On Sunday, William Byron won his second consecutive NASCAR virtual race by preventing Timmy Hill – the driver who kept him away from winning an iRacing event earlier – in an unsightly race.
Matt DiBenedetto was parked after two crashes on the Richmond virtual circuit with Ryan Preece, the second clearly intentional incident. This sparked a spitting on Twitter between the two, DiBenedetto demanding that Preece’s address go to his house to fight and Preece replying that he would give it to him if DiBenedetto showed up in the giraffe costume he wore during of the competition on Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson manually disconnected his simulator rather than waiting for end-of-race repairs, and Kevin Harvick ate his lunch from the seat of his aircraft while he was waiting 20 minutes for repairs.
But that was about all in terms of controversy on a day when NASCAR desperately needed an event without drama.
Kyle Larson was fired this week for using a racial slur at a non-NASCAR sanctioned iRacing event last Sunday night, and drivers and fans are showing signs of losing the excitement that initially engulfed this racing league virtual during its launch during the coronavirus pandemic. .
Byron, 22, in his third cutting season at the wheel of Hendrick Motorsports, is an iRacer enthusiast who learned to drive a stock car across the platform.
“I was not part of a racing family and I was obviously looking for that way to cut my teeth,” said Byron. “I am very grateful for what he has done for me. Driving car 24 in real life for Hendrick Motorsports is a dream and I was just an excited kid, a NASCAR face in a channel when I was racing against them. Now I run against them in real life. “
The resets have been eliminated to make it a cleaner race, and NASCAR and its broadcasting partner Fox initially cut the pitch in an attempt to avoid the wreck festival of Virtual Bristol two weeks ago. This created a backlash when the abandoned drivers were either full-time participants in the Cup or had sold sponsorship for the iRaces.
As a concession, a heat race took place on Sunday morning during which 11 drivers tried to finish in the top two to qualify for the main event. Bobby Labonte and Landon Cassill ran, and because it’s an invitation, Fox offered two more spots to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Daniel Suarez. Earnhardt earlier in the week withdrew from the race to make way for an active driver, but joined the heat race when the rules were changed and participated in the main event.
There were still accidents, including one involving Bubba Wallace and Clint Bowyer for the second consecutive iRace. Wallace had “resigned from rage” at Virtual Bristol after sinking with Bowyer and his event sponsor fired him there.
Just before Sunday’s race started, Wallace pleaded on his stream, “Clint, don’t destroy me!” Don’t destroy me! “
But he and Bowyer had early contacts, to which Bowyer remarked: “two races in a row, I got Bubba-ed. Bowyer was Fox’s race reporter and was invited to join Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon in the “booth”, but tweeted “Beer: 30 people!” before settling in as a commentator. Wallace, for his part, was the last car on the track this Sunday.
Harvick got his start on iRacing, probably urged by his sponsors and his racing team to get involved in the only activity that drivers can do right now to promote their partners. Brad Keselowski got his directive directly from team owner Roger Penske. After using a borrowed simulator at his first event, Keselowski chose his own platform this week – a purchase he is not sure he can pay back to the boss.
The platform has become an important initiative for almost all NASCAR stakeholders and has twice established audience records for Fox. Hendrick Motorsports was the first team to ask its drivers to meet remotely with sponsors, and Ford took advantage of Sunday’s race to promote the “Apollo Project” – its efforts to produce personal protective equipment for health workers – on several of its pilots. cars.
But Wallace’s loss of sponsor was the first sign of cracks in a series that started quickly a week after the sport ended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then Larson was laid off, and with the massive hours required to train on the simulators each week, some pilots looked tired of the streak. There is also a concern with supersaturation as almost all professional racing leagues have some sort of iRacing events, and unauthorized races take place every night of the week.
More AP motor racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports