Nathan Lyon Opens up About His eNASCAR Retirement
By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
When the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season ended Nathan Lyon opted to decline an invitation to compete in the Road to Pro Contender iRacing Series.
The now former driver of the virtual No. 6 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing was relegated at the end of the 2021 season. He was also relegated in his previous two eNASCAR seasons. In 2021 Lyon finished the season 29th in the standings with one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
The decision to step aside didn’t came mid-season. Between a day job collecting payments on car warranties and other goals, Lyon no longer had the time to put into eNASCAR competition. With some of his competitors putting over 40 hours into the sim for practice and testing, the time just wasn’t there.
“I didn’t really want to hang it up,” explained Lyon. “But I felt like it was just something I really needed to do, put the time and effort that I put been into the Coke Series into something else, outside the sim. Even though I didn’t really want to do it, I just kind of knew that I had needed to at this point in my life.”
Major endemic NASCAR teams were not a part of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series when Lyon entered. Over time that changed. Part of the way into Lyon’s rookie season in 2019, he was signed by Letarte eSports. Then in 2020 he moved to Roush Fenway Racing.
“I think that was the goal was to get to the Coke Series, but I didn’t think that NASCAR teams were going to go into it,” admitted Lyon. “When I first came in, it was 2018 and they had a few of those teams’ kind of experimenting, coming in. I think there was the Chaos Crew from Richmond. I didn’t think NASCAR teams or guys like Steve Letarte would come to eNASCAR.”
Although he was a part of Letarte eSports and Roush Fenway Racing, Lyon also competed on the back end for Deadzone Racing. The iRacing team includes a big swath of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series field. While Lyon is stepping away from the competition side of the series, he isn’t going to disappear. The three-year veteran of eNASCAR will still help his Deadzone teammates.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go for the Coke Series again, but I’ll definitely helping out friends and teammates,” stated Lyon. “I want to stay involved. Just don’t have the time really anymore to invest into iRacing like I did when I first started.”
A part of not stepping away completely for Lyon means that he will still participate in various promoted races and special events. He’s competed in the eRacr Firecracker 400, Hard to Drive 300, among other races. The amount of time to practice and develop setups for those races is much less than eNASCAR. Some of those specialized events feature fixed setups.
“I look forward to (eRacr, Podium, and other promoted races) actually, because you could just pop in without much practice,” admitted Lyon. “I mean, you might only spend 30 minutes, an hour, really kind of practicing for that kind of stuff before you hop in and do qualifying or race. Those are a lot of fun because they have a lot of cool stuff on the line, like prizes and money, trophies, stuff like that. You don’t have to pay any time until you can just kind of hop in and have fun with your friends competing for the prize.”
The eNASCAR career for Lyon ends with just two top-five and six top-10 finishes. His best career finish, third, came in 2020.
However, if you ask him, a race from his rookie season at Bristol Motor Speedway was his best race. The race came shortly after he was signed by Letarte eSports. Lyon qualified up front and ultimately finished eighth that night.
“My best would have been probably Bristol, my rookie season,” reflected Lyon. “I had qualified well up front, and it’s my favorite track. Put a lot of time into every time we went to Bristol. I had done really well that race.
“I feel like I had a really good handling on the car, and it was driving exactly how I want to use. It had a lot of turn in it, it was very loose, and I could just roll the bottom really well. Went up and then gradually was able to lead laps and just fell short on the win. A bad strategy call I made. That was probably the best race I had.”
Lyon’s final career start in eNASCAR was a mixed bag. He started up front and led some laps. However, with little time for practice and contact early with the wall, he was behind the proverbial ‘eight-ball’ quickly. Lyon crashed entering pit road late, bringing an end to his time as the driver of the virtual No. 6 Ford Mustang.
“It was just a rough race,” admitted Lyon. “The only good thing about it is that I qualified well. But I didn’t practice a lot for it. So, the first run, I was just kind of getting used to the car and I ended up just grazing the wall and it gave me 15 seconds of damage, which just pretty much ended my race at that point. My straightaway [speed] was so far off.
“So, I was just kind of riding around, just open for caution that I could get the damage fixed. Maybe try to get some track position by doing off sequence kind of strategy, like staying out there later than everyone else.”
Second-guessing a major decision like this is not uncommon. While Lyon did have second thoughts, he wouldn’t change how his run in eNASCAR went. He left the series on his own terms, something that other former eNASCAR drivers weren’t able to do.
Ultimately, Lyon will miss two things about the series. The people that both compete in the series and make the series run, and the competition level of the series.
“I’d say yes, (I’m happy to leave on my own terms),” admitted Lyon. “I was pretty happy, I guess a lot happier than falling out and just not being able to get back in. I would hope for closure kind of looking back on it.
“(I will miss the) competition and everyone that’s involved in the series. It is such a close community. A lot of the people that race in the series, but also manage the series that, does media, painting. There’s just so many people that are involved in it. But definitely that competition side, because nothing even comes close to how competitive each race is. I’ve never experienced something like that in any other form of sim racing.”