Speedway Digest Staff
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NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans will get what they have asked for at Iowa Speedway for some time: the return of a true night race – and they will get it twice. INDYCAR and speedway officials announced today a historic weekend in July — two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races taking place over the course of a single weekend.
“Our commitment to our guests, partners and community will remain strong as we deliver a marquee bucket-list weekend,” Iowa Speedway President David Hyatt said. “Our track provides some of the best short track racing in the country, making this a can’t-miss weekend for both open wheel and stock car fans.”
The weekend schedule will feature INDYCAR and the ARCA Menards Series. The stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will race wheel-to-wheel on Friday, July 17 followed by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Iowa 300 on Saturday, July 18. The ARCA Menards Series Iowa 150 will now move to Saturday afternoon as a cornerstone race in the inaugural ARCA “Sioux Chief Showdown,” a 10-race series set to attract the top teams in the ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West.
Single race and event weekend tickets are on sale now. Fans can purchase tickets, access additional information and ask questions by visiting IowaSpeedway.com or calling 866.787.8946. Information will be updated as it becomes available.
Iowa Speedway PR
The stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a third exciting racing event in 2020. The INDYCAR Harvest GP will take place Saturday afternoon, Oct. 3 on the IMS road course.
The new event was unveiled today as part of INDYCAR's updated 2020 schedule announcement. The GMR Grand Prix remains on the IMS schedule for Saturday, July 4, setting the stage for a history-making INDYCAR and NASCAR pairing over the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard weekend. The can't-miss 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will take place Sunday, Aug. 23.
The INDYCAR Harvest GP joins a busy weekend of racing at IMS, with the previously announced Indianapolis 8 Hour beginning at 10 a.m. (ET) Sunday, Oct. 4. The event will feature the first-ever combination of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli with its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS.
"INDYCAR in October at IMS might bring slightly cooler weather but will definitely be warmly embraced by our fans," IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. "Paired with the Indianapolis 8 Hour, we're set for a can't-miss fall weekend of motorsports at The Racing Capital of the World. We appreciate everyone's support and flexibility as we continue to navigate calendar adjustments caused by the COVID-19 situation and extend our thanks to the GT World Challenge for embracing this new weekend schedule."
A full on-track schedule spanning Wednesday, Sept. 30 to Sunday, Oct. 4 will be released soon. Tickets for each day of track-action will go on sale Friday, April 17. Fans who want exclusive access to a pre-sale window should go to IMS.com/HarvestGP.
The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the "Harvest Classic" held in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.
With the Indianapolis 8 Hour included in the 2020 GT World Challenge America schedule, this will be the series' first long-distance endurance race that will count toward the championship in recent decades. The weekend will also showcase drivers in SRO America's Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series will crown its champions as they cross the world-famous Yard of Bricks start-finish line over the race weekend.
"Sharing Intercontinental GT Challenge's Indianapolis debut with one of America's biggest sports categories is a real privilege for everyone at SRO," said Stephane Ratel, founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group. "INDYCAR, as well as its cast of world-class drivers and teams, requires no introduction. It also completes a blockbuster weekend at the' Brickyard featuring the best of GTs, touring cars and open-wheelers."
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES announced several calendar updates today following the cancellation of the Detroit Grand Prix due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two previously scheduled events will become doubleheaders along with the addition of a third weekend of racing at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
With these additions, there are 15 races on the 2020 INDYCAR calendar, an increase of one event from the 14 races announced on March 26.
"We're committed to bringing fans as much on-track action as possible," Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. "Our updated schedule features additional racing at fan-favorite venues and adds to the total number of events on our calendar. The COVID-19 situation continues to be dynamic and challenging for everyone, so we have developed contingency plans which will allow us to respond to changing conditions. Our goal is to preserve as much racing competition as possible while prioritizing the health and safety of our participants and spectators."
INDYCAR's established events at Iowa Speedway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will become doubleheaders. The Iowa 300 event weekend will add a race on Friday, July 17 along with the previously scheduled race on Saturday, July 18. The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey event weekend will now feature a race on Saturday, Sept. 19 in addition to the previously scheduled race on Sunday, Sept. 20.
Race fans also will be treated to a third INDYCAR event at the Racing Capital of the World, with the INDYCAR Harvest GP on the IMS road course taking place Saturday, Oct. 3. This event is in addition to the GMR Grand Prix, already scheduled for Saturday, July 4, and the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Aug. 23.
"Like our fans, we're disappointed we won't be racing in Detroit this year," Miles said. "However, we're excited to return to Belle Isle in 2021 and know we'll put on a great show for everyone when we do. We also appreciate the flexibility and support of our event promoters at Iowa Speedway and Laguna Seca, who have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to host double-headers."
An updated listing of green flag times and an NBC Sports broadcast schedule will be announced in the near future.
NTT IndyCar Series PR
Denny Hamlin's clash with Chase Elliott highlights NBC Sports racing week in America beginning today at 1 P.M. on NBCSN
Racing Week in America begins today at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN with “Mayhem Monday,” providing racing fans with a chance to relive the most thrilling motorsports moments from the past two decades on NBC and NBCSN.
NBC Sports motorsports commentators Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte, and Parker Kligerman, as well as executive producer Sam Flood, will preview Racing Week in America and the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge on a media conference today at 3 p.m. ET. Media interested in participating should call 323-347-3622; Passcode: 967177.
Featuring races from NASCAR, INDYCAR, IMSA, Supercross and other series, Racing Week in America will have a specific theme for each day – beginning today with “Mayhem Monday” and continuing through the week with themes like “WednesDale,” “Best of the Brickyard,” and “Daytona Speed Day.”
TODAY – MAYHEM MONDAY
“Mayhem Monday” will feature some of the most intense battles across NASCAR, INDYCAR, Supercross, and American Flat Track. Among them is the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff classic from Martinsville Speedway, where Kyle Busch won in overtime and Chase Elliott confronted Denny Hamlin for costing him the victory. “Mayhem Monday” also includes the 2015 INDYCAR race from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., which produced a record 80 lead changes before Graham Rahal finally won out.
In addition, the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge debuts Monday at 7 p.m. ET at the virtual Rockingham Speedway. From Monday-Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, six different drivers will compete in Cup Series cars for two timed races at a historic track. The two race winners from each night, plus a select group awarded 'Peacock Provisionals', will advance to Thursday night's championship race at the virtual Martinsville Speedway (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Kyle Busch, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace will compete at Rockingham.
|NASCAR - Bristol Motor Speedway 2019||1 p.m.||NBCSN|
|INDYCAR - Auto Club Speedway 2015||3 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge - Rockingham||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Martinsville Speedway 2017||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Martinsville Speedway 2015||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Supercross - Anaheim #2 2020||12 a.m.||NBCSN|
|American Flat Track - Buffalo Chip TT 2019||2 a.m.||NBCSN|
Below is each day’s highlighted content throughout the week:
- Monday, April 6: “Mayhem Monday”
- Tuesday, April 7: “Twists and Turns Tuesday”
- Wednesday, April 8: “WednesDale”
- Thursday, April 9: “Best at the Brickyard”
- Friday, April 10: “Daytona Speed Day”
- Saturday, April 11: “Championship Saturday”
- Sunday, April 12: “Sunday Funday”
TUESDAY, APRIL 7 – TWISTS AND TURNS TUESDAY
From city streets to massive dirt jumps, NBCSN will showcase the best twists and turns that motorsports have to offer starting Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. “Twists and Turns Tuesday” is highlighted by the NASCAR Cup Series’ first race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and a return to INDYCAR Victory Lane for NBC Sports’ own James Hinchcliffe at iconic Long Beach.
|IMSA - Long Beach 2019||1 p.m.||NBCSN|
|INDYCAR - Long Beach 2017||3 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge - Lucas Oil Raceway||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL 2018||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Watkins Glen 2017||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Supercross - Arlington 2019||12 a.m.||NBCSN|
|Monster Jam World Finals 2019||2 a.m.||NBCSN|
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8 – WEDNESDALE
NBC Sports presents a full day dedicated to motorsports icon and NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt. Jr., including his emotional win in July 2001 at Daytona and his NBC Sports broadcasting debut at Chicagoland in 2018 - famous for his energetic yell of ‘Slide Job!’ during the race’s intense final lap. In addition, Earnhardt Jr. will headline the field of six drivers competing in the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge at Myrtle Beach Speedway at 7 p.m. ET.
|NASCAR - Talladega Superspeedway 2019||1 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Chicagoland Speedway 2018||3 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge - Myrtle Beach||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Daytona International Speedway, July 2001||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Talladega Superspeedway 2017||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Martinsville Speedway 2005||12 a.m.||NBCSN|
|The Dale Jr. Download||2 a.m.||NBCSN|
THURSDAY, APRIL 9 – BEST AT THE BRICKYARD
Thursday takes a look back on NBC Sports’ exciting history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including Simon Pagenaud’s Month of May sweep in 2019 and the 2004 and 2005 Brickyard 400.
|INDYCAR - Grand Prix of Indianapolis 2019||1 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - 2005 Brickyard 400||3 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge Championship - Martinsville||7 p.m.||NBCSN|
|INDYCAR - 103rd Indianapolis 500 (2019)||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Drive Like Andretti||11 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - 2004 Brickyard 400||12 a.m.||NBCSN|
|100th Indy 500 Special||2 a.m.||NBCSN|
FRIDAY, APRIL 10 – DAYTONA SPEED DAY
A trip down memory lane where legends are made - Daytona International Speedway - including Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first Daytona 500 win in 2004 and highlights from this year’s IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona.
|NASCAR - 2004 Daytona 500||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR - Daytona International Speedway, July 2001||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|2020 Daytona Supercross||12 a.m.||NBCSN|
|IMSA - 2020 Rolex 24||2 a.m.||NBCSN|
SATURDAY, APRIL 11 – CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY
It’s what every driver works for. On Saturday, NBCSN gives fans some of the best championship moments, including Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series title in 2016.
|NASCAR Cup Series Championship - Miami 2016||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|INDYCAR Championship - Sonoma 2015||10 p.m.||NBCSN|
|NASCAR Cup Series Championship - Miami 2004||12 a.m.||NBCSN|
|American Flat Track - Meadowlands 2018||2 a.m.||NBCSN|
SUNDAY, APRIL 12 – SUNDAY FUNDAY
Above all else, racing is fun - and that’s what the final day of Racing Week in America is about.
|NASCAR - Talladega Superspeedway 2019||10:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|INDYCAR - Texas Motor Speedway 2016||12:30 a.m.||NBCSN|
|Racing Roots - Kyle Larson||2:30 a.m.||NBCSN|
NBC Sports PR
While the current focus of all Americans is to stay healthy, many race fans and drivers are eager to interact and profess their love of racing. eSports, through a variety of races and broadcasts, has allowed that to happen during a time when this community needs it the most. To further enhance that camaraderie, Lucas Oil Products, the American-based manufacturer and distributor of performance additives and oils, announced today that they are expanding their presence in eSports. Lucas Oil eSports will begin with a focus on the competition surrounding the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Lucas Oil has already enjoyed a partnership with iRacing through the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Several of the tracks and the series events can be utilized with the online platform. In fact, the 3/8 mile dirt oval track and the off-road track at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, are scheduled to be scanned for future iRacing competitions.
“Lucas Oil has always tried to be on the cutting edge of all that it involves itself with and eSports is one of the new leading areas of development within racing,” said Morgan Lucas, Senior V.P. of Sales for Lucas Oil. “We have a great family of Lucas Oil supporters and that racing goes hand-in-hand with that. eSports is an important way for us to expand our exposure to new groups while creating a bond with our existing racing community.”
A series of races are currently being planned to create a sense of togetherness for the community of each of the series and events. Lucas Oil eSports will utilize the vastly popular iRacing platform, which many racers currently use to hone their skills.
The first race for Lucas Oil eSports will be the Late Model Knoxville Nationals for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. The event is scheduled for Friday, April 10 at 8 pm ET, and will be broadcasted on Lucas Oil’s Facebook page. The series team of MAVTV and Lucas Oil Racing TV commentators, Bob Dillner, James Essex and Dave Argabright, will call the action.
Several of the best Dirt Late Model racers in the country who compete in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series this year will take part in this challenge. They will face-off against others who will qualify through an “Open Race” format the day before the official event. An announcement of which drivers will participate will be coming soon.
“While we all try to do our part in making sure our country overcomes the virus, the anticipation for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series to resume action in 2020 is building,” said series director Rick Schwallie. “After successful Georgia and Florida Speedweeks, which saw impressive car counts, racers and fans now have the opportunity to build on that through series events within Lucas Oil eSports, and we are excited to have the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series be a part of that.”
A full schedule for Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, and the legendary Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals is coming soon.
Lucas Oil PR
In continuation of its "We Care" campaign, Front Row Motorsports (FRM) today announced its support of the Autism Society of America during National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM).
Now, more than ever, it's time to remember and take care of all those in need. This includes the challenges facing the autism community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Autism Society of America was the first national autism organization to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with a comprehensive toolkit of information and resources compiled by leading experts from their Panel of People on the Autism Spectrum and Panel of Professionals.
Front Row Motorsports is now stepping up to provide awareness and aid throughout NAAM. Along with the Autism Society of America, we want to #CelebrateDifferences throughout April. This call-to-action includes:
- Sharing fans' stories of how autism impacts their daily life
- ·Fans helping us spread autism awareness through social media
- Pledge to support the Autism Society of America this month by visiting:
Your pledge, monetary or not, enters you into a chance for two to join us at the season finale in Phoenix, Arizona.
The campaign will focus on consistent messaging across the team, John Hunter Nemechek's, Michael McDowell's and Todd Gilliland's social media channels throughout NAAM.
"We feel that everyone knows someone who is part of the autism community," said McDowell. "We want to step up and make sure we're driving general awareness of autism, but also of the community's added challenges during this time. If you have the ability to donate, that's wonderful, but even helping to spread the message and check in on someone you know in the autism community will mean a lot right now."
In 1970, the Autism Society launched an ongoing nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and assure that all affected by autism are able to achieve the highest quality of life possible. In 1972, the Autism Society launched the first annual National Autistic Children's week, which evolved into National Autism Awareness Month. Throughout April, the Autism Society will continue efforts to spread awareness, promote acceptance, and ignite change.
"We appreciate Front Row Motorsports' commitment to the Autism Society and autism community, especially in these trying times," said Christopher Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. "Now, more than ever, the Autism Society of America needs your help to continue to provide immediate support in this time of need. Spread awareness, promote acceptance, and ignite change."
FRM will support NAAM and continue to support the Autism Society of America throughout our race season.
Team FJ, founder and organizer of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and the official partner of NASCAR in Europe, launched today the EuroNASCAR Esports Series. The virtual championship, featuring NASCAR Whelen Euro Series teams and drivers, will run on the iRacing simulator every Tuesday night using NASCAR Cup Series cars and bring to the virtual world many of EuroNASCAR’s distinctive characteristics.
Close racing, fun and road course tracks will be the key elements of the EuroNASCAR Esports Series, which will be fully connected with real-life NWES and replicate the format that made EuroNASCAR the best touring car championship in Europe. The calendar will present 8 events, with the last three serving as playoff rounds and awarding double points.
The best NASCAR Whelen Euro Series drivers will battle for this new Esports title and at the same time will score points for the real life NWES Teams Championship, making the EuroNASCAR Esports Series the first ever sim-racing series to impact a real life international racing championship. Team FJ also plans to invite some famous sim-racers and real life guest-stars to add to this high-octane competition.
The virtual season will kick off on April 21st at 20:00 CET (4 pm ET) at Daytona International Speedway with an exciting exhibition shootout on the Daytona Road Course representing a perfect mix between European and American culture. The points-scoring season calendar will start the week after on April 28th at 20:00 CET (4 pm ET) on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, home of the iconic NWES American Speedfest. The schedule will also include some of the most celebrated road course circuits available on iRacing, including two real-life NWES ones – Brands Hatch and Zolder – and world famous American tracks like Watkins Glen, the Charlotte Roval or the Indianapolis Road Course.
“First of all, this is a challenging time and we encourage everybody to be smart and stay safe. It is very important for us to connect and support our fantastic fans, competitors and partners,” said NWES President - CEO Jerome Galpin. “The EuroNASCAR Esports Series is a great way to provide them with close racing and entertainment while waiting to get back to normal. This is also a good means to bring in a virtual dimension and continue to develop our very successful NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. We look forward to seeing you virtually on track on Tuesday April 21st at 20:00 CET to share our passion for racing, whether it is real or virtual racing.”
All the EuroNASCAR Esports Series events will be broadcasted on the EuroNASCAR Youtube, Facebook and Twitch channels, featuring a two-hour program to begin at 20:00 CET. The complete entry list and calendar of the EuroNASCAR Esports Series will be unveiled in the upcoming days.
Byron races into iRacing Pro Invitational win Sunday at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway's Food City Showdown
William Byron, arguably the best sim racer among the NASCAR Cup Series regulars, showed his stuff Sunday by racing to victory in a caution-filled Food City Showdown at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
Byron won the first 50-lap heat race with a big lead over his challengers to earn the pole and then led most of the laps in the 150-lap main feature of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race. It was the third iRace event for the Cup stars since traditional racing was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Byron, who has 1,500 races of experience under his belt in iRacing, led 116 laps of the event and cruised to the checked flag in the closing laps. After leading the first 75 laps Byron pitted, then with fresh tires worked his way back into the lead with 42 laps to go. He passed Chris Buescher and never looked back. It was a bit of redemption for Byron, who was bumped out of the way last week on the final lap at virtual Texas Motor Speedway as Timmy Hill took the win.
It was Byron’s first iRacing Pro Invitational Series victory. John Hunter Nemechek, who won the second 50-lap heat race, finished second and was followed by Hill in third, Homestead-Miami winner Denny Hamlin in fourth and Bristol fan-favorite Matt DiBenedetto in fifth.
“It was a lot of fun and we had a pretty solid race,” said Byron, who will receive a traditional BMS Gladiator Sword for earning the victory. “We had to work though some track position and keep ourselves near the top five. Luckily we were able to do that. We got by Chris Buescher and were able to manage the restarts. Was really proud of how we worked through things today.”
Byron, who drove the No. 24 Axalta Chevy, said the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway is challenging, especially for some of his Cup peers, many of whom have limited experience in sim racing.
“It’s tough. There’s some that’s different (with virtual Bristol) but a lot that’s similar,” Byron continued. “This is one of the tracks I love coming to in the Cup car. Working on this track in the simulator during the off-season was helpful. To be able to run in front of a good group of guys and have some fun was really special. To finally close the deal (and win an iRacing Pro Series Invitational race) is really awesome. It’s cool for my sponsors and gives me some confidence.”
There were 12 cautions in the 150-lap main event, including one on the second lap that collected one of the pre-race favorites, Ryan Preece. Preece, who was second in a photo-finish in the second heat race to Nemechek, managed to rebound from the setback and finished sixth overall.
Tempers flared on social media between Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson after the race. The two were parked after a series of run-ins on the track. iRacing officials disqualified both after they kept banging into each other under caution after a lap 75 skirmish.
Byron said his biggest moment of the race was narrowly avoiding a crash with Landon Cassill who got spun while in the lead on lap 78. Byron was able to slip past most of the carnage, which he expected to see some of during the race.
“You saw some guys that weren’t as experienced get into it,” Byron said. “The top five or 10 guys really know what they are doing and those were the ones I was really worried about.”
Clint Bowyer, who claims to be one of the least experienced iRacers on the track, managed to use a strategy of avoiding wrecks to finish 11th. He was also mic’d up with the FOX announcing team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds during the iRacing event. He said The Last Great Colosseum really showed its teeth today.
“There’s only one guy who leaves Bristol happy,” Bowyer said, “and that’s the winner. Everybody else leaves mad. It was a lot of fun and it’s a really challenging race track in virtual racing as in real life.”
Parker Kligerman finished seventh and was followed by Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley, Michael McDowell to round out the top 10. Kurt Busch, who has eight Cup Series victories at BMS, ran strong at points in the race and was in the top five several times but ended up finishing 18th after being involved in a few cautions, including the final one with nine laps to go that sent him to the back of the pack.
Heat Race 1
Byron ran away with the first 50-lap heat race. He led every lap and took the checkered flag 1.664 seconds in front of second place Christopher Bell and third place Dale Earnhardt Jr. to claim the pole position for the 150-lap main.
“We had a good qualifying lap; the track was a little different for the heat race,” Byron said after the heat race. “I feel good. It’s going to be a pit strategy race. Looks like John Hunter is really fast and Ryan Preece, so those are the guys I’m looking out for. It’s going to be tough with having twice the field. I’m going to have to navigate my way through. I’m going to have to make sure I time my runs and get position on someone and not worry about my right rear.”
Heat Race 2
Nemechek had a good lead in the second heat race but by the end of the 50-lapper he was tracked down by hard-charging Preece, who started the heat in fourth place. In an exciting side-by-side run to the finish line over the final three laps, Nemechek was able to hold off Preece by .006 of a second as the checkered flag dropped. Nemecheck led every lap and with the win earned the outside pole for the 150-lap main.
“The last few laps were difficult,” Nemechek said. “Denny bounced off the wall in front of me and the car got tight after that. I tried to stay on the high line. Preece ran me clean, because he could’ve doored me, but it was a good clean race down to the end.”
Following second place Preece was hard-charging Kyle Busch, who started sixth and worked his way to the front at the controls of his No. 18 M&Ms machine. Larson was fourth, followed by Hill.
* * *
Final finishing order of the 150-lap Food City Showdown, eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race held at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
- William Byron
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Timmy Hill
- Denny Hamlin
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Ryan Preece
- Parker Kligerman
- Tyler Reddick
- Garrett Smithley
- Michael McDowell
- Clint Bowyer
- Christopher Bell
- Bobby Labonte
- Alex Bowman
- Austin Dillon
- Ross Chastain
- Joey Logano
- Kyle Busch
- Kurt Busch
- Landon Cassill
- Jimmie Johnson
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Chris Buescher
- Brad Keselowski
- Ty Dillon
- Ryan Blaney
- Daniel Suarez
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Kyle Larson
- Chase Elliott
- Erik Jones
- Bubba Wallace
A week after a late-race bump-and-run pass ended William Byron’s hope of a win in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, the Hendrick Motorsports driver who cut his teeth in the virtual racing world dominated a crash-filled Food City Showdown at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
For the second week in a row, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet dominated in the virtual racing series that is following the NASCAR Cup Series schedule that has been paused due the COVID-19 pandemic. But this time, Byron was able to pull away from John Hunter Nemechek and Matt DiBenedetto during a restart with four laps to go and drive away with the win after leading 116 laps in the race.
Byron admitted that in the moment, losing the way he did at virtual Texas the week before stung – even though it wasn’t a “real” race – and makes this win a little sweeter.
“I mean, obviously when the race is going, I think anybody would be dumb to tell you that they don't take it seriously because it's a race, but it took me probably an hour after the race to really cool off and realize that I was just racing on the computer and I could get over it."
“For me mentally, I try to treat it as a race when the race is going on," Byron added. "But I think that it was just frustrating because we hadn't closed one out yet and we had led the most laps, so to finally close the deal this week was really awesome.”
This week’s race had a new look for the Pro Invitational Series as it was limited to a select group of 32 current and former Cup Series drivers. A pair of 50-lap heat races set the field for the main 150-lap feature, which had Busch Pole Award winner Byron and Nemechek on the front row after winning their respective heats.
The race had a total of 12 cautions, as the particularly challenging virtual Bristol Motor Speedway stumped several of the drivers who have seen success at the real venue, including brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch, who have combined for 14 Cup Series wins at the track. Kyle finished 18th after bringing out the final caution of the day following contact with Ryan Preece near the front of the field, and Kurt was 19th.
The race was not without intensity, as one would expect at a short track like Bristol. Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson were black-flagged and parked for intentional contact on the track. And Bubba Wallace disconnected early on following an on-track incident.
“I think the easy excuse is to say, oh, it's a game and all that, but at the end of the day, everyone is racing, and seeing how much time some guys have put in, I know that it means something to them,” the race-winning Byron said of the hard feelings on the track.
“You've got to race. It's race craft, and I feel like race craft is the same no matter what you're racing; whether it's on a computer or at the dirt track or at an asphalt race, it's the same.”
Nemechek, last week’s winner Timmy Hill, and the winner of the first race of the virtual series, Denny Hamlin, finished door handle to door handle to door handle at the line to place second, third and fourth, respectively.
Hill has now posted a top-three finish in each of the three races in the Pro Invitational Series after starting off with a third-place result at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hill, Garrett Smithley (ninth today at Bristol) and Ryan Preece (sixth today) are the only drivers who have recorded top-10 finishes in each of the races.
The win was particularly meaningful for Byron, who used iRacing to get his foot in the door in real-world racing, as it puts him one victory shy of 1,500 iRacing wins. His prowess behind the wheel in the computer-based racing helped him work his way up through the development levels before landing a fulltime NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series ride in 2016.
Byron still uses it to fine-tune his racing skills.
“I try to use iRacing because it improves my race craft, and I feel like we've been doing a good job of promoting it the right way. The races that you can practice on kind of help improve my race craft, and that's why I use it to try to help me on the real car.”
And until he’s able to apply those skills in the “real cars” again, Byron will continue to go after wins in the virtual world.