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What Cup drivers said after iRacing event at virtual Dover

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William Byron — Winner:

Christopher Bell — Finished 2nd: 

Timmy Hill – Finished 3rd:

Erik Jones — finished 4th:

Michael McDowell – Finished 5th:

Denny Hamlin — Finished 6th:

Ryan Blaney — Finished 7th:

Alex Bowman — Finished 8th:

Garrett Smithley – Finished 9th:

Cole Custer – Finished 12th:

Kyle Busch — Finished 15th: 

Kurt Busch — Finished 16th:

Ross Chastain — Finished 17th:

Kevin Harvick – Finished 18th:

Corey LaJoie — Finished 20th:

Joey Gase — Finished 24th:

Tyler Reddick — Finished 25th:

Ryan Preece — Finished 29th:

Regan Smith – Finished 31st:

Parker Kligerman — Finished 34th:

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 36th:

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.”

Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain named Most Popular Driver in Xfinity, Trucks

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While the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Cup Series won’t be announced until Thursday, NASCAR on Wednesday revealed winners of the most popular drivers voting in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series.

In voting by NASCAR fans, Justin Allgaier earned Most Popular Driver honors in the Xfinity Series for the first time in his career.

Meanwhile, Ross Chastain was named Most Popular Driver in the Truck Series, also for the first time in his career, earning the honor on his 27th birthday.

Driver of the popular No. 7 Chevrolet, the 33-year-old Allgaier extends JR Motorsports’ domination of the Most Popular Driver award in the Xfinity Series to a record eight consecutive years. Elliott Sadler was the top vote-getter from 2016 through 2018, preceded by Chase Elliott (2014-15), Regan Smith (2013) and Danica Patrick (2012).

Allgaier reached the Championship 4 round for the third time in the last four years, including winning at Phoenix – the 11th win of his Xfinity career – to assure his spot in the championship race at Miami. Allgaier finished fourth this past season in the Xfinity standings behind Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

And then there was Chastain, who has the popular nickname of the “Melon Man” due to being part of his family’s watermelon farm business in his native Florida.

Chastain entered the 2019 season not even planning to run a full season in the Truck Series. But when it became apparent that he would have the best chance at a championship in a Truck, Chastain and Niece Motorsports announced in June he would switch and declare to earn championship points – and a bid for the Most Popular Driver – in the Truck Series.

Chastain ultimately finished second to series champion Matt Crafton.

Chastain wound up competing in a total of 77 overall NASCAR races in the 2019 season: 23 in the Truck Series, 19 Xfinity races and 35 Cup events. He won three races in the Truck Series and a fourth checkered flag in the Xfinity Series.

 

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Daniel Hemric, Jeb Burton to drive JR Motorsports’ No. 8 car in 2020

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JR Motorsports’ revealed Wednesday that Jeb Burton and Daniel Hemric will drive its No. 8 Chevrolet for the majority of the 2020 Xfinity Series season, in addition to one race with Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel.

Hemric, who drove Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 car in the Cup Series this season, is scheduled for 21 races.

RCR is replacing Hemric with Tyler Reddick in 2020.

Hemric returns to the Xfinity Series, where he competed for RCR from 2017-18. He made the Championship 4 in both seasons.

“I want to thank Dale, Kelley and everyone at JR Motorsports for believing in me,” Hemric said in a press release. “For a Kannapolis (N.C.) boy like me, driving for the Earnhardt family is pretty awesome.

“My goal here is simple — to go win races for JR Motorsports and to help their program any way that I can. I’ve raced against their cars before and I know how they’re capable of running. My focus is on finishing the Cup season out strong, but once the checkered flag flies at Homestead, we’ll set our sights on getting the No. 8 car to Victory Lane early and often next season.”

Said Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “Daniel is a solid competitor with a great personality. He’ll be a quality addition to our lineup in 2020. We’re lucky to have him. I feel like he has grown as a driver from his time in the Cup Series. That will be valuable to him with this new opportunity to compete in the Xfinity series. He’s a local Kannapolis native with a lot of determination to succeed, and I’m excited to work with him.”

Burton, who has driven in six races for JRM this season, is set for 11 next year.

Other drivers who have piloted the No. 8 for JRM this season included Zane Smith (10 starts), Ryan Truex (six starts), Ryan Preece (four starts), Regan Smith (two starts), Brett Moffitt (one start), Chase Elliott (one start), Sheldon Creed (one start) and Earnhardt (one start).

 

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”