DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones held off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson to win Sunday’s 70th annual Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Jones led the last 40-laps en route to his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The margin of victory was 4.058-seconds. The victory locks Jones into the NASCAR Playoffs with one race left in the regular season. The victory also gets the monkey off Jones’ back as he was the only Gibbs driver not to win this season.
“It was fun,” said Jones. “I felt really calm, honestly, the majority of the race, and especially the last 80 laps. I felt like I was really in control and really knew what I was doing, and there was a couple points down the backstretch it was like, Well, why can’t we win it? There’s no reason we can’t, so just close it out and do it.”
Larson’s second place finish was his fifth Top 10 finish in six races at Darlington. It was also Larson’s 12th Top 10 finish of 2019 and it locked him into the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs.
“Just was really hard to pass,” said Larson. “I think this package has been good for a lot of places, but here being a high-grip track, already narrow, it was just tough to pass.”
Larson did lead twice for 44-laps and was leading when the race restarted with 86-laps to go but Jones got by him.
“Just didn’t have the greatest restart there to allow Erik to get by me,” lamented Larson.
Larson was able to close gap however and followed Jones onto pit road, along with Kyle Busch, for the last green-flag stop of the race. Jones and Busch beat the No. 42 Clover Chevrolet off of pit road.
“That last green-flag stop was not as fast as the 18 (Busch) and the 20 (Jones), so disappointed about that,” said Larson. “We had some good stops and bad ones, but all in all a good day.”
Busch hung on for a third-place finish after smacking the wall coming out of turn four in the waning laps, which allowed Larson to get by him.
Three other drivers joined Larson by clinching their spots in the playoffs via points: Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Hendrick Motorsports William Byron and Stewart Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola.
The final two NASCAR Playoff spots are between four drivers heading into the regular-season finale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer currently sits in 15th place, 8-points ahead of his teammate Daniel Suarez and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman, who are tied for the 16th and final spot. Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson is on the outside looking in, 18-points behind Newman and Suarez.
Timmy Hill Wins eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational At Virtual Texas Motor Speedway
Timmy Hill took home the victory Sunday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 at virtual Texas Motor Speedway in the second event of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
Hill’s “bump and run” moved leader William Byron off the low groove with three laps to go and put Hill out front but he still had to hold off fellow NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ryan Preece and Garrett Smithley following a green-white-checkerd to get the win.
“I told myself, ‘If I have a chance to win any race, NASCAR, short track level, if it came down to it, that’s what I would do'”, Hill said. “It doesn’t change because it was iRacing. That’s what I would do in real life. Going forward, I’m sure William isn’t happy about it. “I’m sure he’ll do the same back to me.”
Byron, driver of the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports, led 80-laps and wound up seventh.
Preece and Smithley finished second and third followed by Landon Cassill in fourth and Alex Bowman, who rounded out the Top 5.
Hill’s home iRacing set-up is almost a parallel to his under-funded Cup Series team.
“My wheel is a 10-year-old wheel, paid 300 bucks for that,” said Hill. “My desk, I bought that at Black Friday, Office Depot. $75 bucks for that. We have a hundred bucks in my chair. The most expensive thing I have is my computer. It’s a gaming computer. Probably cost me $1,400. That’s probably the most expensive part of my little rig here. The thing with my computer is I use it for everything. I use it for my taxes, my business. It’s not just solely a gaming computer. I have other things I do with it.”
The win also gives racers like Hill something that his and his team doesn’t typically receive in a regular NASCAR race.
“For me personally, what I’ll gain from this is recognition,” said Hill. “For us, it’s hard to get that recognition because of the level of competition that we are in real life. We’re doing our best. Frankly, we just don’t have the money, the dollars, to compete at a high level. This win will hopefully gain some recognition and attract more sponsors for us maybe in the real world when we get back racing because they know Timmy Hill from iRacing, from FOX, from this invitational.”
The next eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational will be Sunday, April 5 at 1:00 p.m. ET from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
Chip Ganassi Racing Begins “Best Paint Scheme” Contest
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing is starting a cool contest where fans can pick the “Best Paint Scheme” that has appeared on one of the CGR cars over the 30-year history of the organization.
The contest started Wednesday on Twitter and features 32-paint schemes that have appeared on the teams NASCAR, INDYCAR and IMSA race cars.
Ready to begin determining the best-ever Chip Ganassi Racing paint-scheme!? 🙌🏼
• TODAY: Round of 32 👊🏻
• Check out the matchups 👀
• Vote for your favorites 📝
• Share with your friends! 👨👩👧👧
• Come back in 24 hours & see who advanced to the Round of 16! 🤩#CGR30 | 🏎🏁 pic.twitter.com/wGL5bvzZxj
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) March 25, 2020
Fans can vote on their favorites in a bracket style elimination tournament where one paint scheme will be crowned the winner.
Cars involved include some favorites driven by Scott Dixon, Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sterling Marlin, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Scott Pruitt, Felix Rosenqvist, Memo Rojas, Steve Arpin, Jamie McMurray, Joey Hand, Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Dirk Mueller.
Denny Hamlin Edges Dale Earnhardt Jr. In eNASCAR Race At Virtual Homestead Miami Speedway
Denny Hamlin edged Dale Earnhardt Jr to win Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series opener at virtual Homestead Miami Speedway.
Earnhardt was leading going into the final turn but the pair got together in Turn 4 and Hamlin was able to get off the turn and down the front straightaway for the virtual victory.
“He was smart to kind of block the bottom there because the bottom lane at Homestead on iRacing just has tremendous more grip than what the lane I was running in, but I knew that the difference in the two lanes was about a tenth and a half to two tenths, and I thought my tires were about three tenths better,” said Hamlin. “I thought as long as I got beside him, I was going to be able to complete it, even though he was in the preferred groove.”
“I think I probably gave Denny a little more room than I really wanted to, but I had to keep from crashing him or anybody else,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I thought I might have been able to get a photo finish at the line, but we got together in [Turn] 4 and I about wrecked there. But it was a fun race. Denny had better tires and he was just really, really fast, but it was a good race.’’
Timmy Hill, Chase Briscoe and pole-winner Garrett Smithley rounded out the top five.
Rounding out the top 10 were Cup Series regulars Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace and Ryan Preece. Gander Trucks driver Ty Majeski finished ninth followed by Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Cup Series teammate Erik Jones in 10th.
Hamlin was pleased to see the racing community come together to put on a show for the fans.
“It was a great event,” said Hamlin. “The thing is that nobody got together and said, Hey, let’s all do this. I think everyone just started doing it, and then iRacing got involved and emailed everyone, said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re thinking about’. NASCAR got involved, television got involved and said they’d be interested. So, I think it all just came together. But no one really talked to the drivers about unifying and participating. It was all free will, and that’s what’s exciting is you had 25-plus full-time Cup guys out there willing to spend their time doing this.”
Hamlin hopes the event and others that are planned attract some new fans to NASCAR.
“I think at one time it was No. 1 trending (on social media), so that’s really, really big,” said Hamlin. You know, although NASCAR has its struggles at times, for the regular fan to go out and simulate a game-winning shot or game-winning pass, like iRacing has given them that platform, and there’s no other sport — like NBA players can’t go play NBA2K and put it on TV and make it look like the real thing. You can’t go play Madden and make it look like the real thing. There’s so much animation. But iRacing’s platform, like we really — this is something that really can gain a lot of traction simply because it’s as real as it gets. I’m excited that this was just a first step and hopefully something that builds for years and years to come.”