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

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The eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series is nearing its end. The sixth edition of the virtual series takes place today on a digital Dover International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on Fox – where available- FS1 and the Fox Sports App).

Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won the last three races. William Byron won twice and Alex Bowman won last weekend at Talladega.

Here’s the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

DIGNITARIES: Actor David Hasselhoff will perform the National Anthem, singer Blake Shelton will give the command to start engines and Jason Romano, Sports Spectrum podcast host, speaker and author, will give the invocation.

FORMAT: One hour of practice begins at noon. Qualifying begins at 12:50 p.m. The top 10 qualifiers will be inverted. The top-three finishers from Talladega (Alex Bowman, Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece) will start from the back and will not make a qualifying attempt.

RACE: The Finish Line 150 is scheduled to begin at 1:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 150 laps (150 miles) around the virtual 1-mile oval.

RULES: Drivers will be allowed one reset to repair damage. Cautions will be determined by race officials. There will be a maximum of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

TV: The race can be seen on FOX (where available), FS1 and the Fox Sports App. Coverage begins at 1 p.m.

DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE (subject to change):

#1 Kurt Busch
#2 Brad Keselowski
#3 Austin Dillon
#4 Kevin Harvick
#6 Ross Chastain
#8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
#10 Aric Almirola
#11 Denny Hamlin
#12 Ryan Blaney
#13 Ty Dillon
#15 Brennan Poole
#17 Chris Buescher
#18 Kyle Busch
#19 Bobby Labonte
#20 Erik Jones
#21 Matt DiBenedetto
#22 Joey Logano
#24 William Byron
#31 Tyler Reddick
#32 Corey LaJoie
#34 Michael McDowell
#37 Ryan Preece
#38 John Hunter Nemechek
#41 Cole Custer
#48 Jimmie Johnson
#49 Chad Finchum
#51 Garrett Smithley
#52 JJ Yeley
#53 Joey Gase
#66 Timmy Hill
#77 Parker Kligerman

#78 Regan Smith
#88 Alex Bowman
#89 Landon Cassill
#95 Christopher Bell
#96 Daniel Suarez

WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING:

Kevin Harvick: “Probably the biggest difference in iRacing is the motion. They’ve done a really good job of developing their racetracks with the signs and cracks and bumps and the different things that go with them, but with iRacing, I have it all turned off on my Busch Light Ford Mustang. You can feel it a little bit in the pedals and the steering wheel, but for me, with the more you turn off on iRacing, the better it is.”

Aric Almirola: “Dover is one of my favorite tracks in real life, but after iRacing last weekend at Talladega in my Smithfield Ford Mustang, I know it’s an entirely different feel. We finished 18th last weekend after knocking some rust off. It’s going to be tough to get up to speed with a lot of these guys with the limited amount of practice I’ll have. Being a homeschool teacher and dad during the week doesn’t free up much time, so the young guys have even more of an advantage on us. I’m looking forward to iRacing at a track like Dover where we’re up on the wheel the entire race. It will be fun for me to try a new track style and, as always, fun for the fans watching again.”

Cole Custer: “Things from real life definitely apply to iRacing, but you also have to learn all the other little things that are unique to iRacing. This time has definitely opened my mind to iRacing. I think in the future I’ll want to try and use it a little more for races coming up in my Haas Tooling Ford Mustang, because it can be a good tool to just knock the rust off before going somewhere. I’m looking forward to Dover because I’ve done well there in the past, but I know there’s going to be things to learn.”

Denny Hamlin: “I’ve had my struggles at Dover in my career. It’s definitely not my best track. But we can win anywhere, including Dover. I’ll try to get some extra practice laps in to see if we can give the ‘Monster’ a good battle.”

Kyle Busch: “I’ve practiced quite a bit and have been able to improve with where I’ve been running and my results, so that’s been fun. However, sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day with qualifying. We don’t have very good qualifying efforts but, once we get going into the race, you can kind of methodically, slowly pick your way along and get yourself more up to the front and run with those top guys. It would be nice to figure out qualifying and start up front and see if we have a shot to race inside the top-three all day and race for the win. Dover is probably another track where it would be nice to start closer to the front and have some track position to start instead of having to claw my way back up toward the front.”

Erik Jones: “Dover has been a tough track for me in real life, so hopefully we can get a solid run in iRacing there. I don’t really know what to expect, but we ran good at Richmond and hopefully we can take some of what we learned there and use it to have a decent run at Dover.

Austin Dillon: There’s a lot of aero stuff that comes into play at Dover because you’re going so fast. You see different lines come into play as the rubber builds up. It’s always fun on a long run when you can run way up by the fence and find speed. Of course, there’s a bit of an unknown heading into a virtual race. I’m looking forward to it.”

Tyler Reddick: “I’ve had some good runs at Dover International Speedway in the past, including a win in the NASCAR Truck Series, but I’m curious to see how virtual Dover plays out over iRacing. So much of being successful at Dover focuses on getting a good balance in your race car in order to handle the loads it takes in the corners there. I’m not sure how much of that will translate virtually, but I’m up for the challenge.”

NASCAR Penalty report from Michigan

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The NASCAR penalty report from Michigan International Speedway has been released.

It includes two fines for unsecured lug nuts. Chad Knaus, crew chief for William Byron‘s No. 24 Chevrolet, and Chris Gabehart, crew chief on Denny Hamlin‘s No. 11 Toyota, have each been fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut during the course of the weekend.

The report also includes the penalties issued Saturday to Roush Fenway Racing for the improper spoilers used on both Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher‘s cars.

Brendan Gaughan set for Daytona road course after COVID-19 recovery

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On July 15, part-time Cup Series driver Brendan Gaughan became the second NASCAR driver to announce he’d tested positive for COVID-19.

After quarantining for two weeks and testing negative for COVID-19 twice more than 24 hours apart, Gaughan has been medically cleared to go racing again.

And he won’t even have to wait until the Cup Series regular-season finale on Aug. 29 to do it.

Originally scheduled to only compete in the season’s four superspeedway races with Beard Motorsports, Gaughan will suit up to drive the No. 62 Chevrolet in Sunday’s race on the Daytona road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

He joins Jimmie Johnson in having tested positive for COVID-19 and returned to race. While Gaughan last competed in the June 22 race at Talladega, Johnson only missed the Brickyard 400 before returning to the track.

“I feel fantastic,” Gaughan said in a press release. “I’m finally out of the house. The toughest part of the whole ordeal was the mental aspect. I truly feel for people who struggle with depression and have to deal with COVID-19, because this thing is tough. You literally get stuck in a location by yourself. Fortunately for me, I had my puppy. I missed my two children tremendously. But it’s amazing now because we live in the age of the Jetsons that we can pick up a phone and look at their faces.”

To get clearance to race, Gaughan tested twice for COVID-19 in more than 24 hours and also had to get a doctor’s note saying he was good to go.

“That was it,” Gaughan said. “As long as I’m negative, they are good with it. They still have their protocols in place, so when we get to the track we are all still separated. The drivers don’t get to mingle with the teams right now. NASCAR has done a phenomenal job with it and they have been able to stay open for business while having very, very minor effects from this.”

While he was originally just going to race at Talladega and the Daytona oval, Gaughan says this weekend’s road course race “technically counts.”

“We said all of the Daytona races,” Gaughan said. “What happened is that as soon as it got added to the schedule immediately my mind went, ‘Wow, I would love to race the Daytona road course.’ There’s very few of us Cup drivers that have experience on that race course. And with no practice and no qualifying, that gives about 10 of us a very large advantage over the field.”

Brendan Gaughan
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Gaughan competed on the road course and earned a class victory in the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona, with his team beating second place by a full lap. He’s ran in the Rolex 24 twice since, finishing third in 2016 in the Prototype Challenge class and 14th in 2018 in the Prototype division.

“I was immediately enticed by it,” Gaughan said of the road course race. “Then you know how much I always speak so highly of Richard Childress Racing. Richard called and said, ‘Hey, come on man, you know you want to do it,’ and I kind of chuckled because everyone knows I love my road racing. I talked to the Beard family and said, ‘Hey, you want to add a race to the schedule?’ It wasn’t in the budget. It wasn’t planned originally, but the Beards were on board.

“They are in the same boat as me. This is a retirement year like me and they are having the same fun I am. They went, ‘Ooohh, we can do well there.’ So we called Richard up and he built me a brand new Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro from RCR that we were able to rent for Beard Motorsports to go race.”

Gaughan, who will start last in the race due his lack of owner points, dissected how different it will be navigating the road course in Cup compared to the sports car he drove the last time he raced on it.

“I need to remember that the last time I raced there in an LMP car, I could lift at the ‘1’ sign going into the chicane on the back straightaway,” Gaughan said. “Now if I lift at the ‘1’ in a Cup car, I will end up at the airport. So I need to remember that I’m going to need a little more braking zone room. But you basically already know the line and you know where you want to be. You know the feel of the place.

“You know where some passing zones are. You kind of know how to run that race, which is the big advantage that comes with it. Having a car built from Richard Childress means that I don’t have to worry that it’s going to have parts and pieces that aren’t any good. And I still have Darren Shaw, my crew chief, who I’ve been working with at Beard Motorsports. We’ve still got our guys working it and our guys doing it, so I kind of have the best of all worlds here. And there is an advantage for people that have been there. I also gave myself a little bit of an insurance policy. I offered to sponsor Andy Lally in the Xfinity race. To me, Andy Lally is the premier sports-car racer in America.

“I don’t think anybody can argue that there is anybody better than Andy Lally. So, I offered to sponsor Andy because he’s racing Saturday. I told him he has to stay over Sunday and do some driver coaching and give me his notes. Not only do I have experience on the track, I will have notes from a stock car on the track from the day before.”

Christopher Bell: ‘Pretty scared’ about future before re-joining JGR

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Early last week, Christopher Bell was “pretty scared” about his NASCAR future after Leavine Family Racing, the Toyota-backed team the rookie driver competes for in the Cup Series, announced it would sell its assets to Spire Motorsports.

That left Bell’s relationship with Toyota, the manufacturer that’s been the “centerpiece” of his racing career since 2013 and 2015 in NASCAR, up in the air.

“I’ve said it time and time again, but Toyota has been my – they’re the ones that got me here,” Bell said Tuesday in a press conference. “They’re the ones that took me from dirt track racing to pavement racing to Truck (Series) racing to Xfinity racing and then obviously made this deal happen with LFR too. At the time, it’s either the 20 car (at Joe Gibbs Racing) or I’m done with Toyota. There’s no other options. It was very scary. I didn’t want that to end.”

Bell acknowledged that despite his 2017 Truck Series title, his seven Truck wins and 16 Xfinity wins, a lack of sponsorship backing didn’t make him the most valuable hire for another team.

“The sponsorship piece is a huge part of it,” Bell said. “It’s no secret, you have to have sponsors in order to succeed in this sport and I’ve been really fortunate to have Rheem with me for the last couple of years. If I get pushed out of the Toyota group, I don’t really have much to say, ‘hire me.’”

Bell said, “I knew that once LFR shut down, there was only one place for me to go and the 20 car has obviously got a great driver in there right now.”

That driver was Erik Jones, who has been with Joe Gibbs Racing in Cup full-time since 2018 and been a Toyota driver in NASCAR since 2013 in the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“‘How is that going to work?'” Bell asked himself. “‘How am I going to be able to go to JGR whenever they’re full?’ Unfortunately my homecoming so to speak was at the expense of another driver.”

Two days after LFR’s announcement, Joe Gibbs Racing revealed Jones would not return to the team in 2021, a move that “blindsided” Jones.

On Monday, JGR announced Bell’s ascent up the ranks would finally land him in the No. 20 next season.

“It was very, I mean, uncomfortable is a good way to put it,” Bell said. “I don’t think any of us – myself, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota – none of us expected the whole LFR deal to go down like it did, so I think that put everybody in a little bit of a box. … I’m extremely grateful that I get to continue that relationship and that I get to continue to drive Camrys on Sundays and race with TRD for hopefully a long time to come.”

How does Bell see his relationship with Jones playing out over the final 14 races of the season?

“As far as me versus him, that situation is already done, so I don’t know how he’s going to race me going forward,” Bell said. “I’m going to be cheering for Erik, just as everybody is at Joe Gibbs Racing, just hoping that he gets a nice solid deal and lands on his feet. I’ll be cheering for him and trying to race him with as much respect as I can, just like every other competitor. I hope he performs well, and obviously, the better he performs now in the 20 car, the better off I’ll be at the start of the year with the owner points standings. It’s really important that he does well this year in the 20 car for my future next year as well.”

Bell observed that it’s “absolutely crazy” to look back at his career path, which began in UASC Midgets and has led to him driving a “house” Toyota Cup car at JGR next year.

Going into 2021, Bell said he still has a “great relationship” with the people at JGR from his time there in the Xfinity Series.

“Whenever I was on the Xfinity side, I still got to mingle and interact with the Cup shop a little bit, so I have a rough idea how everything operates there,” Bell said. “I got in a little bit deeper with the LFR deal, and having that technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, but it’s going to be very nice to be able to go back home.”

Spire Motorsports confirms purchase of Leavine Family Racing

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Spire Motorsports confirmed Tuesday that it will acquire the assets from Leavine Family Racing upon the completion of the 2020 season. Spire Motorsports also will expand to a two-car team in the Cup Series in 2021.

The purchase will include LFR’s charter, the team’s race shop near Charlotte Motor Speedway and all of its owned inventory. LFR’s fleet of cars and chassis will be returned to Joe Gibbs Racing.

Spire, which began competing in 2019 after it purchased Furniture Row Motorsports’ charter, fields the No. 77 Chevrolet. It has made 58 starts for more than a dozen drivers since last year, including an upset win in the July 2019 race at Daytona with Justin Haley behind the wheel.

The team is co-owned by Jeff Dickerson and Thaddeus “T.J.” Puchyr.

“This is an exciting moment for Spire as we take the natural next step in our long-term plan to build our race team and prepare for the Next Gen car in 2022,” said Dickerson in a press release. “Bob Leavine invested more than money into LFR and this industry. He built a team brick-by-brick and we have long admired how he took his own steps in the garage. He also did it with his family at his side. We won’t let that be lost in this transaction. When you build something with your family, it always means a little bit more. His ability to connect with fans was genuine and we are thankful he chose us to carry this team forward.

“These are no doubt trying times, but I have never been prouder to be part of this sport. NASCAR has managed several difficult situations this spring and into the summer. We believe in the ownership model that NASCAR has built and where this sport is going now more than ever.”

The team said details about drivers and manufacturers for 2021 will come later.