The race is on: Evil Geniuses and NASCAR drivers to face off

NASCAR driver Erik Jones and Evil Geniuses' Jason "Lunchbox" Brown will compete against each other in gaming at Chicagoland. AP Photo, ESL

The NASCAR drivers have two plans when they compete against the Evil Geniuses in Halo and the new "NASCAR Heat Evolution" games Saturday in Illinois.

They, of course, plan to win when doing their thing in the NASCAR game.

And they want some tips so they can beat their friends back home in anything else.

Several NASCAR drivers in the Xfinity Series (NASCAR's top developmental series, much like Triple-A baseball) will play Evil Geniuses in front of fans Saturday in a promotion set up by Xfinity, which sponsors EG as well as the ESL pro gaming league. The Evil Geniuses also will play against fans at the event at Chicagoland Speedway, where NASCAR's top three national series are competing this weekend.

"Halo, they'll get me," said NASCAR driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. "I was big into Halo 1 and then lost it.

"But NASCAR? It's the same as out here on the racetrack. I know how to dump somebody."

Wallace, Erik Jones, Brennan Poole, Ben Kennedy and Matt Tifft will match their gaming skills against EG's Ryan "Towey" Towey, Jason "Lunchbox" Brown, Justin "Roy" Brown, Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, Tom "Ogre2" Ryan and Cameron "VictoryX" Thorlakson.

"I've already played an entire season in the [NASCAR] game already," Poole said. "Maybe I will have the upper hand. I'm excited about it and to get to play some Halo.

"I haven't played Halo in a while. I've been big into playing Battlefield and Call of Duty. I was a big 'Red Dead Redemption' fan, too. ... I think I can beat them in the NASCAR game."

The 25-year-old said while being on the road to race for much of his life, his best form of communication with hometown friends was through Xbox Live.

"Those guys are probably going to whup me at Halo," Poole said. "Maybe I will be able to pick up some stuff from them. ... [My friends] are really good, too, because all they do is play games. It would be awesome if I could pick up some things [to] take back [when playing them].

"I don't know that I'll give any of those tips out that they show me."

Although the drivers are into the games, Poole and Wallace admitted they aren't too familiar with esports leagues. Poole has watched a little bit.

"Those guys are incredibly good," Poole said. "I'll jump on there and play a little bit and think I'm good and to see some of the stuff they are able to do, their reaction time is just incredible.

"Driving a race car, your reaction time has to be good. It's a little bit different skill set."

The Evil Geniuses won $6.6 million for capturing the Dota 2 world championship in 2015, and the Dota 2 winner in 2016 earned $9 million of a purse that was worth more than $20 million. That purse is bigger than that of the Daytona 500.

"Are you serious?" 22-year-old Wallace said when he heard about how much the purse can be for top gamers. "Wow. That's impressive. ... That's crazy.

"I tried to do some [League of Legends] stuff, me and buddies in high school, and I wasn't very good."