Lopez’s first goal was to simply stay inside the top 20 in points to avoid having to requalify back in the series. Currently third in the championship with a 56-point margin to the cutoff line, that goal looks likely to be achieved.
Lopez is eager to secure a spot in the series for next season, not only because he wants to continue chasing his fascination with being first, but also for the free stuff that comes with it.
“I would not have thought to be in this position where I’m in an eSports team,” he said. “That’s all new to me, to have sponsors and to be able to work with other brands and get paid for it. It’s actually insane that it’s real.
“A sponsor, they sent me a free direct-drive wheel. It’s just a game that keeps on giving. I can’t complain, it’s just a surreal experience and I want to continue to build off that.”
Away from the simulator, Lopez is an avid fan of all motorsports, with a recent trip to the Bathurst 1000 highlighting his travels. He hopes to visit Miami or Austin for the Formula 1 race in the future and will likely be heading to nearby Pocono for the NASCAR Cup Series race.
So, why is eNASCAR, and racing video games more broadly important? Because a kid from Bayonne, whose parents speak only Spanish, who was raised in Harlem and spends his time in the little Dominican Republic on Manhattan’s northside, fell in love with racing because of them. He didn’t go to short tracks on the weekends, he played video games and he’s bringing a unique personality to racing because of it.