Preece, Cassill win at Myrtle Beach to reach Short Track Challenge title race

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Ryan Preece and Landon Cassill won the two final qualifying heat races Wednesday in the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge at a virtual Myrtle Beach Speedway.

The two advance to Thursday night’s 90-lap championship race at a virtual Martinsville Speedway. They join William Byron, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Peacock provisional Denny Hamlin.

Three other drivers were added by NBC Sports NASCAR analyst Steve Letarte to Thursday’s race to make it a 10-car field: Chase Briscoe, Parker Kligerman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Oh, am i in?” Earnhardt asked Letarte when told the news. “That’s easy. I’ll do it for dinner.”

The field was inverted for the second race, with Myatt Snider starting on the pole after finishing last in the first race.

Using a strategy that backfired, Snider almost immediately dropped to the back of the six-car field, opening the way for Cassill to take the lead. That was according to Cassill’s strategy, as he wanted to take the lead early and be leading by the halfway point of the 45-lap race.

“I felt in that first race they oversaved (tires) a little bit,” Cassill said. “I looked at my tire wear after the race and they were actually really reasonable, so I thought I could push a lot harder for the entire race instead of wait. That was my plan and I did it.”

Earnhardt overtook Matt DiBenedetto to move into third with 13 laps to go and had Cassill and Timmy Hill in front. But DiBenedetto regained the third spot with seven laps to go.

The finishing order in the second race was: Cassill, Hill, DiBenedetto, Preece, Earnhardt and Snider.

In the first race, Preece took the lead with 17 laps to go and held off a challenge by Earnhardt, who finished runner-up.

“You don’t want to show your poker hand, you have to play it the way you want,” Preece said. “That was pretty cool. I’m sweating right now.”

The finish of the first race was: Preece, Earnhardt, DiBenedetto, Cassill, Hill and Snider.

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