Photo: iRacing/NASCAR

Alex Labbe wins eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier

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Alex Labbe, who competes in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, won the eNASCAR Pro Invitational qualifier from a virtual Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday morning.

Labbe won by passing Anthony Alfredo for the lead on the last lap. Alfredo finished second. Ty Majeski, who started on the pole, finished third. Ruben Garcia Jr. finished fourth.

The top four advanced to today’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway (1 p.m ET on FOX, FS1 and Fox Sports App) That race features a 35-car field.

This is the second weekend in a row that Majeski and Alfredo each qualified for the main event through a qualifying race.

With no cautions, qualifying was critical for those who advanced. All four who advanced started in the top six. Labbe started second, Alfredo started fifth and Garcia started sixth.

RACE RESULTS

  1. Alex Labbe
  2. Anthony Alfredo
  3. Ty Majeski
  4. Ruben Garcia Jr.
  5. Jeb Burton
  6. Derek Kraus
  7. Brennan Poole
  8. Kaz Grala
  9. Stewart Friesen
  10. Joe Graf Jr.
  11. Todd Gilliland
  12. Jesse Iwuji
  13. Brandon Brown
  14. Spencer Boyd
  15. Chase Briscoe
  16. JJ Yeley
  17. Chandler Smith
  18. Justin Haley
  19. Myatt Snider
  20. Tyler Ankrum
  21. Justin Allgaier
  22. Trevor Bayne
  23. Austin Cindric
  24. Joey Gase
  25. Sam Mayer
  26. Ryan Truex
  27. Harrison Burton
  28. Ryan Ellis
  29. Scott Stenzel
  30. Christian Eckes
  31. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  32. Kyle Weatherman

eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier to be streamed online

Photo: NASCAR
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The qualifying race for Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway will be streamed on enascar.com/live, NASCAR announced.

The qualifier features Xfinity, Truck and regional series drivers looking to advance to the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race that will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App. At this time, four drivers from the qualifier will advance. That number could change depending on any late additions or drops to the race featuring Cup drivers.

MORE: Roush, Greg Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

MORE: North Wilkesboro to make its comeback on iRacing 

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

The qualifier is scheduled to take place at 11:02 a.m. ET and have 34 drivers battling for those four transfer spots.

The qualifier will be 30 laps at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The race will have no cautions.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 10:55 a.m., lasting five minutes, followed by the race.

Last week, six drivers advanced from the qualifier to the main event. They were: Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ryan Truex.

Drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s qualifier at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway are (with car number):

02 – Spencer Boyd

7 – Justin Allgaier

08 – Jeb Burton

15 – Brennan Poole

16 – Justin Haley

22 – Austin Cindric

23 – Sam Mayer

26 – Tyler Ankrum

27 – Ruben Garcia

29  – Kaz Grala

29a – Trevor Bayne

33 – Anthony Alfredo

35 – Todd Gilliland

36 – Jesse Iwuji

40 – Ryan Truex

45 – Ty Majeski

46 – Chandler Smith

50 – Jeffrey Earnhardt

52 – Stewart Friesen

53 – Joey Gase

54 – Kyle Weatherman

63 – Scott Stenzel

68 – Brandon Brown

74 – Sheldon Creed

78 – Ryan Ellis

80 – Joe Graf Jr.

81 – Christian Eckes

90 – Alex Labbe

93 – Myatt Snider

98 – Chase Briscoe

99 – Harrison Burton

TBD – Derek Kraus

TBD – Drew Dollar

TBD – JJ Yeley

iRacing gives fans a Sunday afternoon with racing

Photo: iRacing/Twitch
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On a day that NASCAR was to have raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway, before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed that event and halted nearly every sport, there was a race at a virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced Friday that it was postponing its races this weekend at Atlanta and next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So with no real racing, some competitors went to sim racing.

iRacing set up a 100-lap race Sunday afternoon to give fans at least some form of racing to watch online.

MORE: Coronavirus updates from NBC News

“It all kind of came together Friday when we were home,” said T.J. Majors, spotter for Joey Logano, on the Twitch broadcast of the iRacing event, The Replacements 100. “Bryan Cook had the same idea as I did, Boris at JGR, and then Kevin Hamlin put a lot of work into this as well. … We started adding drivers to the list. A lot of fun. It’s unfortunate circumstances that we’re all home today, but we’re just trying to make the most of it and give people something to do and watch and have some fun.”

Josh Williams, spotter for Ryan Blaney, dominated, winning the event. William Byron was second.

Here is the finishing order:

  1. Josh Williams
  2. William Byron
  3. Steven Steffen
  4. TJ Majors
  5. Parker Kligerman
  6. Tyler Overstreet
  7. Garrett Smithley
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9. Bubba Wallace
  10. Coleman Pressley
  11. Chase Briscoe
  12. Bryan Boris Cook
  13. Justin Haley
  14. John Theodore
  15. Kevin Iannarelli
  16. KC Heschel
  17. Kyle Long
  18. Anthony Pelican
  19. Tyler Truex
  20. Gary Sexton
  21. Anthony Alfredo
  22. Tim Dugger
  23. John Guidone
  24. Harrison Burton
  25. Myatt Snider
  26. Chad Knaus
  27. Ben Rhodes
  28. Matt Noyce
  29. Justin Allgaier
  30. Alex Bowman
  31. Taylor Gray
  32. Jonathan Davis
  33. Kevin Hamlin
  34. Tyler Ankrum
  35. Noah Gragson

As NASCAR entered its first weekend without racing on the track, Bristol Motor Speedway issued a statement Sunday afternoon. Part of the statement read:

“As these uncertain times unfold, we remain in constant contact with health officials, NASCAR and key stakeholders to continue to monitor this pandemic closely. … We must move forward preparing for our events, even if there’s a chance it might not happen, but know that we’re doing our part to enhance our cleaning efforts, locating additional handwashing for our fan zone areas and providing hand sanitizer around the property.”

Bristol is scheduled to host Cup, Xfinity and ARCA East on April 3-5.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued what it called a guidance Sunday that stated:

“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

Practice holds for Cup, Xfinity teams at Las Vegas

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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UPDATED with inspection issues in Cup Friday …

Six Cup and 12 Xfinity teams will miss practice Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for inspection issues last week at Daytona.

NASCAR announced Friday that the Cup teams of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones and Christopher Bell will each have 15-minute holds in practice because those teams used bondo to change the manufacturer’s shape of the fender.

Earlier, t he Cup, the teams of Hamlin and Brennan Poole each will miss 15 minutes of opening practice for failing inspection twice at Daytona.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes four Truck teams for inspection issues at Las Vegas

In Xfinity, the teams of Daytona winner Noah Gragson, Matt Mills, David Starr, Robby Lyons II, Joe Nemechek, Vinnie Miller, Josh Williams, Mason Massey and the No. 74 car of Mike Harmon Racing each will miss 15 minutes of practice for being late to inspection at Daytona.

The Xfinity cars of Justin Haley and Joey Gase each will miss 15 minutes of practice for failing inspection twice.

The Xfinity car of Stephen Leicht will miss 30 minutes of practice for being late and failing inspection twice.

Xfinity practice is from 2:35 – 3:55 p.m. ET Friday. Opening Cup practice is from 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. ET Friday.

Denny Hamlin wins the Daytona 500 for second consecutive year

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Denny Hamlin won his second consecutive Daytona 500, which ended in a last-lap wreck that left Ryan Newman in serious condition at a Daytona Beach, Florida, hospital.

Hamlin, Newman and Ryan Blaney were battling for the victory off the final turn at Daytona International Speedway when Newman’s No. 6 Ford took a hard right into the outside wall after a push from Blaney’s No. 12 Ford.

Blaney finished just a few feet behind Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota as Newman turned hard into the outside wall in a crash off the last corner on a push from Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, which had ducked down the track after wiggling on a push by Hamlin.

Newman’s No. 6 Ford flipped upside down and was hit hard in the driver’s side door by Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Ford. Newman’s Musang slid a few hundred feet on its roof, coming to a stop at the exit of the pits as fuel appeared to be spilling from its rear end.

It took safety workers more than 10 minutes after the checkered flag to extricate Newman from his damaged Mustang.

Newman was transported to nearby Halifax Medical Center and was in serious condition with injuries that weren’t life threatening, according to Roush Fenway Racing.

“No. 1 we’re praying for Ryan (Newman),” Hamlin said in a subdued victory lane celebration. “I worked really well with Ryan throughout the whole race. Obviously, he got turned right there.”

Hamlin outdueled the two Ford drivers in the second overtime restart Monday after Blaney and Newman briefly had teamed up to pass him on the backstretch of the final lap.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won by 0.014 seconds, the second-closest finish in Daytona 500 history. He also won the closest finish in the 2016 Daytona 500 when he outdueled Martin Truex Jr.

Hamlin became the fourth back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500, joining Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).

With his 38th career victory, Hamlin joined Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon as three-time Daytona 500 winners.

Multiple crashes in final laps

Several contenders were eliminated in a 19-car crash with 16 laps remaining. The chain-reaction wreck began when Joey Logano bumped Aric Almirola, who lost control and hit leader Brad Keselowski.

It was the second wreck of Speedweeks involving the Team Penske Fords, but unlike in the Busch Clash wreck, Keselowski put the blame on himself instead of Logano this time.

“I should have covered myself better and didn’t,” Keselowski, who remains winless in 11 attempts at the Daytona 500, told Fox. “It’s my fault. I kind of put myself in position for that.”

The wreck also eliminated Jimmie Johnson, who might have made his last start in the Daytona 500, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto.

Logano scooted through the mess unscathed, and the race was stopped for just over 12 minutes for cleanup.

Defending Cup champion Kyle Busch was leading with 25 laps remaining but suffered a mechanical problem with 20 to go and remains winless in 15 tries at the Great American Race.

Pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the first 23 laps and was in contention for his first Daytona 500 victory before being penalized by NASCAR for dipping below the yellow line while advancing position with 40 laps remaining. The pole-sitter seemed to have been trying to avoid causing a major wreck when he swerved after contact with Ryan Blaney.

Stenhouse would crash about 15 laps later after contact with Erik Jones but managed to reach the pits without causing a yellow.

William Byron, who started fourth after winning the second qualifying race last Thursday, finished 40th after his No. 24 Chevrolet was the first car out of the race in a crash near the end of the 65-lap first stage. On Lap 59, Byron went for a ride through the grass after getting bumped by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. twice on the backstretch.

“I feel like there’s really no reason to be that aggressive moving across my bumper, but it is what it is,” Byron told Fox. “We’ll go on to Vegas and go try to win that one.”

The race restarted under caution at 4:05 p.m. Monday after only the second postponement in the 62-year history of the Daytona 500.

Trump honorary race starter

A series of mid-afternoon storms limited racing to only 20 laps Sunday. NASCAR was a half-lap from having honorary starter Dale Earnhardt Jr. wave the green flag for the start when the green flag initially was waved off at 3:29 p.m. Three minutes later, the skies opened up around the speedway, forcing a red flag for track drying from the passing shower.

The field was paced on its first lap by the motorcade of President Trump, who gave the command to start engines at 3:07 p.m. and then was greeted by a group of NASCAR officials and team owners, including Richard Childress, Chip Ganassi, Joe Gibbs, Rick Hendrick, Richard Petty, Roger Penske and Jack Roush.

Air Force One landed at Daytona International Airport just behind the backstretch shortly after 1 p.m., and Trump addressed the crowd from a stage in victory lane about 90 minutes later. In prepared remarks, Trump described the Daytona 500 as “pure American glory” and a “legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits and the American skill, speed and power. The tens of thousands of patriots here today have come for the fast cars and the world-class motorsports. But NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family and country.”

Trump’s visit marked the fourth time a sitting U.S. president has attended a NASCAR race at Daytona. President Ronald Reagan was the first in July 4, 1984, witnessing Richard Petty’s 200th career victory. President George H.W. Bush attended the July 4,1992 race, and his son, George W. Bush, became the first president to attend the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, 2004.

Trump said this was the fifth time he’d attended the Daytona 500.

“It really is the great American race,” Trump told Fox Sports in an interview after his address. “I look at it as almost a patriotism kind of thing. We love NASCAR. We love the people of NASCAR.”

Trump departed the track about 15 minutes after the rain hit, and Air Force One took off at 4:10 p.m., about 10 minutes before the green flag fell for the first time Sunday.

Stage 1 winner: Chase Elliott

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

What’s next: The first 1.5-mile race of the season will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox).