William Byron won the third race of eNASCAR’s Pro Invitational Series after clinching a pole starting position and leading 116 laps at the caution-filled short track race at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
“It was just frustrating because we hadn’t closed one yet and we’d led the most laps,” Byron said. “So to finally close the deal this week was really awesome.”
Byron is an iRacing veteran, but his first win of the series came on Sunday. He finished in seventh place last week at virtual Texas Motor Speedway and did not finish the first race of the Pro Invitational at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway after crashing out.
John Hunter Nemechek and Timmy Hill finished in second and third place, respectively, at the Food City Showdown. Hill, who is also an experienced sim driver, won last week’s iRacing event. Nemechek won his heat race to gain a front-row starting position, which was critical on the half-mile track.
After as many as seven cautions by lap 72, iRacing moved the field to single-file restarts. Twelve cautions were called throughout the race following a series of dramatic moments.
On lap 11 for example, Clint Bowyer and Bubba Wallace made contact running in the middle of the pack. Wallace wrecked out and decided not to return to race.
“I got Bubba’d,” Bowyer told FOX Sports while serving as an in-race analyst for the network.
Wallace had a different reaction.
“That’s why I don’t take this s — — serious,” Wallace said over his Twitch live stream.
Wallace then turned off his stream and exited the race.
“Bahaha I’m dying at my mentions right now…” Wallace later tweeted. “I ruined so many people’s day by quiting … a video game..”
Wallace wasn’t the only driver who made an early exit. Kyle Larson and Daniel Suárez were both ejected from the race after making contact with a caution called. After the two spun out to force the caution, Larson intentionally bumped Suárez while restarting. Suárez did not finish last week’s race either.
“I was waiting for @iRacing to get him disqualified like I was last weekend in 5 seconds, but they never did…” Suárez tweeted. “And by the way our “racing incident” was him pushing me to the apron … if this was real life my amigo would get his butt kicked.”
There have been as many as 20 cautions at the real Bristol Motor Speedway during Cup Series races that run 500 laps, but the virtual race ran just 150 laps. Last year’s two races at the half-mile track only saw 11 and eight cautions, respectively, according to RacingReference.com.
The 12 cautions Sunday were an indication of the wrecks naturally expected on the short track crowded with 32 drivers. The crashes also showcased the competitive nature of Cup Series drivers as well as some frustrations with the sim driving learning curve.
“I think you just saw some guys that weren’t maybe as experienced at it maybe in the back,” Byron said. “ But I’d say the top five or ten guys really know what they’re doing, and those were the guys I was worried about racing the whole time.”
Byron was able to fend off Nemechek and Hill through the finish, and offered some insight that might benefit other drivers:
“I race others the same way I would in the real car,” Byron said. “And that’s kind of what it takes to be good on there.”
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