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Today’s iRacing Cup race at virtual Bristol: Start time and more

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Round three of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series takes place today with competitors racing at a virtual BristolMotor Speedway.

Timmy Hill won last weekend’s race at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The viewership set a record for an eSports event on TV.

Here is the information on today’s virtual race:

(All times are Eastern)

DIGNITARIES: Co-grand marshals are Fox Sports analyst and Wrestlemania host Rob Gronkowski and WWE Superstar Mojo Rawley. Singer/actress Rita Wilson will perform the National Anthem. Darrell and Stevie Waltrip will give the invocation.

FORMAT: One hour of practice begins at noon. Qualifying begins at 1:05 p.m. to set the lineups for both heat races. First heat is scheduled to begin at 1:08 p.m. Second heat is scheduled to begin at about 1:30 p.m. All drivers will transfer to the feature race. Heat race results will set the lineup for the feature race.

FEATURE RACE: Scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

DISTANCE: The Food City Showdown is 150 laps (79.95 miles) around the virtual .533-mile oval.

TV/RADIO: FOX and FS1 will televise the virtual race. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. The race also can be seen on the Fox Sports App.

RULES: Since it is an exhibition race, drivers will get two full resets in their heat race and the feature race to repair damage. No cautions in the heat races. The cars have fixed setups. There will up to three attempts at a green/white/checkered finish.

CUP DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE: Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain, Chase  Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto, Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez.

ALSO RACING: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte, Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill.

WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING: 

Kyle Busch: “I’ve learned a little bit about (iRacing) but, overall, I felt like we were pretty good at Homestead coming from the back and picking off a few guys and passing some cars. Then the crashes would happen and I would never be able to slow up or check up quick enough. These cars online here, they bounce off the wall way faster than they do in real life, so trying to judge how they ricochet and what is going to happen is hard to do. Last week at Texas, we got caught up in that first wreck. I think being able to qualify up front and get some track position – that would be nice to start with and seems important. I’m sure it’s even more important at a place like Bristol, so we’ll see if we can get a good finish this weekend with our M&M’S Messages Camry.”

Clint Bowyer: “There are certain guys that when you get on the sim in any given week, whether it’s the day or the evening, that you look for because you know that they’ve got experience and track time and seat time in the sim and on iRacing. Parker Kligerman, Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. – these are all guys that have a ton of experience. When they get on the racetrack, trust me, you need to get out there with them and learn as much as you can, follow them and everything else. You’ll see my Smithfield Ford Mustang behind them so I can figure out how to eventually get in front of them.”

Matt DiBenedetto: “Bristol is my best track in real life. But iRacing has a different feel to it. It takes a lot of practice to get more comfortable with it and to have the precision you need.”

Austin Dillon: “I’m really looking forward to racing at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend because the real Bristol Motor Speedway is always a fun time for racers. It’s going to be interesting racing in the virtual race. I think it’s going to be a wreck-fest because it’s really hard to race on the track virtually. We’ve all been practicing a lot but it will be interesting to see what happens. … I’m really excited to compete in this race for Dow and plan to have some fun with it.”

Erik Jones: “Bristol should be good. It’s one of my favorite tracks in real life that we get to go to each year. It’s probably going to be a lot different than the last two weeks. It’ll be interesting to see where the preferred grove is with it being split between the top and the bottom in real life racing, so not sure what it’s going to be like in iRacing. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully we can run a little better than last week. I have more time this week to practice before the race now that I’m getting a little settled in to my house. Hopefully I can get on there, get some laps down and can go up front and contend for the win this week.”

Michael McDowell: “I think that this weekend’s Pro Invitational Series race from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway is going to require a lot of concentration and stamina. Some people might think that just because this is a virtual race, that it will be relatively easy to compete in. However, the fact of the matter is that it still takes a lot of focus to be able to push your car to its limits, while trying your best not to crash with 35 other cars all around you. Thankfully, to help me stay alert and on my game, I have CELSIUS Fitness Drinks coming on board this weekend. Not only will they be a primary sponsor of my virtual No. 34 Ford Mustang, but they have also been my go-to fitness drink for a long time. I drink a CELSIUS before every workout and on every race morning. Their drinks taste great and provide me with the energy that I need to perform any task.”

John Hunter Nemechek: “Bristol is already such a challenging track for us in person and it will be interesting to see what it’s like in a virtual race. The preferred line at Bristol tends to move around as the race goes on, and as we’ve seen over the last two weeks of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, anything can happen. That said, I’m feeling pretty good about our No. 38 Ford Mustang. I’m also really glad we are able to have our partners at YANMAR America with us on the car this weekend. I was just gutted for them after not being able to race at Atlanta. They’re such a great group of people and I’m thankful for their outpouring of support for Front Row Motorsports since last year. I’m excited that we get to have them ‘along for the ride’ this weekend and look forward to the day when we can see the No. 38 YANMAR Ford Mustang on track in person, too.”

Tyler Reddick: “So far, I’ve noticed that if you can run right next to the wall the track is really fast. … It’s going to be interesting to see what happens at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday. I love the track and have had a lot of success there in the past so I’m looking forward to the race.”

Ryan Newman to be sponsored by Progressive Insurance at Atlanta

Ryan Newman
Roush Fenway Racing
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Ryan Newman and his No. 6 Ford will be sponsored by Progressive Insurance this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox), Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday.

“We’re excited to welcome Progressive Insurance to the team this weekend in Atlanta,” Newman said in a press release. “A major brand such as theirs fits well into the NASCAR space. Atlanta makes for a challenging and entertaining race with the differing options of the preferred line, so we’re looking forward to it with Progressive on board.”

This is the first time Progressive has been a primary sponsor on a car in a national NASCAR series.

“We’re inspired by the resolve of Ryan and thrilled to be working with him and the team at Roush Fenway Racing this weekend in Atlanta,” Jay VanAntwerp, Progressive’s Media Business Leader, said in the press release. “Racing fans, and sports fans in general, are craving live events, so everyone should be thrilled at the chance to see Ryan and his fellow drivers out on the track. Progressive’s competitive spirit is a great fit for the dynamic, fast-paced action of NASCAR, so we’re looking forward to being part of that excitement with the No. 6 car wrapped in blue and white and sporting the Progressive name. Hopefully we will see Ryan take the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon.”

Newman enters Sunday’s race coming off a 15th-place finish at Bristol. In the five races since NASCAR returned on May 17 at Darlington, Newman’s best finish is 14th in the second Darlington race.

Cup drivers preparing for hotter, slicker Atlanta race after March postponement

Atlanta Motor Speedway
Getty Images
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It’s time for NASCAR to go racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, finally.

Almost three months after it was scheduled, NASCAR will head back to Georgia for its annual race weekend at the 1.5-mile track Atlanta.

Cars were hours away from being on track on March 13 when NASCAR announced that weekend’s races were postponed due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

All three national series will be in action, with the Cup Series highlighting the weekend with its race on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

This is the first time the Cup Series has competed at Atlanta in June since 1965. The last five Atlanta weekends have been held in late February or early March after it was moved from Labor Day weekend in 2015.

With a forecasted temperature of 81 degrees at the start of the race, it will be the return of “Hotlanta.”

The series is preparing for the combination of warm weather and the track’s rough surface that hasn’t been repaved since 1997, thanks to petitioning by drivers.

“Atlanta is always a fun place to race because of the surface and how worn out it is,” Martin Truex Jr. said in a media release. “It has been a few years since we’ve raced there when it’s really hot to bring out just how slick the track can get, so that will be a bit of a challenge going in with no practice.”

Truex, who finished second in this race last year, is seeking his first victory of the year and his first win at Atlanta. Atlanta is one of two 1.5-mile tracks he hasn’t won at, joining Texas Motor Speedway.

Truex has failed to finish in the top 10 once in his last eight starts at Atlanta. He heads into Atlanta coming off a 20th-place finish at Bristol. Before that he had four consecutive top 10s.

“I feel pretty good about how we have ran on the bigger tracks where handling comes into play,” Truex said. “We need a little bit of speed overall, but we’ve been able to run pretty well at tracks where the surface is slicker, so I feel confident about the car we’ll unload and how we’ll run on Sunday.”

With the track’s rough surface, restarts will be vital according to Kyle Busch, a two-time winner at Atlanta.

“I don’t know if it has to do with the asphalt mix or whatever when they paved that place that now you can definitely tell the difference between the inside lane and that outside lane,” Busch said in a media release. “Also, the inside guy has a straighter launch than the guy on the outside – he’s always kind of turning so that’s something to be said for it. Overall, it’s just some places are that way. Atlanta is the worst for the launch. The application of throttle to not spin the rear tires is so crucial there and it’s so easy to do when you’re in that outside lane.”

Busch was the winner of the 2013 Atlanta race, which was held Labor Day weekend. That was also Toyota’s last Cup win there.

“Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen and we’ll definitely have to be on our toes there this weekend,” Busch said. “You have to have good grip there, you have to have good (tire) fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run, yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else. So you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early (in the run) or save a little and be there late. We went there several months ago and didn’t get to race there, so expecting the weekend to be much different this time around than when we traveled there in March.”

Like Truex, Busch is looking for his first win of the year. Should they or any other Toyota or Chevrolet driver win, they would end a three-year reign by Ford on the 1.5-mile track.

Brad Keselowski won two of those races and Kevin Harvick claimed the other.

Bubba Wallace joins Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN

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Bubba Wallace will be on today’s “Lunch Talk Live” with host Mike Tirico. The show airs at Noon ET on NBCSN.

“Lunch Talk Live” focuses on the current state of the sports world, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

You can also watch the show online here.

Wallace is also a guest on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download, which airs at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Today’s scheduled guests are:

  • 12:00 p.m. – Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills head coach
  • 12:15 p.m. – Bubba Wallace
  • 12:30 p.m. – James Hinchcliffe, IndyCar driver
  • 12:40 p.m. –  Ken Niumatalolo, Navy football head coach
  • 12:50 p.m. – Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets captain

 

Bubba Wallace encourages drivers to speak on social issues

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Bubba Wallace, at times emotional in discussing the recent killings of unarmed black men, said on the Dale Jr. Download that he needs to be more vocal on such matters and encouraged fellow NASCAR drivers to do the same.

“Through all the chaos that has gone on in the world, all of the African Americans, all of the unarmed black men and women being killed, I’ve been silent,” Wallace said on the Dale Jr. Download. “I’ve read all of them and I’ve been silent. I just felt that wasn’t my place. That was a huge mistake.”

Wallace, the only black driver competing in the Cup Series, said he’s reached out to fellow competitors and NASCAR officials and encouraged them to speak out in the days after George Floyd was killed while in custody of Minneapolis police on May 25. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Wednesday, the murder charged was changed to second-degree murder. Also, three other former Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder on Wednesday.

“We have got to do better, we’ve got to step up,” Wallace said on the show about a message he sent to fellow Cup drivers. “I encourage everybody to say what they feel. … This is way more important than any race win, any championship that you’ve ever accomplished. This is something that can change on a global impact.”

Wallace also discussed a conversation he had with Chase Elliott.

“I texted him (Monday) night,” Wallace said. “I said, hey man, you’re the biggest name in our sport right now bud, like it or not. You’re the biggest name and your voice carries over much more than mine in our sport. I said don’t be silent on this please, don’t let it go under wraps.

“He was like, I know it’s tough to comment on and I’ve been trying to come up with something. What’s really going to change? I said Chase I don’t know but think about this. Imagine a follower, two followers that you have in how many you got. One is a person that is going to go hate somebody, go kill somebody today and the other one is somebody that is getting discriminated against.

“Imagine you saying something and both of those people look at that and they’re like, ‘Wow, that changed who I am today. I’m not going to hate on anybody anymore. I’m not going to be discriminated against. I’m going to stand up for what’s right.’

“Imagine your words changing somebody else’s life. Being silent on that they could have just (said) ‘I was waiting for somebody to tell me something.’ We have that platform and that voice to tell people we have got to stop and change our ways. That’s how to think about it.

“Could my words have helped people? Pissed off people for sure. It could have helped that one person that needed it and didn’t know it. Wow Bubba Wallace just said that, he’s my favorite driver. You know what, I’m going to change my life today because of that. That makes me feel good.”

Wallace became emotional on the Dale Jr. Download as he described seeing the video of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man, gunned down in February in Georgia after a white father and son followed him. They and a third man have been charged with murder in connection with Arbery’s death.

“My heart was broken and my stomach was ripped out of my body when I saw that video and even thinking about it I’m getting emotional about it now, thinking about that video and seeing how an unarmed black man … to be jogging down the street and being hunted by two armed civilians and shot and killed in broad daylight with the other guy videoing and it sounded like he was loading his gun and ready to do the same thing.

“So that’s my take on that, and I’m just like what kind of world do we live I where we hunt people and take their life away because we assume something? We assume that this is a black guy that is terrorizing our neighborhood so we’re going to go kill him? What in the hell, man? I don’t see how people can wake up and think like that.”

Wallace later said: “I’m taking an effort to understand where all the hate, where all the anger, the pain, the suffering is coming from. I’m doing my research, I’m learning about things. I feel better about speaking out about it.”

Wallace also told the story of a cousin who was killed in a police shooting in 2003 in Tennessee.

“We were at my sister’s basketball tournament, I can’t remember where,” he said. “I was running around the gym with all the brothers and sisters there and all of a sudden I hear a scream like the worst scream that you want to hear, not like somebody scared you straight, like something bad had just happened. I look over and I see my mom running out the door and we had just found out that my cousin was shot and killed by a police officer.”

A judge later cleared the officer in the shooting. The family filed a civil suit and lost in court on appeal.

Wallace will appear on Lunch Talk Live with host Mike Tirico on Wednesday on NBCSN. The show airs at noon ET.

The Dale Jr. Download with Wallace airs at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN.