eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series

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Photo gallery: Check out the scene from virtual North Wilkesboro

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Even though it was on a virtual platform, Saturday’s final round of the seven-race NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series brought back so many memories of racing at the famed .625-mile oval that last hosted a Cup race in 1996.

Denny Hamlin, who won the Pro Invitational Series opener in March, won what is scheduled to be the final event with the Cup season resuming May 17 at Darlington Raceway.

Here are some photos of Saturday’s iRacing event at virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway:

 

Even in a virtual race, TV coverage is important for fans to keep track of all the on-track action. (Photo by Chris Grayhen/Getty Images).

John Hunter Nemechek, driver of the No. 38 Fire Alarm Services Ford, has a head of steam during Saturday’s race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Nemechek finished 24th in the 29-driver field. (Photo by Chris Grayhen/Getty Images).

 

After flirting several times with the top 10, Jeff Gordon‘s day ended with an 18th-place finish. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota, trades paint with Austin Dillon during Saturday’s race. Hamlin won. Dillon finished fifth. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Denny Hamlin performed the bump-and-run perfectly in Saturday’s race, pushing Ross Chastain up the track, allowing Hamlin to get past and hold the lead for the final nine laps to win. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Even the billboards were brought back at the virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

 

 

 

 

Denny Hamlin bumps Ross Chastain for iRacing win at North Wilkesboro

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Denny Hamlin put the bumper into Ross Chastain with nine laps to go and held on to win Saturday’s final eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race at a virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Hamlin and Chastain had battled for a couple of laps as the North Wilkesboro 160 was closing in on the finish. Chastain tried to come down on and block Hamlin, but the latter got his right front fender into the left rear of Chastain, pushing him out of the way.

It was Hamlin’s second win in the series. He won the series’ first race (Homestead) and final race (North  Wilkesboro).

“I knew we had the fastest car, it was just getting through traffic,” Hamlin told Fox. “We got into an early incident, had to use the (reset) right off the bat, so that wasn’t advantageous for us but we were able to methodically make our way back up to the front.”

Click here for full results.

Chastain avenged Hamlin’s race-winning move by spinning the FedEx Toyota after the checkered flag on a cool-down lap on the .625-mile oval.

“We were two guys going for the same spot,” Hamlin said of the incident. “I got a good run on him off Turn 2 and as soon as he saw I was going low, he pulled down the straightaway to try and block and we both just let off the gas at the same time.”

Timmy Hill finished second, followed by Tyler Reddick, Chastain and Austin Dillon.

Sixth through 10th were Garrett Smithley, Brennan Poole, Parker Kligerman, Kevin Harvick and Landon Cassill.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who helped facilitate the race by leading efforts to clean up the track so that it would be realistic for iRacing engineers to build a platform around, hung around the top 10 for most of the race before finishing 15th.

William Byron, who won three of the first six races in the series, did not participate in this race.

Next up is NASCAR’s return to real-life racing next Sunday at Darlington Raceway. Hamlin can’t wait to continue is momentum.

“There’s nothing that’s going to sidetrack us on race day,” Hamlin said in a post-race teleconference. “I envision that people are going to be pretty timid, at least for the first few laps. … There’s plenty of times where these teams unload, cars are hitting the track and you’re not ready to be in a pack. We do have data from last year so I think everyone is going go be very confident going into turn one.

“All in all, it’s going to be like an old shoe. From a fan’s perspective, I don’t think it will be any different (watching it on TV).”

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Today’s iRacing Cup race at virtual North Wilkesboro: Start time, more

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The seventh and final edition of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series takes place today on a digital North Wilkesboro Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App).

Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won the last four races: William Byron has won three, including last week at a virtual Dover Raceway, as well as Alex Bowman.

Here’s the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

DIGNITARIES: Country music artist and former NASCAR pit crew member Chase Rice will perform the National Anthem. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will give the command to start engines. Cassi Mitchell Smith, wife of Speedway Motorsports President Marcus Smith, will give the invocation.

FORMAT: One hour of practice begins at 2 p.m. Qualifying begins at 2:50 p.m. The top 10 qualifiers will be inverted. The top-three finishers from Dover (Christopher Bell and Timmy Hill) will start from the back and will not make a qualifying attempt. Byron, who won last week’s event is not scheduled to compete.

RACE: The North Wilkesboro 160 is scheduled to begin at 3:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 160 laps (100 miles) around the virtual .625-mile oval.

RULES: Drivers will be allowed one reset to repair damage. Manual 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 3 p.m.

DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE (subject to change):

#3 Austin Dillon
#4 Kevin Harvick
#6 Ross Chastain
#8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
#10 Aric Almirola
#11 Denny Hamlin
#13 Ty Dillon
#14 Clint Bowyer
#17 Chris Buescher
#18 Kyle Busch
#19 Martin Truex Jr.
#20 Erik Jones
#21 Jon Wood
#24 Jeff Gordon
#31 Tyler Reddick
#34 Michael McDowell
#37 Ryan Preece
#38 John Hunter Nemechek
#41 Cole Custer
#49 Chad Finchum
#51 Garrett Smithley
#52 JJ Yeley
#53 Joey Gase
#66 Timmy Hill
#77 Parker Kligerman
#89 Landon Cassill
#95 Christopher Bell
#TBD Bobby Labonte

WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING:

Erik Jones: “I’m looking forward to North Wilkesboro. It’s something completely different for me. I’ve never been there in real life or virtually until earlier this week when I ran some laps and some of the practice races. It should be fun. It’s really a unique track. It’s challenging from the time I’ve spent on it and the laps I’ve made. I know we’re all pretty excited to run there to finish it out. It’s been a good time in the Pro Invitational over the last month and a half that we’ve been running it since Homestead. Hopefully we can close it out with another good show. … We had a good shot at Dover and it would be nice to get up front and win one of these races.”

Austin Dillon: “It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure. I’ve personally never raced at North Wilkesboro, but my family has a lot of experience there. North Wilkesboro was one of my dad’s favorite tracks when he was a driver. He’s won Late Model races there.”

Tyler Reddick: “I’m really looking forward to this Saturday’s race at North Wilkesboro . That’s a track I’ve never been to since it closed long before I started racing in NASCAR, but I’ve always wanted to race there. It’s a track I’ve seen a lot of old races at and heard a lot about from other drivers, so I was excited when I heard iRacing was not only scanning the track to add it to their program, but also that we’ll get to be the first people to race on it this weekend. One of the reasons I love iRacing so much is because it allows me to race at all these legendary short tracks, like North Wilkesboro. I hope one day I’ll get to race there in real life, but this is a great alternative for now.”

Kevin Harvick: “I actually tested my Cup car at North Wilkesboro in 2011 or 2012 – somewhere in that timeframe. We ran our car around there because they had it cleaned up enough and were running some races there. I’ve never actually run a race at North Wilkesboro other than those few laps I ran on that particular day. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., and iRacing, obviously, pushed to get that track scanned, and it looks just like North Wilkesboro. I think it’s a great move, and I look forward to running there in my Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang before we go back to real racing.”

Aric Almirola: “I have actually really enjoyed my short time in iRacing. I think it’s so cool to be able to virtually race somewhere we can’t in real life. We finished 10th at Dover by surviving, and I’m sure that will be the strategy this weekend. I think it will be a bit more of an even playing field now because the track is relatively new to everyone. The coolest thing about racing this weekend is that we surprised my wife, Janice, with a paint scheme that she colored a few weeks ago. We got bored and decided to color some fun paint schemes with the kids. Smithfield was kind enough to approve it and put it on the racecar to dedicate to Janice for Mother’s Day. If I win in this paint scheme, we might have to run it again on a real track.”

Clint Bowyer: “How we used iRacing with our sport has been phenomenal. It gave us an opportunity to reach our fans and gave them some great entertainment. I’ve been entertained. I hope it shows. Jeff (Gordon) and I have been having a blast down there at the (FOX) studio calling these races. It has been a lot of fun, but it’s not much longer until we get back to real racing, and that’s what all of us want. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or paid attention, but the ones who are winning these iRaces are the ones that don’t have a family or a wife to answer to. So no, I don’t have much of a chance for success, but I’m still going to have fun in my Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang.”

Cole Custer: “I’ve never been to North Wilkesboro before, but it’s cool how when you drive to Bristol that you can see the track right off the highway, and you can kind of think about what it used to be back in its heyday. It will be really interesting since there are only a handful of guys who have driven on the track, so there will be a lot of learning for everyone to get it figured out, that’s for sure. I’ll definitely spend a couple more hours to try and get an idea of what to do in my Haas Tooling Ford Mustang since I’ve never been there.”

Denny Hamlin: “It’s certainly going to be interesting. Hats off to Dale Jr. for taking the initiative to get the track cleaned up and scanned by iRacing so that we could do it. Obviously, I’ll need to run plenty of practice laps leading up to Saturday to get a good feel for it. But it’s a short track, which is right in our wheelhouse. … (iRacing has) been great for our sport. We’ve given fans races to watch, plus gotten some new eyes watching our sport who maybe had never watched a race before. We’ve been providing live competition on national TV in a way that other sports couldn’t.”

Michael McDowell: “I’m sure that I am speaking for not only myself, but for the entire NASCAR community when I say that it has been a long two months without racing. I’m thankful for the recent news that we will be returning to the race track soon, and I’m also thankful for all of the hard work that iRacing, NASCAR and FOX Sports have put in to deliver fans, drivers, teams and partners with the closest thing possible to live racing during quarantine.”

John Hunter Nemechek: “It’s going to be really cool to race virtually at North Wilkesboro this weekend. No one has run an iRacing event at this track before, so it might be a little wild and crazy, but definitely worth tuning in. I think it will be the perfect finale to the Pro Invitational Series, and a great sendoff as we get ready to return to the track in Darlington next weekend.”

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Entry lists for NASCAR iRacing events at North Wilkesboro, Martinsville

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With NASCAR scheduled to return on May 17 at Darlington Raceway, the planned conclusion of NASCAR’s iRacing season will take place this week, with events held on a virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

The planned finale of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series will occur at 3 p.m. ET Saturday at North Wilkesboro on Fox and FS1.

Among the initial 28 entries is Jeff Gordon, who won the final Cup Series race there in 1996. Not among the entered drivers is William Byron, who has won three of the six Invitational races so far. Also, Matt DiBenedetto has been replaced in the No. 21 car by Jon Wood, the member of the Wood family who once competed in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

Gordon will be joined in the race by fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte. They are the only two entries in the race who competed in Cup races on the real North Wilkesboro.

Martin Truex Jr. is also entered in his first Invitational race.

According to NASCAR.com, the race will be 160 laps. Drivers will get one reset. There will be manual cautions and a maximum of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish. Christopher Bell and Timmy Hill, who finished second and third at Dover, will start from the rear. The top 10 qualifiers will be inverted to start the event.

Invited Race Entries (Subject to change)
#3 Austin Dillon
#4 Kevin Harvick
#6 Ross Chastain
#8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
#10 Aric Almirola
#11 Denny Hamlin
#13 Ty Dillon
#14 Clint Bowyer
#17 Chris Buescher
#18 Kyle Busch
#19 Martin Truex Jr.
#20 Erik Jones
#21 Jon Wood
#24 Jeff Gordon
#31 Tyler Reddick
#34 Michael McDowell
#37 Ryan Preece
#38 John Hunter Nemechek
#41 Cole Custer
#49 Chad Finchum
#51 Garrett Smithley
#52 JJ Yeley
#53 Joey Gase
#66 Timmy Hill
#77 Parker Kligerman
#89 Landon Cassill
#95 Christopher Bell
#TBD Bobby Labonte

Friday Night Thunder

Like the Pro Invitational Series, this weekend sees the scheduled conclusion of the iRacing series dedicated to non-Cup drivers with a race at a virtual Martinsville Speedway at 8 p.m. ET Friday on eNASCAR.com/live.

The series is open to drivers from the Xfinity, Gander RV & Outdoors Truck, NASCAR Peak Mexico, Pinty’s, Whelen Euro and ARCA series.

The virtual race will be conducted under the lights and will be 125 laps.

The format: Single-car qualifying will set the grid for four, 10-lap heat races to determine 24 spots in the feature. A 15-lap last-chance qualifier race will determine six spots in the feature for a total of 30 cars.

The order of the first 10 cars in the feature will be inverted before the green flag. There will be one reset, manual cautions and three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish.

Entry list is subject to change

Alex Labbe

90

Angela Ruch

OO

Anthony Alfredo

33

Austin Cindric

22

Bayley Currey

74

Brandon Brown

68

Brett Moffitt

23

Chase Briscoe

98

Chase Cabre

4

Christian Eckes

81

CJ McLaughlin

39

Derek Kraus

19

Donny Lia

O7

Drew Dollar

O15

Drew Herring

3

Grant Enfinger

O98

Harrison Burton

20

Jeb Burton

8

Jeffrey Earnhardt

50

Jesse Iwuji

36

Joe Graf Jr.

80

Josh Berry

88

Josh Bilicki

99

Justin Allgaier

7

Kaz Grala

29

Kyle Weatherman

54

Landon Huffman

75

Logan Seavey

67

Matt Mills

5

Myatt Snider

93

Noah Gragson

9

Ruben Garcia

27

Ryan Ellis

78

Ryan Truex

40

Ryan Vargas

51

Scott Stenzel

63

Spencer Boyd

0 2

Stephen Leicht

25

Stewart Friesen

52

Thad Moffitt

46

Todd Gilliland

38

Ty Majeski

45

Ty Gibbs

18

Will Rodgers

55

Stefan Parsons

83

Results for Pro Invitational race at virtual Dover

William Byron
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William Byron led 79 of 150 laps to score the win Sunday in the sixth eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a virtual Dover International Speedway.

Byron passed Timmy Hill for the lead with seven laps to go and held off Christopher Bell for the win.

The top five was Byron, Bell, Hill, Erik Jones and Michael McDowell.

With Byron’s win, a Hendrick Motorsports driver has won the last four Pro Invitational events.

Byron has led the most laps in five of the six races held so far as part of the series.

Click here for the results.