Speedway Digest Staff
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Virtual Bristol Motor Speedway the site of this weekend's eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational series race, the Food City Showdown
While Bristol Motor Speedway awaits a new date for its fan-favorite Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) race, the eyes of the racing world will still be on The Last Great Colosseum on Sunday, April 5 as NASCAR’s top stars compete short-track style on a virtual replica of the famed half-mile all-concrete oval.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, created following the postponement of traditional NASCAR Cup Series competition due to the COVID-19 virus, will see NASCAR Cup Series drivers past and present take on the demanding high banks of Bristol during the Food City Showdown. Race action will feature two 50-lap heat races to determine the final starting lineup for the 150-lap main event and will air nationally on the FOX broadcast network (where available and subject to change), FS1 and the FOX Sports app and feature the FOX NASCAR broadcast team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds. Green flag is set for shortly after 1 p.m. with the broadcast welcoming former New England Patriots great Rob Gronkowski and current WWE superstar Mojo Rawley as co-Grand Marshals.
"The NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has been a great way to keep fans engaged during a tough situation and we're thankful to NASCAR, iRacing and FOX for pushing forward," said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. "It's going to be surreal to see some of NASCAR's biggest names compete on a virtual version of The Last Great Colosseum. Race fans get the best of both worlds: a virtual short track race providing some sense of normality during our originally scheduled race date as well as the opportunity to return to the track for the eventual running of the Food City 500."
iRacing is the world’s premier motorsports racing simulation, allowing competitors to experience NASCAR in a virtual format. iRacing is a fun, inexpensive and highly competitive way for race enthusiasts to experience the head-to-head challenges that professional racers experience in competition. Virtual Bristol Motor Speedway is sure to be a test for the stars of NASCAR.
“Bristol Motor Speedway on iRacing is going to be a wild race for sure, just like it is any other time we race there,” said William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports in NCS and a longtime proponent of iRacing. “It’s a track that throws many challenges at you and I think this weekend will be no different even though we’re racing there virtually. The fast closing rates coming out of the corners, lap traffic, track position in the top lane, are all things that will come into play. Fans can also expect to see a lot of bumping and banging, that’s for sure. It’ll be entertaining for everyone involved and I’m excited to see how this Sunday’s race turns out.”
Along with the FOX NASCAR broadcast team in FOX’s Charlotte, N.C. studio, NASCAR Cup Series star Clint Bowyer will provide commentary as he drives in the virtual Food City Showdown. In addition to FOX coverage in the U.S., the Food City Showdown will be broadcast internationally, including on TSN and FOX Sports Racing (Canada), Motorvision/Sport 1 (Europe) and Fox Sports Australia (Australia) among other countries/territories.
The Food City Showdown will be the third event in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series following virtual races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, but the first on a short track, meaning intensity will be at an all-time high for drivers. Denny Hamlin grabbed the inaugural win at Homestead, edging Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a last lap pass while Timmy Hill bumped William Byron out of the way to take the checkered flag at Texas. Both races smashed the previous record for the most-watched esports event in U.S. television history, with the TMS race earning 1.339 million viewers via FOX and FS1.
In addition to the Food City Showdown, drivers from other NASCAR national series, including the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander Outdoors RV & Truck Series, ARCA, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, will compete in a special exhibition this Saturday evening, April 4. Saturday Night Thunder will be broadcast on eNASCAR.com/live at 8 p.m.
Prior to Sunday’s Food City Showdown, Bristol Motor Speedway is pulling out all the stops to give race fans a true pre-race experience. The Colossus TV crew of Jose Castillo, Ashley Strohlein and Hannah Newhouse will do an Instagram Live on the BMS Instagram page at 10 a.m. to get viewers excited for the virtual racing action. Race fans will also want to stay tuned to BMS Instagram throughout the day as virtual Texas Motor Speedway race winner Timmy Hill takes you through his race day preparations.
Bristol Motor Speedway will then host a Sunday pre-race concert on all BMS social media pages featuring Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, country group The Steel Woods and country singer Tennessee Jet. The 30-minute concert is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.
Instead of a TweetUp at-track this weekend, The Athletic.com motorsports reporter Jeff Gluck will host an official Instagram Live session with special guests on his profile @jeff_gluck at Noon on Sunday.
NASCAR social channels also will provide a 30-minute pre-race show featuring country music singer Justin Moore, hosted by NASCAR.com personality Alex Weaver and NCS driver Austin Dillon. The NASCAR Pre-Race concert will air at 12:30 p.m. E.T.
To celebrate the Food City Showdown, Bristol Motor Speedway is giving one lucky fan the chance to win the ultimate weekend getaway to The Last Great Colosseum. Fans can enter beginning Saturday by visiting https://www.
Before the Food City Showdown begins, tag the BMS social channels with photos of your Food City homestyle tailgate using the hashtag #TuneInTailgate.
While watching the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway action, all are encouraged to participate in a virtual version of a Speedway Children’s Charities tradition: The Red Bucket Brigade. Normally during BMS NASCAR races, red buckets are passed out for fans to donate their loose change, which is then used to support SCC’s mission to help agencies that support children in need. During the Food City Showdown, race watchers are encouraged to visit https://www.speedwaycharities.
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues Saturday, April 4 with the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET at Barber Motorsports Park.
The event, which will last approximately 60 minutes, will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will call the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by 2019 Miss Alabama Tiara Pennington singing the national anthem and NBA and Auburn University legend Charles Barkley giving the command to start engines.
The entry list of 29 drivers - up from 25 from the series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen International - includes series champions Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, five Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 189 series victories.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson also is back this week after starting 19th and finishing 16th last Saturday at Watkins Glen in his first competition in an Indy car, albeit virtual.
The Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is the second of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. After this event, remaining races include a "Driver's Choice" track (April 11), a "Random Draw" track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR "Dream" track (May 2).
Here are "5 Things To Look For..." heading into Saturday's Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge field grew to 29 drivers for the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this Saturday with the addition of five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), 2018 series Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing).
All drivers in this week's field - including the four newcomers - will encounter a new strategic element, as a competition caution period will bunch the field on Lap 15. A single-file restart will follow the three-lap caution period.
'Welcome Back, Robert'
2018 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens will return to competition this weekend as he makes his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge debut in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Wickens, from Guelph, Ontario, suffered serious injuries in an accident during an INDYCAR race in July 2018 at Pocono Raceway. He will compete Saturday in a SimCraft simulator with special hand controls because of restricted use of his legs and feet due to a spinal cord injury suffered in the crash.
Former INDYCAR driver and current INDYCAR race steward Max Papis is helping Wickens' efforts to compete virtually. Papis' steering wheel company, Max Papis Innovations, designed and produced a custom wheel with hand controls for Wickens. The unit arrived at Wickens' home Thursday, April 2, but he didn't have enough time to get acclimated with it before Saturday's race, so he will use the MPI unit at future rounds of the virtual series.
While Wickens is excited to compete virtually, he sees the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge as another important step in his goal to return to real race cars. His journey also has included tireless hours of physical therapy and rehabilitation, which he has documented often and inspired millions with on social media.
"The biggest thing for me is although this is fun, I see this as the long-term project of getting me back into the race car," Wickens said. "I always knew through simulation was going to be the best way to trial different handbrake or paddle configurations. This is step one of a hundred to get me back into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES."
Sage Karam , a veteran and successful iRacing competitor, so dominated the inaugural round of the series Saturday, March 28 that his rivals have sought his advice this week during preparation for the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Karam won the pole and led 43 of the 45 laps in his No. 24 WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet to beat Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds at Watkins Glen International.
Now that he's a marked man as the current king of INDYCAR iRacing, Karam is dispensing tips to his rivals - to a point.
"It's fun to help them get up to speed in iRacing," Karam said. "I just don't want to give them too much information as I am still competing against them each week from my home. If I can help make the overall product more competitive, it will be great for the racing on the screen and the racing fans."
'Carpenter Back on the Road'
Ed Carpenter is known and respected as one of the best oval racers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. All three of his career series victories have come on circle tracks, and he also has won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 three times.
Road racing? Well, not so fast. Ed Carpenter Racing owner-driver Carpenter has driven only in oval events for the last six-plus years, with his last road-course start in the series coming Oct. 6, 2013 on the street course in Houston.
But the lure of competing against his friends and rivals in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge was too much for Carpenter to resist. So, he's hitting the road and making his virtual series debut Sunday in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet. Carpenter is using the No. 21 of ECR teammate Rinus VeeKay because ECR teammate Conor Daly already is using Carpenter's No. 20 virtual car, as Daly will compete in all real NTT INDYCAR SERIES road and street events this season in the No. 20.
"I am looking forward to finally getting some racing in on Saturday," Carpenter said. "It has been a long time since I competed in a road race. Both the cars and iRacing have changed quite a lot. I am a week late to the party, but hopefully I will be up to speed enough to give the 21 car a good ride!
"I know my friends and family are excited to watch me, so no pressure! Hopefully everyone tunes into NBCSN and enjoys a little bit of relief from their quarantine."
'Turns for Troops'
United Rentals and NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Graham Rahal are teaming up to continue the Turns for Troops program during the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. United Rentals has committed to donate $50 per lap that Rahal completes this season to the SoldierStrong program to help improve the lives of U.S. military veterans.
Through cutting-edge rehabilitation, recovery and scholarship programs, SoldierStrong transforms the lives of U.S. service members by empowering them to regain their mobility, freedom and overall sense of identity.
Fans can learn more about Turns for Troops and SoldierStrong by visiting turnsfortroops.ur.com.
Azulana, the first and only RTD beverage made with 100% blue agave tequila and sparkling soda, today announced an integrated partnership with celebrated NASCAR driver Timmy Hill (#66 Toyota Camry) and MBM Motorsports. The partnership kicked of last week will continue into the upcoming O’Reilly Auto Parts race, taking place at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
NASCAR’s traditional 36 event season was suspended four races into the season, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Determined to continue providing their loyal fans with exciting competition, NASCAR created a “new normal”, launching their iRacing series on March 22nd, 2020. The NASCAR iRacing Series allows top drivers to compete virtually, using high-tech simulators and virtual racetracks, which are modeled after some of the world’s most famous speedways, and laser scanned to highlight intrinsic details of each location.
The first iRacing event at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway drew 903,000 viewers to Fox Sports One. The most watched e-sports event in U.S. history, this race was the #1 trending topic on Twitter during the actual race, beating out COVID-19. The second race, The O’Reilly Auto Parts, took place at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway on March 29th, where Timmy Hill and his #66 Toyota Camry took home the win for MBM Motorsports. This race drew in almost 2M viewers, and was watched on FOX, FS1 and Foxsports.com.
Hill will compete for the win once again this during this weekends race, taking place Sunday, April 5th at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway. This race, which will include drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, ARCA, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, will be broadcast at 1PM EST on FOX, FS1 and Foxsports.com.
Azulana’s partnership with Hill and the MBM Motorsports team includes logo placement on the #66 Toyota Camry, as well as social media amplification on both the driver and brand’s channels. Hill participated in an Instagram Live during race day on March 29th, providing fans with added content to engage more personally with Hill surrounding the exciting event.
“As a society, we’ve always been incredibly passionate about live sporting events, and it’s something many of us have been missing given the current circumstances,” stated Henry Morita, CEO and Founder of Azulana / Pure Azul Beverage Company. “At Azulana, we’re committed to championing new or different ways we can still enjoy the traditions that have always been an important part of our everyday lives - particularly from a virtual perspective. We saw NASCAR iRacing, and specifically a partnership with a driver as dynamic and promising as Timmy Hill, as an opportunity to continue to amplify and support exciting sporting events that we can enjoy while we stay safe at home.”
Azulana, which was introduced in Southern California in August 2019, is produced in Jalisco, MX, and is the “Official Sparkling Tequila” of the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Available in three flavors – Original, Lime and Pineapple Rosemary – the product features 4.3% ABV and 145 calories per serving. The brand is currently expanding their distribution significantly, and will be available in additional states including Texas, Tennessee and Idaho in the next eight weeks, which is also why they believe this foray into the NASCAR iRacing world well help further introduce the innovative brand to a wider audience in the US.
“We want to continue to push the envelope when it comes to cutting edge and unique partnerships or integrations, which is why our relationship with Timmy Hill and the NASCAR iRacing community as a whole is something we’re incredibly excited about,” stated Morita. “This new spin on a beloved sport allows us, as a community, to connect in new and different ways, and to experience the thrill of racing in a whole new light.”
Additional sponsors to recently sign onto Hill’s team include RoofClaims.com, Pit Boss and Bradshaw Bourbon. For more information on Azulana, visit www.azulana.life, or follow the brand on Instagram (@azulanatequila). For more information on Timmy Hill and the MBM Motorsports team, visit www.mbmmotorsports.com. For more information on the upcoming NASCAR iRacing schedule, visit www.NASCAR.com.
PRESS RELEASE: Dover International Speedway’s coveted Monster Trophy ranks No. 2 in NASCAR.com list of top Cup Series awards
One of the few certainties in motorsports is that all drivers are eager to add Dover International Speedway’s Monster Trophy to their collections.
Just last year, when all of Dover’s Monster Trophies were made in a brilliant gold color in honor of the track’s 50th anniversary season, winning drivers including Cole Custer, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. made a point of mentioning how coveted the Monster Mile prize is for all competitors.
“I saw the trophy in the driver’s meeting yesterday and I said that’s pretty awesome,” Truex said in May. “That golden one is special. It’s pretty awesome to win on the 50th anniversary of Dover International Speedway.”
Apparently, it’s a feeling shared throughout the NASCAR world.
In a NASCAR.com article headlined “The Best Trophies In NASCAR, Ranked,” posted on Friday, April 3, the Monster Trophy ranked No. 2 out of 16 track prizes, behind only Martinsville Speedway’s grandfather clock.
“The Monster Mile's marvelous, mammoth, monster mascot, Miles, makes many memories magnifying medalists’ mantles of mementos,” NASCAR.com’s article states.
The first Monster Trophy was awarded on Sept. 26, 2004, after Ryan Newman won the “MBNA America 400” NASCAR Cup Series race. In total, 31 Monster Trophies have been awarded to Dover Cup Series winners, with Jimmie Johnson leading all drivers with nine.
The next Monster Trophy is scheduled to be awarded during Dover’s Aug. 21-23 NASCAR weekend which includes the “Drydene 400” NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Aug. 23.
NASCAR.com’s full list can be found at https://www.nascar.com/gallery/best-trophies-nascar-ranked/.
Follow Speedway news and updates on DoverSpeedway.com and keep track of the latest announcements via social media at Facebook.com/DoverInternationalSpeedway, or on Twitter and Instagram at @MonsterMile. For ticket information call (800) 441-RACE.
Dover Motorsports PR
GunBroker.com Partners with Garrett Smithley and Rick Ware Racing for the iRacing Pro Invitational Series
GunBroker.com has partnered with Garrett Smithley and Rick Ware Racing for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, starting at Bristol Motor Speedway. GunBroker.com will serve as a primary sponsor on the No. 51 entry for the next five iRacing events.
"I am excited to have GunBroker.com on board my No. 51 entry," commented Garrett Smithley. "I have been iRacing for several years, and I'm glad that NASCAR, iRacing and Fox Sports have given the drivers, teams and sponsors the opportunity to continue to race, during this difficult time."
GunBroker.com is an online marketplace where buyers can shop for new and used guns, ammunition, and accessories. While the recent surge in demand for firearms and ammunition has created shortages at many local shops, the GunBroker.com marketplace has plenty of inventory available for immediate delivery. GunBroker.com, a long- time sponsor of NASCAR race teams, has been out of the sport for eight seasons but saw an opportunity to return through the eNASCAR platform.
“iRacing is great racing and wonderful entertainment in these difficult times.” Said Steve Urvan, CEO of GunBroker.com. “We are excited to partner with our long- time friend Rick Ware and up-and-coming driver Garrett Smithley and look forward to seeing them both in victory lane.”
In addition to sponsoring Smithley in the iRacing Pro Invitational Series, GunBroker.com will be offered the primary sponsorship for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, July 4th weekend. Smithley will pilot one of the Rick Ware Racing charters in the coveted event.
“We’re thrilled to have GunBroker.com back on board with Rick Ware Racing,” said team owner, Rick Ware. “Garrett is a fantastic young race car driver and has recently been given the opportunity to showcase his talent in the iRacing Series. Having GunBroker.com come back on board not only for the iRacing events, but as a potential primary for other Cup events is a huge opportunity, especially during this difficult time."
Longtime Bristol Motor Speedway partner Food City is continuing its long running fan fest in a virtual sense today (Friday, April 3).
Food City Family Race Night will be held on the Food City social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) beginning at 1 p.m. and running through 9 p.m. Food City will share their favorite memories of the fan-favorite event and engage with fans and drivers throughout the day. Those interested in sharing their favorite photos from previous Food City Family Race Night events can use the hashtag #FCRaceNightMemories.
Food City Family Race Night kicks off a fun weekend of virtual race activities, culminating with the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Food City Showdown on Sunday, April 5 at 1 p.m., simulcast on FOX (where available), FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
“Due to challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, the debut of the Next Gen car will be delayed until 2022. The decision was made in collaboration with the OEMs and team owners. We will continue to develop the Next Gen car, and a revised testing timeline will be shared when more information is available.” – John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation