THE VIRTUAL RICHMOND, Va. – After four eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series events, if it wasn’t clear before Sunday, it’s more than evident that William Byron is going to be the man to beat every weekend as long as these eRaces continue during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of the 2020 NASCAR schedule.
A split strategy on tire wear, and the man who bumped him out of the way to win at Texas Motor Speedway, Timmy Hill, closing in, Byron was able to hold on, capturing his second straight victory in the series, first at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, and now on Sunday afternoon at Richmond Raceway.
“Just really pleased with how it turned out,” Byron said to the NASCAR media members on the post-race teleconference. “Definitely the pit call there with about 40… yeah, 40 laps to go was a tough one. I didn’t really know how that was going to work out, but luckily, we were able to have a little bit of buffer to the guys with four tires, and then the late restart, just executed that well.”
The race restarted for the final time in eNASCAR Overtime, with Byron on the older tires, Hill on newer tires on his outside, and Parker Kligerman on newer tires in third.
Hill drove it in deep the final time into Turn 1, but he couldn’t reach the bumper this time, as Byron pulled away in Turn 3 and Turn 4, and went on to score the win.
“(Timmy Hill) raced me really clean,” Byron said. “I was really thankful for that. We’ve had some good races, honestly. Texas, obviously I was frustrated with Texas, but if I would have been in his position, I probably would have done the same thing, looking back on it. I think he’s done a really good job showing how consistent he is.
“I feel like he’s got good race craft, and I enjoy racing with him. I know what to expect when I race with him, that he is going to use the bumper, so I just have to race him back that way, and I think we both understand that. Fortunately, I had just enough speed to kind of keep my gap there and win that race.”
The Toyota Owners 150 saw six cautions for 36 laps. There were only three lead changes between Byron, pole sitter Ryan Preece, and Chase Elliott, who stayed out to lead a single lap under one of the cautions.
Before the race, a qualifier was held to determine the final four starting positions in the main event that would be broadcasted on FOX and FS1.
26 drivers were already locked into the field, but there were 11 more drivers that wanted to get a shot in to the show.
NASCAR Hall of Fame and 2000 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Bobby Labonte, still filling in for Martin Truex, Jr. in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was victorious in the 25 lap dash.
Landon Cassill finished second, while Daniel Suárez and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were granted the final two provisional spots given by NASCAR on FOX, finishing third and fourth, respectively.
Seven drivers missed the main event. Corey LaJoie, Joey Gase, Cole Custer, Michael McDowell, Chad Fincham, Brennan Poole, and JJ Yeley were all unsuccessful in their bids to participate in the main event.
Quin Houff and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. were scheduled to compete, but neither showed up to the virtual track.
The last two races in the series saw Suárez and Kyle Larson both get parked by iRacing officials for intentionally wrecking.
Larson, who is both suspended by NASCAR and without a NASCAR team after being fired from Chip Ganassi Racing early last week, was only an afterthought during the beginning of the pre-race coverage on FOX.
Suárez made the show, and although he had a bit of a run in with Garrett Smithley towards the middle of the race, managed to finish the race, on the lead lap, without being parked for a third time in a row.
However, there was still some controversy, and it resulted in another race disqualification.
Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Preece didn’t see eye-to-eye by the end of things on Sunday. On lap 98, Preece and DiBenedetto made contact, and that sent Preece spinning in Turn 1.
A few laps later after the restart, Preece washed up the track and took out DiBenedetto. It was unclear if it was payback, but it seemed like Preece wasn’t too happy as it was.
The green flag stayed out, but once DiBenedetto got back going, he waited on Preece, almost Matt Kenseth Martinsville 2015-style, and wrecked both cars again in Turn 1 against the cries of the iRacing officials to not do exactly what he did.
“He did it to me, so he can screw off,” DiBenedetto chirped back to the iRacing officials that ultimately parked him for the remainder of the event.
DiBenedetto wound up finishing 27th, while Preece, who started on the pole, limped back to a 19th place finish.
There were no Fast Repairs this week, a change from previous events. Nine cars either finished multiple laps down having to repair their virtual damage, or were just unable to finish the event.
Clint Bowyer finished in last after his motor virtually grenaded on him on lap 53. He had been involved in previous incidents, and had too much damage that he wasn’t able to repair.
Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, and Alex Bowman all received multiple minutes of repair, some of them, like Logano, choosing to wait it out and run a few more laps, and others, like Johnson, disconnecting immediately, knowing their race was over.
The next race in the series will take place at the virtual Talladega Superspeedway on April 26th. It’s unclear who will and who won’t be locked in, but expect most of the drivers who raced on Sunday at Richmond Raceway to be in the show next week.
TOYOTA OWNERS 150 RACE RESULTS:
- 24 – William Byron
- 66 – Timmy Hill
- 77 – Parker Kligerman
- 89 – Landon Cassill
- 18 – Kyle Busch
- 11 – Denny Hamlin
- 20 – Erik Jones
- 8 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- 43 – Bubba Wallace
- 2 – Brad Keselowski
- 9 – Chase Elliott
- 31 – Tyler Reddick
- 6 – Ross Chastain
- 19 – Bobby Labonte
- 13 – Ty Dillon
- 38 – John Hunter Nemecheck
- 51 – Garrett Smithley
- 96 – Daniel Suárez
- 37 – Ryan Preece
- 1 – Kurt Busch
- 17 – Chris Buescher
- 88 – Alex Bowman
- 12 – Ryan Blaney
- 95 – Christopher Bell
- 22 – Joey Logano
- 48 – Jimmie Johnson
- 21 – Matt DiBenedetto
- 3 – Austin Dillon
- 4 – Kevin Harvick
- 14 – Clint Bowyer
DID NOT QUALIFY: 15 – Brennan Poole, 32 – Corey LaJoie, 34 – Michael McDowell, 41 – Cole Custer, 49 – Chad Fincham, 52 – JJ Yeley, 53 – Joey Gase
DID NOT ATTEMPT: 00 – Quin Houff, 47 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Check out the TReSports Photo Gallery from Race #4 of the Pro Invitational Series at Richmond Raceway! All Photos by Justin Melillo via iRacing.com.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com