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Today’s iRacing Cup race at virtual Texas: Start time and more

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Round two of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series takes place today with competitors racing at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won last weekend’s race at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap. The viewership of the race on FS1 set a record for an eSports event on TV.

More than 30 current and former Cup drivers are scheduled to take part in today’s race.

Here is the information on today’s virtual race:

(All times are Eastern)

DIGNITARIES: Troy Aikman will serve as the grand marshal. Bob Weir, founding member of the Grateful Dead, will perform the National Anthem.

PRERACE: Practice begins at noon. Qualifying begins at 12:50 p.m. Warmup begins at 12:54 p.m.

GREEN FLAG: Scheduled to wave at 1:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 is 125 laps (187.5 miles) around the virtual 1.5-mile oval.

TV/RADIO: FOX and FS1 will televise the virtual race. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. The race also can be seen on the Fox Sports App.

RULES: Since it is an exhibition race, drivers will get one full repair in case they are involved in any incidents. It is fixed setups on all the cars.

CUP DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE: Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase  Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez.

ALSO RACING: Greg Biffle, Bobby Labonte, Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill.

ADVANCING FROM QUALIFYING RACE: Alex Labbe, Anthony Alfredo, Ty Majeski and Ruben Garcia Jr.

STARTING LINEUP:  Qualifying is at 12:50 p.m.

WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING: 

CLINT BOWYER: “For me, iRacing gives me a chance to drive something I’ve always wanted to drive, but never had the chance. That’s why I love iRacing, and I love the fact that this Pro Invitational Series has made more people aware of iRacing. Now, that means more eyeballs on us this Sunday, so I need to step up my game and put my Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang up front.”

KYLE BUSCH: “It was quite interesting last week. Ty Gibbs offered me up his rig because I did not have one and I was over at his place last weekend running on his rig. I made some phone calls this week to see who had one since I’m hoping after maybe six weeks we can get back to the racetrack and do what we do each week and I won’t really need to have one. So I’m going on the borrowed train right now for my rig.”

AUSTIN DILLON: “I learned a lot at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. We were able to get up to the top 10 for a little while but it was a messy race for us. I’ve been practicing a lot for Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway and the setup seems better this week. I’m also looking forward to a bit of drafting this week. I hope these eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series races tide us over until we get to the real racetrack, because this is fun but I’m looking forward to get back to real racing!”

ERIK JONES: “I honestly did not know how I’d do in last week’s race at Homestead. It had been forever since I last went iRacing, so it was like I was a rookie all over again. But things came to me fairly quickly, although I’m still nowhere near where I want to be. Performance aside, I think we all came away from that race impressed with how the entire industry rallied around it, and fans seemed to like it too. Now we’re on big FOX this Sunday, so even more people will be watching. Obviously, that’s good, but it does kind of ramp up the pressure. You want to do well. Even though it’s a simulation, we’re all competitors and we want to win. And it’s appropriate that I’ve got CRAFTSMAN on my Toyota Camry this Sunday at Texas. I moved into a new house this week and between putting furniture together, hanging stuff up and even fixing a few things that broke, if I wasn’t carrying a box I was carrying a screwdriver or a wrench. iRacing practice time took a backseat to the move, so I hope my limited practice time doesn’t show up in the race.”

MICHAEL McDOWELL: “Now that drivers have had some time to get comfortable with making the switch from racing in person to racing in a virtual realm, I can imagine that we will see a lot of hard racing this weekend that is hopefully entertaining for the fans tuning in. My Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang is ready to go and I’m excited to be back racing for the second consecutive Sunday. I would also like to thank all of the guys at the shop for working so hard this week to build me a custom simulator to race on. With the overwhelming responses from drivers that are eager to be part of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, most of the simulators in and around the Charlotte, North Carolina area have been either rented out or purchased, leaving me with limited options to be able to compete in the series. Thankfully, my guys were able to put one together for me, so hopefully I can make them proud this weekend.”

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK: “Honestly, it doesn’t matter that we’re not physically racing in person; as a driver, you just want to get out there and turn laps. We’re still a very competitive group by nature and we all want to put on a great show for everyone watching.”

TYLER REDDICK: “The virtual track races identical to what Texas Motor Speedway was before the traction compound was introduced, and creates those crazy runs into Turn 1 with the current Cup package. Figuring out how to manage the front tires and keep someone from getting inside going into Turn 1 will be key for this virtual race.”

DANIEL SUAREZ: “I don’t even know what to expect, to be honest. Obviously, I think we’re going to have some fun, but at the same time I’m very competitive and I want to do well. I’ve never done iRacing before, I’ve never had an account before and I really didn’t know much about iRacing. I had an old GT25 simulator that I bought used about 10 years ago to race on the PlayStation. As for iRacing, I have no experience before, but for me, that’s not an excuse. I’ve done a lot on other simulators, like the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) simulator, that might help some. But this is way different, it’s its own animal. iRacing is still very realistic and does an amazing job, but it’s still a game. The simulator we use at TRD, that’s not a game, but a lot of things about what iRacing does is very impressive. I borrowed a rig from Toyota and hopefully I can use it for as many races as I need to.”

 

NASCAR Heat exhibition with $10,000 in prize money set for today

NASCAR Heat
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$10,000 will be on the line today in NASCAR Heat exhibition races that will feature Cup Series rookie Tyler Reddick and Xfinity Series driver Kaz Grala.

The races, which will be played on PlayStation 4 and XBox One, starts at 2 p.m. ET on a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Reddick and Grala will compete in the XBox One race.

The race will be broadcast through Motorsport Network, with coordination from Speed51.

Qualifying was held Wednesday through Friday, with the fastest qualifiers from each console invited to the main event.

The race will serve as a preview for the 2020 eNASCAR Heat Pro League Season, with the preseason beginning March 25.

The eNHPL consists of 14 teams from the Race Team Alliance and is a partnership between the RTA, Motorsport Games and NASCAR. There is $200,000 on the line this season.

Xfinity set to reach new track winner mark for first time in 22 years

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Unless Joe Nemechek, who hasn’t won a NASCAR Xfinity race since 2004, wins Saturday’s Xfinity event at Atlanta Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on FS1), the series will accomplish something that hasn’t been done since Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first championship season in the series

A non-Nemechek winner will become the fifth driver to earn their first victory at a track in the opening five races of the season.

They’ll have Brandon Jones to thank.

When Jones passed Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go on his way to a win at Phoenix Raceway last weekend, he kept Busch from claiming his 12th series victory on the 1-mile track.

While it was Jones’ second career Xfinity win, it was his first at Phoenix.

Jones followed Noah Gragson‘s first career win to open the year at Daytona, Chase Briscoe‘s first win at Las Vegas and Harrison Burton‘s first career victory at Auto Club Speedway.

Now here’s where we make you feel old.

The Xfinity Series has not seen a new track winner in each of the first five races of a season since 1998. That year, the first 10 races of the year featured new track winners, including the first career wins of Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth.

The streak is primarily a sign of the times. The trio of Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell, who won 34 of 99 Xfinity races over the previous three seasons, have moved to the Cup Series.

It’s also a result of NASCAR limiting drivers who earn points in the Cup Series to five Xfinity starts a year.

Busch isn’t scheduled to make another Xfinity start until May 23 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with six races between starts. Brad Keselowski also competed in Phoenix, but a Team Penske spokesperson said the team hasn’t solidified the remaining schedule for its No. 12 car.

The streak could continue next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

None of the current full-time Xfinity drivers have won there. Even though Earnhardt is slated to compete in the March 21 race, he hasn’t won there in five career starts.

What’s the next track the Xfinity Series will visit where one of its full-time drivers has already won?

The May 2 race at Dover International Speedway. Justin Allgaier won the spring 2018 race there.

Bump and Run: West Coast swing takeaways

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What are your takeaways from the West Coast swing?

Nate Ryan: Hendrick Motorsports is back. Paul Wolfe and Joey Logano are a winning combination. Joe Gibbs Racing needs to regroup but isn’t out of the ballgame by any stretch.

Dustin Long: How Goodyear’s ability to bring a tire that wears more is changing the game. Hendrick Motorsports’ performance. The speed of Martin Truex Jr.’s car and how he’ll be a factor once he avoids the various issues that plagued him. Harrison Burton’s performance in Xfinity, which included a win and three top fives during this swing.

Daniel McFadin: Despite Ford and Joey Logano winning two of the three races, it doesn’t feel like any team or manufacturer has an outright advantage over everyone else. The races at Phoenix and Auto Club had a distinct energy to them that they’ve lacked in general over the years. The season has a some momentum behind it, let’s hope it stays on track in Atlanta.

Jerry Bonkowski: First, we’re seeing Chevrolet teams starting to shake off the struggles of the new Camaro at Daytona and Las Vegas and are coming back to prominence quickly if Fontana and Phoenix are any indication. Second, Ford continues to show its mastery over Toyota and Chevy. This could be a huge season for Fords if the current trend continues. Lastly, Toyota is uncharacteristically struggling with little consistency between teams (other than perhaps Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin). 

 

Who scores their first career Cup win next: Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer or someone else?

Nate Ryan: William Byron.

Dustin Long: Matt DiBenedetto. He will give the Wood Brothers their 100th Cup victory.

Daniel McFadin: William Byron. While DiBenedetto is the most experienced in Cup of the group, Byron has more time in quality equipment, from the Truck Series up through Cup. DiBenedetto hasn’t shown us a complete race in the No. 21 yet as he re-calibrates his talent and knowledge to what he has to work with.

Jerry Bonkowski: This is a tough question because all of the drivers listed have the ability, they just need some luck. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be Tyler Reddick. Even though he had a disappointing outing at Phoenix, he still has been the best-performing rookie in Cup this season and has even outshined his veteran teammate, Austin Dillon, at times. 

Do you think anyone will beat Kyle Busch to collect any of the bounties in the Truck Series this weekend at Atlanta?

Nate Ryan: No. Kyle Busch knows best when he says Kyle Larson is his main threat at Homestead-Miami Speedway a week later.

Dustin Long: No. Kyle Busch wins this weekend.

Daniel McFadin: My heart says yes, but my gut says no. Chase Elliott will be the primary challenger, but this will be his first Truck Series start since 2017. Meanwhile, Busch has won in five of his 11 Truck Series starts at Atlanta since 2005. Regardless, this is the most excited I’ve been for a Truck Series race not held on dirt or a road course since … let me get back to you on that.

Jerry Bonkowski: Unless Busch wrecks or suffers mechanical problems, I don’t believe anyone takes the bounty in Atlanta. Rather, I believe Kyle Larson has the best chance to do so the following week in Miami.

Tyler Reddick: ‘Good learning experience’ competing up front in Phoenix

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Tyler Reddick caught many off guard with his performance Sunday in the Cup Series’ race at Phoenix Raceway, including himself.

At one point in the second stage, the rookie driver was in the top five and being told by his crew chief the only other car keeping pace with him was Brad Keselowski.

“I’m honestly concerned how I’m the fastest car on the race track,” Reddick recalled thinking. “We’re at Phoenix, this just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Richard Childress Racing driver appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radios’ “On Track” Monday to discuss a surprising, but disappointing outing in the fourth Cup race of the year.

The two-time defending Xfinity Series champion started the day 29th and ran as high as second before a tire on his No. 8 Chevy went down on Lap 265, sending him into the wall and to a 33rd-place finish, his worst of the year.

Reddick said it was a “mystery” what caused the tire to go down, but added it was “odd” the same problem occurred to his teammate, Austin Dillon, on Lap 131.

“We had some positives and it’s nice to know a place I had a lot of questions marks going into, especially starting 29th on the day, how is it going to stack up and how could I improve and improve a lot going back for it in November,” Reddick said. “It seems like we’re not as bad as we thought. We’ve definitely got something to work off of.”

After qualifying 29th Saturday, Reddick said he was “very concerned” about how hard it would be to pass cars after watching the Xfinity Series race.

But on Sunday, he was ninth by the end of the first stage, having discovered he could “kind of sling (the car) in there, dive bomb people to get around them. So it actually worked out OK.”

However, he learned early on not to be too aggressive.

“I made a few mistakes early racing a little too hard at times with guys like (Ricky) Stenhouse (Jr.),” Reddick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “He didn’t appreciate it, I got it. No issues going forward. I’m just trying to get to the front and figured out early in the race, ‘OK, I don’t want to get too aggressive with these guys and send the wrong message.'”

Reddick said it’s important to him when he gets opportunities to race near the front that “you’re not just knocking guys out of the way, you want to make sure that you pass them right.”

That was what was on his mind on Lap 208 when he was in second and suddenly got out of shape and dropped back to 10th.

“It was fun racing with (Martin) Truex (Jr.), it was fun racing with Kyle Busch,” Reddick said. “Didn’t get to race against Kevin (Harvick) a whole lot. But at one time I was at the top of three wide, I really didn’t want to give him room, but I didn’t want to be the guy who squeezed two champions down going into Turn 3 and causes a big wreck. I slid up and lost a lot of track position, unfortunately. It was a good learning experience racing with those guys, knowing I can do it.”

Despite earning nine stage points, Reddick’s 33rd-place finish dropped him from 23rd to 25th in the point standings. He has a five-point advantage over fellowing rookie John Hunter Nemechek. He takes that to the race this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

At 325 laps/500 miles around the 1.5-mile track, it will be the longest race of his career (he’s crashed out of both of his Daytona 500 appearances).

“Normally it takes me about 400 laps for me to figure out what I’m doing out there,” Reddick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Places like Atlanta, I love. The longer the races goes, the more comfortable I get there. Places like Darlington, Homestead.

“As aggressive as I seem as a driver, I actually do ease into at those kind of places, whether it looks like it or not. I think the longer race will help me. I’m curious how this car will drive. I know how I want to get around this race track in a Xfinity car, with more power and less downforce. Now with this car I don’t know whether I’ll be able to do the same things to go fast around there. We’ve got to figure that out in practice. We’re back to that game of drivers that are trimmed out are going to look good for 15 laps. The ones that have downforce built into their cars won’t.”

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