THE VIRTUAL DOVER, Del. –– Similar to its real life counterpart, the virtual edition of Dover International Speedway can be a tough track to handle.
Many of the top drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, as well as a few former drivers that were invited to partake, took to the concrete banks of the virtual ‘Monster Mile’, and when the dust settled, William Byron was victorious once more.
“It was hard to predict when we were going to get a longer run, so it’s hard to know what to do with the tires in terms of how much to save, what not,” Byron said post race on the teleconference with the NASCAR Media.
“My help there, Nick (Ottinger), Matt Holden, did a great job of really kind of leaving the strategy up to them as far as what tires to take. I think four tires at the end was the right call to be aggressive. Just thankful for their support and ready to get back to our normal racing here soon.”
After taking four tires late, Byron passed Timmy Hill with seven laps to go, and held off a late charge from Christopher Bell to win the eNASCAR Finish Line 150 on Sunday afternoon.
Denny Hamlin posted the fastest lap in qualifying, effectively winning the pole, but with a Top 10 field invert, would start in the tenth position. Ross Chastain moved on to the pole position after the invert, and led the field to green for the start of what would be a hectic 150 lap event.
Chastain was soon passed by Parker Kligerman, but an early caution started a stretch of altering strategies that would play out and shape the day.
Kligerman lost the lead to Hamlin, who opted for two tires on the first stop. On the restart, Kligerman fell into the clutches of Timmy Hill, and that’s when Hill knocked Kligerman out of the way.
After a multitude of incidents that saw competitors like Brad Keselowski, Kligerman, Chris Buescher, and Matt DiBenedetto retiring early, the racing saw a little bit of a green flag stretch.
William Byron worked his way to the front early, exchanging the top spot with Hill, Garrett Smithley, and Alex Bowman throughout the mid section of the race.
The race came down to a pit call during the final caution, with just under 15 laps to go. Hill, Smithley, Landon Cassill, and Chastain all opted for two tires, while Byron and Christopher Bell took on four.
If anyone had their one and only Fast Repair left, this was the time to use it.
On the ensuing restart, Byron looked low on Cassill, and the two entered the corner lower than expected.
Byron washed up into Cassill, who in turn affected Smithley’s corner. Byron drove through and into second place while the others tried to save it, and the field stacked up avoiding one another.
Byron caught Hill in no time, and made easy work to reclaim the top spot with seven to go. Bell followed through, and got within three tenths of the lead, but the laps ran out and Byron was victorious again.
“It honestly feels really good,” Byron said.”I feel like even though obviously it’s virtual racing, it’s a very similar platform to what we do. The physics and geometry of everything is similar.
“What gives me confidence is the fact that in pressure situations, being able to deliver under those is critical in a real racecar because everyone can go real fast, but it comes down to the strategy and execution of that.”
In six races, Byron has taken the checkers in half of them, and led the most laps overall. In two weeks, NASCAR racing will return to the real track at Darlington Raceway. Byron is still winless in 76 starts, with five Top 5’s to his record.
“It gives me a lot of confidence in the heated moments of the race,” Byron said. “I’m excited to bring that back over to the real racecar.
Dover played host to Saturday Night Thunder the night prior to the Pro Invitational Series event. Once again, many of the NASCAR Xfinity, NASCAR Gander Trucks, ARCA Menards, and NASCAR Regional Series racers took to the concrete for bragging rights amongst one another.
There were four heat races, as well as two last chance consolation races run prior to the main event to determine the 26-car field.
Josh Berry, Anthony Alfredo, Ty Majeski, and Kaz Grala were victorious in each of their heat races, while Sam Mayer and Brett Moffitt won the two consolation races to advance to the main event.
The race was marred by carnage, and there were no Fast Repairs available for the drivers this week.
Donny Lia dominated the majority of the event, but was bit by a speeding penalty during his final pit stop.
Alex Labbe utilized a short pit strategy to take the lead, but Alfredo had faster long run pace.
The two clashed for a handful of laps, but eventually, Alfredo took control, and took the virtual checkers in the Saturday Night Thunder showdown.
— eNASCAR (@NASCAR) May 3, 2020
The inaugural eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic postponing the actual 2020 NASCAR season, will conclude next week on Saturday afternoon.
iRacing will have the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway ready and available to go for Saturday.
The track was scanned back in December with help from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and many volunteers cleaning up the surface.
Utilizing their advanced track editing technology, North Wilkesboro will be restored to its glorious look, straight out of the late 1980’s.
The series finale will take place on Saturday, May 9th, 2020, at 3:00 pm ET on FOX and FOX Sports 1, as well as the FOX Sports app.
The real action returns the following week on Sunday, May 17th.
Lead Changes: 12 among seven different drivers
Lap Leaders: Ross Chastain 1-3, Parker Kligerman 4-14, Denny Hamlin 15-23, William Byron 24-42, Garrett Smithley 43-45, William Byron 46-52, Garrett Smithley 53-60, Alex Bowman 61-65, William Byron 66-73, Timmy Hill 74-99, William Byron 100-137, Timmy Hill 138-143, William Byron 144-150.
Laps Led: William Byron 79, Timmy Hill 32, Parker Kligerman 11, Garrett Smithley 11, Denny Hamlin 9, Alex Bowman 5, Ross Chastain 3.
Caution Flags: Nine for 40 laps
Time of Race: One hour, 31 minutes, 58.731 seconds
Average Speed: 97.849 mph
Margin of Victory: .300 seconds
Busch Pole Award: 11-Denny Hamlin, 22.044 seconds (163.310 mph)
Fastest Lap: 24-William Byron, 22.300 seconds (161.435 mph, lap 142)
Jacob Seelman, SPEED SPORT
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com