Daniel McFadin

NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

Roush, Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

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After four years, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle are getting the band back together … digitally.

Roush Fenway Racing announced its former driver will compete in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a digital Texas Motor Speedway.

Like he did in the Cup Series from 2003-2016, Biffle will pilot a No. 16 Ford in the race (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the No. 16,” Biffle said in a press release. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.

“We are running a really cool Castrol scheme on the car. I think it’s going to show up really well. My plan is to log a ton of practice time leading up to the race, so hopefully we can have a strong showing and you’ll see a lot of the Castrol green and red on the broadcast.”

This will be Biffle’s iRacing event debut.

After parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the 2016 season, Biffle returned to NASCAR last year for a one-off Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which he won.

eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series reminds Clint Bowyer of being a rookie

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At the age of 40, Clint Bowyer feels like kid again.

Or something close to it.

That’s the power of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series, which launched last weekend and continues Sunday on a digital Texas Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“It reminds me of a rookie coming into the Cup Series,” Bowyer said Thursday on a media teleconference. “You’re up against guys who have been doing (iRacing) for years, decades, and you’re expected to jump right into the deep end and compete with them and run door-to-door with them and beat them. The pressure is on for all of us to gain that almighty seat time as much as we can.”

Last Sunday’s race on a digital Homestead-Miami Speedway featured a handful of full-time Cup drivers who had little to no experience on iRacing or experience with iRacing’s version of a Cup car. They went up against drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Timmy Hill who have years of experience on the platform.

There’ll be more newbies this weekend, including Ryan Blaney.

All of this is happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down the physical sporting world.

MORE: NASCAR employee tests positive for COVID-19.

“Man, the timing couldn’t have been any more right for a perfect storm situation,” Bowyer said. “Here we all are, just longing for some sports action, some competitive action that we can broadcast and show a fan and, boom, here it is in our lap.  It was a great race last week at Homestead. I mean, you want to talk about a perfect storm, Dale Jr. taking the lead and Denny Hamlin passing him literally in the last corner of the race was just incredibly awesome.”

Bowyer praised iRacing for being “extremely realistic” compared to the real racing production that will be absent until at least May.

“The difference between all of this is with iRacing you’re using the same mechanics, the same forces, the same movements as you use in real life to make your car go fast and that is your hand-eye coordination, your feet,” Bowyer said. “You drive these things so much with the pedals, with the gas, the brake, the steering input. All of those inputs in your mind are the exact same thing and the same tools we use to put your car to the front of the field on any given Sunday.”

But …

“That being said, the only sense that you don’t have in a simulator is the feel from the seat of your pants,” Bowyer observed.  “We kind of call it the ‘butt dyno.’ You balance a race car kind of like if you put a plate on the end of an ink pen. That’s how you balance a race car. That thing wants to go on all four different axis’, whether it’s the right-front, left-front, right-rear, left-rear, you can feel all those things and that’s how you balance a car is through the seat of your pants. In iRacing, you don’t have that.

“All you have is your visuals, so once you have the hang of that and your mind finally catches on it’s kind of like riding a bike. It’s a struggle for a little while, but once you catch on to that and realize what’s going on with the movements of your car and the movements of the track and things like that – when to pick up the gas, your timing – once you get all that set it’s exactly like what we do in real life.”

After a messy start to the series’ premiere last Sunday, Bowyer expects to competition level to be up “across the board” this weekend with his fellow competitors getting more “seat time” to practice in their respective iRacing rigs.

“I think the best thing you can possibly do for any given sport is to do it,” Bowyer said. “There’s nothing that replaces seat time when you’re racing cars against your peers and the competition that we see at the Cup level. It was the same way when I raced dirt modifieds in the Midwest. The more you did it, the better you were. Trust me, these iRacing guys it’s no different.”

 

March 27 in NASCAR history: Cale Yarborough’s show car wins at Atlanta

Cale Yarborough
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Four races into the 1983 NASCAR Cup Series season and Cale Yarborough was batting .500.

In those four races – the Daytona 500, Richmond, Rockingham and Atlanta – the three-time champion had won twice.

And he’d earned both those wins in backup cars.

He’d won the Daytona 500 on a last-laps pass in a quickly prepared LeMans after he’d flipped his primary car the week before in qualifying.

Two races later, at Rockingham, Yarborough was involved in a wreck with Neil Bonnett after leading 161 laps. That car was the same one his team had intended to take to the March 27 race at Atlanta.

Instead, the car Yarborough showed up with in Atlanta and beat Bonnett for the victory was another backup car. And not just any backup car.

“We had to pull a show car out of a mall to race,” Yarborough said after the race according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”

Yarborough won four times in 1983. The Atlanta win and his ensuing win at Michigan came after he started 41st and 37th.

Also on this date:

1960: Lee Petty bumped his way by Junior Johnson with 14 laps to go and won a race at North Wilkesboro to claim his 49th career Cup win, passing Herb Thomas for the most all-time. Fans were not pleased with how Johnson, a native of North Wilkesboro, lost. According to “NASCAR: The Complete History,” they showered Petty with rocks and debris as he celebrated in victory lane.

1977: Cale Yarborough celebrated his 38th birthday with a dominating win at North Wilkesboro. He led 320 of 400 laps and beat Richard Petty and Benny Parsons.

1988: Darlington Raceway hasn’t been the site of too many upset Cup Series wins, but it was 1988. Lake Speed, then 40, dominated to win the TranSouth 500 by 18.8 seconds over Alan Kulwicki. Speed, who made 402 Cup starts between 1980-98, led 178 of 367 laps. Speed, Kulwicki and third-place finisher Davey Allison were the only drivers on the lead lap.

2004: Martin Truex Jr. led 134 of 250 laps at Bristol and won his first career Xfinity Series race and his first national NASCAR series race. Truex, the 2004 and 2005 Xfinity champion, would have to wait 15 more years to capture his first short-track win in the Cup Series, in 2019 at Richmond.

2011: Kevin Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson on the last lap to win the Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

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On Thursday, the office of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper debuted a public service announcement with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson instructing state residents on how to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1 minute and 16 second video shows Gordon and Johnson advising on proper hand washing and face touching habits, as well as for people to stay home.

“You can feel healthy but still carry this disease to more vulnerable people,” Johnson says in the video.

The video also provides a web site from the state government that provides facts on the situation: ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus.

The message comes a day after Cabarrus County in North Carolina became the second county that is home to NASCAR teams to issue an order for residents to stay at home because of COVID-19. The order, which restricts non-essential travel and bans gatherings of more than 10 people, starts at 5 p.m. ET Thursday and goes through April 16.

The number of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina was 636 as of Thursday morning, an increase of 132 cases in 24 hours. The state also recorded its first two deaths from the virus on Wednesday.