William Byron dominates to win NASCAR iRace at virtual Bristol

William Byron got his start in the NASCAR iRacing series and Sunday he finally showed how that experience can pay off.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver wheeled his virtual Chevy to a win in the eNASCAR Food City Showdown at a virtual Bristol Motorsports. Byron lead 116 of the 150 laps in route to his 293 iRacing win.  He did it by running a clean race with no “incident” points while carnage reined behind him.

“It was a lot of fun,” Byron said. “We had to work through some track position and really keep ourselves up toward the top five.

“This one of the race tracks I always enjoy coming to in the Cup car,” he added. “… It’s fun to have a little bit of pressure on a race in iRacing.”

Byron led the first 73 laps and retook the lead from Chris Buescher who had taken the top spot using pit strategy with 42 laps to go.

While it was trouble free for Byron, for many others the virtual Bristol mirrored the real thing. The track is known for a great of contact and Sunday’s virtual race was no different with 12 cautions overall the final one coming with 9 laps to go.

Unlike the previous two iRaces, Sunday’s race had the field set by two 50-lap heat races prior to the main event.  The first heat set the inside lane, while the second heat set the outside lane. Byron won the pole after winning the first heat; John Hunter Nemechek earned the second place starting spot after winning the second heat.  Nemechek finished the main event where he started, in second.

Many of the 12 cautions came in the early part of the race and involved Ryan Preece, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace. Chase Elliott saw his day end on lap 50 when he crashed in Turn 3 after heavy contact with Ty Dillon and Elliott’s virtual Chevy came to rest on its roof.

The most eventful caution of the day happened when Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez got together coming out of Turn 4 at the halfway point of the race. After the caution flew, Larson intentionally wrecked Suarez in Turn 1. For the second week in a row, Suarez was removed from the race by iRacing officials due to the nature of the incident. Larson was also removed from the race.

Much of the entertainment came from the drivers on their individual online Twitch Streams as well as those reporting the race on TV.  As he has been, Clint Bowyer was the in-race reporter and was as funny as always.

“I got Bubba’ed!” Bowyer shouted after he was moved out of line by Bubba Wallace. “I need a beer really badly.”

Shortly after Wallace seemed to “rage quit” an IRacing term when virtual racer disconnects.  “That’s why I don’t take this (crap) serious. Peace out,” Wallace said on his Twitch channel just before he signed off.

Last Sunday’s Texas Motor Speedway winner Timmy Hill finished third. Homestead-Miami Speedway winner Denny Hamlin was fourth while Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top five.

Ryan Preece, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley and Michael McDowell rounded out the top 10.

The win for Byron comes a week after he was punted on the final lap in the virtual race at Texas by the eventual winner Timmy Hill.

“After that obviously ‑‑ during the week I wasn’t worried about Texas,” Byron said. “I got over it pretty quick. But I think that it was just frustrating because we hadn’t closed one yet and we had led the most laps, so to finally close the deal this week was really awesome, and yeah, I think it just is cool to see the hard work kind of pay off from obviously myself but the guys behind the scenes that are working with my esports team and stuff like that. “

Byron’s history of moving up into the NASCAR Cup series includes getting his foot in the door via iRacing.

“I try to use iRacing because it improves my race craft, and I feel like we’ve been doing a good job of promoting it the right way,” he said. “The races that you can practice on kind of help improve my race craft, and that’s why I use it to try to help me on the real car.”

While it hasn’t been officially announced, with no real racing on the track for the foreseeable future, the Pro Invitational Tour should continue next week. If it continues to follow the real NASCAR Cup schedule, the series will be racing at Richmond Raceway, virtually, next Sunday.

eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series

Race Number 3 Results: Food City Showdown

March 29, 2020

Bristol Motor Speedway

Total Race Length: 150 laps

1. (24) William Byron Chevrolet, 150.

2. (38) John H. Nemechek Ford, 150.

3. (66) Timmy Hill Toyota, 150.

4. (11) Denny Hamlin Toyota, 150.

5. (21) Matt DiBenedetto Ford, 150.

6. (37) Ryan Preece Chevrolet, 150.

7. (77) Parker Kligerman Toyota, 150.

8. (31) Tyler Reddick Chevrolet, 150.

9. (51) Garrett Smithley Chevrolet, 150.

10. (34) Michael McDowell Ford, 150.

11. (14) Clint Bowyer Ford, 150.

12. (95) Christopher Bell Toyota, 150.

13. (19) Bobby Labonte Toyota, 150.

14. (88) Alex Bowman Chevrolet, 150.

15. (3) Austin Dillon Chevrolet, 150.

16. (6) Ross Chastain Ford, 150.

17. (22) Joey Logan Ford, 150.

18. (18) Kyle Busch Toyota, 150.

19. (1) Kurt Busch Chevrolet, 150.

20. (89) Landon Cassill Chevrolet, 150.

21. (48) Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet, 150.

22. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet, 150.

23. (17) Chris Buescher Ford, 146.

24. (2) Brad Keselowski Ford, 141.

25. (13) Ty Dillon Chevrolet, 132.

26. (12) Ryan Blaney Ford, 126.

27. (96) Daniel Suarez Toyota, 72.

28. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Chevrolet, 72.

29. (42) Kyle Larson Chevrolet, 71.

30. (9) Chase Elliott Chevrolet, 31.

31. (20) Erik Jones Toyota, 14.

32. (43) Bubba Wallace Chevrolet, 9.

Average Lap: 28.023 seconds

Caution Flags: 12 for 66 laps

Lead Changes: 3

Greg Engle