eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series: Biggest surprises so far
By Steve Luvender | Monday, April 13, 2020
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After just three eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series events, there’s already been plenty of action — and plenty of surprises. Here’s what’s kept us entertained so far, as the series heads to Richmond Sunday.
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Timmy Hill bumps Byron for Texas win
Journeyman NASCAR Cup Series driver Timmy Hill used the classic bump-and-run on William Byron in the final laps at Texas to pick up a victory — enough to earn him a cold glass of milk in Victory Lane (well, his living room).
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Bubba and Bowyer tangle at Bristol
The cars aren’t real, but the tensions are. Clint Bowyer roughed up Bubba Wallace at Bristol, where the bumper rules supreme. Bowyer thought it was funny, while Bubba didn’t share the same outlook.
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Preece’s slide through the Texas grass
One of the pleasant surprises from the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series has been Ryan Preece, who’s not necessarily known as a big-time gamer, but he’s still finished consistently well. The highlight of his season might have been this insane save through the Texas Motor Speedway frontstretch grass. Preece kept his foot in it, stayed out of pit road, and somehow kept the car off the Turn 1 wall.
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Fixed-setup virtual racing means all drivers are on an equal playing field; their skill and sim-racing experience are a measure of success. That means we’re seeing the likes of Timmy Hill, Garrett Smithley and Landon Cassill leading laps and contending for wins. Who doesn’t love to see new faces at the front of the pack?
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Kyle Busch’s consistent improvement
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Kyle Busch was never much of a sim racer. After all, he’s got the day job at Joe Gibbs Racing, a family, a racing team of his own, any number of late model races around the country … but now, out of necessity, he’s made it a point to become the best at sim racing — sounds like Kyle Busch, doesn’t it? Busch has improved considerably since his debut at Homestead; in fact, he claimed the fastest single race lap at Bristol. We expect him to take a virtual bow in the near future.
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Jimmie Johnson, trying his best
We love seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson. Heck, we had an entire day for Driver No. 48 last week. But when he first hit the virtual track, his racing skills might have looked a little less Jimmie Johnson and a little more Charlie Meatball Johnson. We’ll give him credit, though; he’s improved after three races and sought outside consulting for building up those skills.
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Denny vs. Dale at Homestead
The first eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series Race sure provided a memorable finish. NASCAR stars Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. made contact in the final corner of the final lap at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Hamlin, this year’s Daytona 500 champ, picked up the victory.
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Bowman, the in-race social media reporter
One of our favorite parts of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series has been Alex Bowman, who’s used Twitter during the race — an impressive display of multitasking, the likes of which we’d never see on a real-world NASCAR race day. Each week, Bowman’s provided commentary in tweet form, whether he’s getting up to use the bathroom, crowdsourcing his pit strategy, or tweetstorming through missing his pit box.
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The iRacing flagman
While everybody’s excited about iRacing, perhaps nobody has shown more enthusiasm than iRacing’s virtual flagger, perched high in the flagstand and waving flags with such gusto that it’s sure to result soon in a workplace injury.
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The role of dogs
Whether we’re talking about Brian, Matt DiBenedetto’s canine crew chief, or the dogs who’ve caused crashes (and totally not Alex Bowman or Daniel Suarez), we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the presence of NASCAR drivers’ puppers and doggos after three races. We’ll totally welcome a greater role of drivers’ dog-friends until we’re back at the track again.