North Wilkesboro Speedway

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

What Drivers Said after virtual North Wilkesboro

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Denny Hamlin – winner: “I knew we had the fastest car, it was just getting through traffic. 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.

“Winning the first race and the last iRacing event is significant. It’s good for my team and my sponsors. It’s all equal, it’s about who can hone their craft in iRacing. You have to use the same techniques in iRacing like in real life. It’s not like playing Madden or NBA2000. I feel pretty good where I’m at as a driver. Certainly there’ll be some confidence that will spill over for a few weeks.”

Hamlin also addressed getting ready for NASCAR to resume real-life racing next Sunday at Darlington Raceway:

“There’s nothing that’s going to sidetrack us on race day. 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).

“It’s going to be a challenge for us drivers with that hot race track. It’s a lot different during the day vs. the night. I like the challenge … any time there’s a change. I think that’s the mindset for 36 other drivers.

Timmy Hill — finished 2nd:

Tyler Reddick — finished 3rd:

Ross Chastain — finished 4th:

Austin Dillon — finished fifth:

Garrett Smithley — finished 6th:

Parker Kligerman – finished 8th:

Kevin Harvick — finished 9th:

Landon Cassill — finished 10th:

JJ Yeley — finished 11th:

Clint Bowyer — finished 12th: “I’m scared to go race these guys next week. I think I need to write some apologies. We came a long way and dodged a lot of bullets today, and we were looking good in our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang until there at the end. This track races so cool – it would be great to go back there. North Wilkesboro is a very, very racy little joint. It has a lot of forward-bite action and you’re just trying to keep the car underneath you. A ton of fun.”

Jon Wood — finished 13th:

Christopher Bell — finished 14th:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — finished 15th:

Cole Custer — finished 16th: “It was an interesting day for sure. I started out on the pole after qualifying 10th and the field was inverted. Led some laps in the HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang, so that was pretty cool. Then I got loose and turned myself around, and from there I was caught up in some other wrecks and ended up 16th. It was neat to race at North Wilkesboro, but I’m ready to climb back in the car at Darlington next week. I want to thank everyone at iRacing, Stewart-Haas Racing, HaasTooling.com and FOX for all of their effort to put these iRaces together these last few weeks.”

Jeff Gordon — finished 18th:

Martin Truex Jr. — finished 2Oth:

Erik Jones — finished 22nd:

John Hunter Nemechek — finished 24th:

Corey LaJoie — finished 25th:

Aric Almirola — finished 26th:

Ryan Preece — finished 27th:

Michael McDowell — finished 28th:

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Results for Pro Invitational iRacing Series finale at North Wilkesboro

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Denny Hamlin hovered around the top 10 for most of the race and then made his move with nine laps to go, bumping race leader Ross Chastain out of the way to take the NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race at a virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The top five was Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Tyler Reddick, Chastain and Austin Dillon.

It was the second win for Hamlin in the seven-race series, having won the opening event nearly two months ago at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

William Byron earned the most wins with three victories in just six starts (he did not compete in Saturday’s finale).

Click here for results

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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