Chris Buescher

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin wins iRacing exhibition race at virtual Homestead

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Denny Hamlin passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series exhibition race on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Earnhardt was second in the 100-lap race. Timmy Hill was third. Chase Briscoe placed fourth. Garrett Smithley was fifth.

Hamlin rallied from 14th in the final 20 laps, taking advantage of the top 13 not pitting under caution on Lap 81.

MORE: What drivers had to say after Sunday’s race 

Hamlin pledged to donate $100 for every lap he led and $5,000 if he won the race. Those donations will be earmarked to assist Miami-area residents.

“It’s always fun when you win,” Hamlin said in a teleconference after the race. “Regardless, it was a great event for the racing community and the NASCAR drivers to come together to put 20-some drivers together on such short notice. I think it definitely was a success.”

Said Earnhardt: We took tires with 30 laps to and Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go and I think that was certainly a big advantage for him. We were racing really hard up front, too, burning our stuff up. I didn’t expect Denny to get up there and he did. Went to the bottom because if I go to the top he can pass me a whole lot easier. Plus, he wanted to, he could take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top five.”

RESULTS

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  3. Timmy Hill
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Garrrett Smithley
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. Bubba Wallace
  8. Ryan Preece
  9. Ty Majeski
  10. Erik Jones
  11. Matt DiBenedetto
  12. Landon Cassill
  13. Parker Kligerman
  14. Ross Chastain
  15. Joey Logano
  16. Clint Bowyer
  17. Ryan Truex
  18. Bobby Labonte
  19. Ty Dillon
  20. Justin Allgaier
  21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  22. Austin Cindric
  23. Michael McDowell
  24. Chase Elliott
  25. Brad Keselowski
  26. Christopher Bell
  27. Austin Dillon
  28. Chris Buescher
  29. Kyle Busch
  30. John Hunter Nemechek
  31. Jimmie Johnson
  32. Anthony Alfredo
  33. Kyle Larson
  34. William Byron
  35. Kurt Busch

 

 

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

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NASCAR is back with racing today. The eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series debuts today with competitors racing at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Among those set to compete in the exhibition iRacing event are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. Other Cup drivers set to compete include Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott. Also expected to compete are Ty Majeski, who was 914 wins in 1,199 iRacing starts (76.2% winning percentage) and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman.

MORE: iRacing gives Cup rookie feel of the real thing and more

Here is the information on today’s virtual race:

(All times are Eastern)

DISTANCE: The Dixie Vodka 150 is 100 laps (150 miles) around the virtual 1.5-mile oval.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the virtual race. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. The race also can be seen on the Fox Sports App.

CHARITY: Dixie Vodka will donate $10,000 to The NASCAR Foundation, which is centralizing charitable donations in the NASCAR industry to support those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. … Denny Hamlin has pledged to donate $100 for every lap he leads and $5,000 if he wins the race. Those donations will be earmarked to assist Miami-area residents. Kevin Harvick tweeted Sunday morning that the Kevin Harvick Foundation would match Hamlin’s pledge to The NASCAR Foundation. iRacing and Fox Sports each will contribute $5,000 on behalf of the winner to The NASCAR Foundation.

RULES: Since it is an exhibition race, drivers will get two full repairs in case they are involved in any incidents.

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

ADVANCING FROM LAST CHANCE HEAT: Ryan Truex, Chase Briscoe, Justin Allgaier, Ty Majeski, Anthony Alfredo, and Austin Cindric.

RESULTS FROM LAST CHANCE HEAT: 1. Ty Majeski; 2. Chase Briscoe; 3. Anthony Alfredo; 4. Ryan Truex; 5. Justin Allgaier; 6. Austin Cindric; 7. Jeffrey Earnhardt; 8. Jesse Iwuji; 9. Justin Haley; 10. Stewart Friesen; 11. Myatt Snider.

STARTING LINEUP: Lineup will be set after 20-lap last chance race for Xfinity and Truck Series drivers.

FS1 to show iRacing Pro Invitational Series race with NASCAR drivers

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Fox Sports will broadcast Sunday’s iRacing Pro Invitational Series, an exhibition event featuring many current and former NASCAR drivers.

The multi-week series begins at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1 with a 100-lap race on a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR has postponed all races through the May 3 Cup race at Dover International Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR would have visited the real Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend.

The exhibition series will feature: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and Christopher Bell.

Other drivers will include Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Timmy Hill, Michael McDowell, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Preece, Garrett Smithley, Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, Landon Cassill and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The full field with Xfinity and Truck Series drivers will be announced on Sunday.

FOX NASCAR broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will call the action in the 90-minute broadcast.

Bowyer will serve as an in-race analyst.

“This is a unique opportunity to offer competitive and entertaining racing to our viewers as we all work through these challenging times together,” Brad Zager, FOX Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head of Production & Operations said in a press release. “We are following CDC guidelines to maintain a safe work environment, as the well-being of all those involved is paramount. We value our relationships across the NASCAR community and appreciate all of the effort that it took in bringing this project to life.”

 

 

Ryan Newman: ‘It’s great to be alive’

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Newman walked through the garage Friday at Phoenix Raceway saying “It’s great to be alive. If you looked at my car, it’s a miracle.”

Friday marked the first time Newman has been at the track since his horrific crash on the last lap of the Feb. 17 Daytona 500. Newman was hospitalized for two days before walking out with his two daughters.

Asked what he thought when he later saw his wrecked car: “Just lucky.”

Newman said in a previous statement that he suffered a head injury but no other injuries in the accident. He said Friday that he had no timetable for his return. Ross Chastain has driven the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing since Daytona.

Newman talked briefly to a few reporters as he walked in the garage to the No. 6 hauler.

Newman said Friday that “I feel fine” and that “I’m just really here to support the 6 team and stay integrated with the team and have some fun, obviously. I want to see Ross do well. I’d rather be in Ross’ seat. Just want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can.

“I got a chance now to watch not just the 6 but the 17 (Chris Buescher) and how they work and the teamwork that goes into that. That is equally as important to me to have the opportunity to see them and watch them perform while I’m not in the racecar. I feel I should take advantage of this crazy opportunity.”

Buescher said that Newman has remained engaged with the team even though he hasn’t been cleared to race.

“Ryan has been very on board and informative with everything going on,” Buescher said. “He has watched races and watched our practices and called into our meetings. He is still helping us. I think him being here will definitely be a positive thing. For one, just for morale and for everyone to see him here and all of that.”

Newman surprised some Ford drivers Thursday night at a Ford event at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium. Corey LaJoie shared a photo of him with Newman and Ryan Blaney at the event.

“That was the first time I have seen Ryan personally,” Blaney said Friday. “I think the first time a lot of us had seen Ryan. That was really cool to see. We sat and talked, the whole Ford group, for an hour, hour-and-a-half once he got there. We talked about a lot of stuff. It was nice to see him.

“He is full Ryan Newman caliber and it is great to see. It was cool to hear some of the process that he went through and some of the doctors that worked on him. They were very extensive with him and he has been passing everything with flying colors which is unheard of and great to hear.”

Joey Logano also was there and said: “You look at that crash and it’s just like, ‘How is he even OK? He’s walking, he’s talking like nothing happened.’ He says his memory’s not foggy. Everything is there. It’s insane.”

Said Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin of having Newman back at the track: “We know that from all the video and pictures we’ve seen, it’s a blessing to be in this position and be talking about when he will get back in the car, especially at this time. I’m really looking forward to it, NASCAR gave us all a good update about where they’re thinking and what they’re looking at moving forward. Really optimistic about where our sport is going on the safety side of things.”

 

 

Decision to pit or not dramatically altered Las Vegas Cup race

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Crew chief Todd Gordon apologized to Ryan Blaney for pitting from the lead before the final restart in Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I should have left you out,” Gordon radioed Blaney after the race. “My gut told me to. I didn’t. My bad.”

Instead of celebrating a victory, Blaney walked away with an 11th-place finish. It was his teammate, Joey Logano, who celebrated after not pitting.

A caution on Lap 262 for Ross Chastain created consternation among crew chiefs on pit road and dramatically altered the finish of the season’s second race.

With a two-lap shootout for the win expected once the caution car collected the field and cars pitted, crew chiefs were left to decide if to pit for tires or stay out and gain track position.

For some, the crew chief’s decision worked brilliantly.

  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who did not pit, finished third for his best result at Las Vegas and JTG Daugherty Racing’s best performance at Las Vegas.
  • Austin Dillon, who did not pit, placed fourth for his best result at Las Vegas.
  • Jimmie Johnson, who pitted for two tires, was fifth, scoring his first top five since the rain-shortened race at Daytona in July.
  • Bubba Wallace, who did not pit, placed sixth, marking his best result on a 1.5-mile track.
  • Ty Dillon, who pitted for four tires, was 10th for his first top-10 on a 1.5-mile track.

Here is how the results changed in the final five laps:

When the caution waved for Chastain’s spin, Blaney led.

This was the running order:

  1. Ryan Blaney
  2. Alex Bowman
  3. Joey Logano
  4. William Byron
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. Matt DiBenedetto
  8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  9. Kyle Larson
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Kyle Busch
  12. John Hunter Nemechek
  13. Tyler Reddick
  14. Denny Hamlin
  15. Austin Dillon
  16. Martin Truex Jr.
  17. Chris Buescher
  18. Erik Jones
  19. Ty Dillon
  20. Bubba Wallace

Blaney and Bowman both relinquished their spots at the front of the field to pit.

Logano stayed out and moved from third to first.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe said he understood why some pitted but felt the decision not to pit was worth it for he and his team.

“The tires were wearing some,” Wolfe said. “Obviously, that’s why we saw a lot of guys pit from the lead. It seemed like the left-side wear was more accelerated than what we we’ve seen in the past. I think that was making guys favor wanting tires, but really, still, the falloff, if you looked at the start of a run to the end, it wasn’t extreme.

“In practice we were out there on older tires … and seemed to re-fire and have decent speed. It was kind of what we talked about. If you can get to the front row and get the clean air, it’s worth the gamble. Obviously we had a lot of cars behind us. I felt pretty good as long as he executed the restart. The guys on [new] tires weren’t going to catch you in two laps. There just wasn’t enough time.”

Byron also stayed out and moved from fourth to second.

Harvick gave up fifth to pit for four tires, Keselowski relinquished sixth to pit for two tires.

DiBenedetto stayed out and moved from seventh to third. Stenhouse also did not pit, going from eighth to fourth for the restart. Larson gave up ninth to pit for four tires. Johnson gave up 10th place to pit for two tires.

As the field lined up to take the green with two laps to go, the lineup was (with the top seven cars not pitting):

  1. Joey Logano
  2. William Byron
  3. Matt DiBenedetto
  4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  5. Tyler Reddick
  6. Austin Dillon
  7. Bubba Wallace
  8. Brad Keselowski (first car to pit; two tires)
  9. Jimmie Johnson (two tires)
  10. Martin Truex Jr. (two tires)
  11. Erik Jones (two tires)
  12. Ryan Blaney (four tires)
  13. Kevin Harvick (four tires)
  14. Alex Bowman (four tires)
  15. Kyle Busch (four tires)
  16. Kyle Larson (four tires)

Having six cars between he and the first car that had stopped for tires helped Logano.

“A lot of cars stayed out and that was key to that move,” Logano said.

A crash after the leaders took the white flag to begin the last lap, ended the race and left many of those who had pitted seeing their hopes for a strong finish end.

Blaney was stuck and couldn’t move up before the crash, finishing outside the top 10 in a race he looked as if he’d win before Chastain’s caution.

“It was just a crappy situation,” Blaney said. “We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it.  I had a good shot of holding the 88 off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them.  It’s easy to look back on it and say we should have stayed out.  That’s a tough call for Todd Gordon in his position, but I’ve got to thank him for giving me a really good car.”

Bowman also placed outside the top 10 after he appeared to be headed for a runner-up finish and maybe a chance to challenge Blaney for the lead.

“Dang it,” Bowman said in a video he posted on social media after the race. “Man, we had such a good car there at the end. Obviously running down (Blaney) pretty quickly, at least looking at a second-place finish, if not battling for a win there.

“Our car was so good and caution came out and we read it just a little bit wrong, so bummer that we didn’t get the finish that we probably deserved, but, at the same time, I’m just so proud of my guys. We had such a good race car today. We made it better all day. Obviously had it rolling there at the end. … Obviously bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win, but it’s part of it.”

While Blaney and Bowman lamented their results, others were more fortunate.

“Luckily, we got the outside (on the final restart),” Austin Dillon said. “Our teammate (Reddick) was doomed on the bottom. The bottom (lane) just seemed to lose spots all day unless you were the leader.”

Said Wallace of the decision not to pit: “It was just a good gamble.”

This is how they finished (and if they pitted before the final restart/positions gained or lost from final restart):

  1. Joey Logano (did not pit/maintained lead)
  2. Matt DiBenedetto (did not pit/gained one spot)
  3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (did not pit/gained one spot)
  4. Austin Dillon (did not pit/gained two spots)
  5. Jimmie Johnson (pitted for two tires/gained four spots)
  6. Bubba Wallace (did not pit/gained one spot)
  7. Brad Keselowski (pitted for two tires/gained one spot)
  8. Kevin Harvick (pitted for four tires/gained five spots)
  9. Kyle Larson (pitted for four tires/gained seven spots)
  10. Ty Dillon (pitted for four tires/gained 10 spots)