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Denny Hamlin Clinches Championship Berth With Win In Phoenix

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Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is locked into NASCAR’s Championship 4 after winning Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix.

“I can’t believe it,” said Hamlin after the race.  “This race team worked so hard this whole year.  They deserve to be there. One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that.  Fast car.”

Hamlin entered the race as one of six drivers fighting for two spots in the season-ending Championship race next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch earned the final spot with a runner-up finish on Sunday.  Busch’s finish gave him enough points to get in, leaving defending series Champion Joey Logano out of the title fight.  Logano finished ninth on Sunday.

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“Just didn’t quite have enough,” said Busch.  “I knew the 11 was the best car in practice. I knew we were going to be about third to fifth. We were second. Guys did a great job, this M&M Camry was good. Thanks to everybody at JGR, Stanley, Toyota, TRD. It’s cool to have a chance to go race for a championship. Just keep coming up short.”

“I went from a car that could lead and win a stage and run really well, and from what they told me, it was an air pressure adjustment made it go from a winning car to can’t stay on the lead lap, and one of the tightest things I’ve ever driven,” said a frustrated Logano.  “I don’t really understand it.  It doesn’t make any sense.  You change tires and change a half pint of air, that sounds ridiculous.  It is what it is.  Just wasn’t our year to make it, I guess.”

Also missing the cut were Logano’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, who finished third, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who finished fourth.  Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott also didn’t make the cut after another disastrous race.  Elliott wrecked for the second consecutive weekend, ending his title hopes.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the other two Championship 4 drivers based on their wins at Martinsville and Texas, respectively.

Phoenix Race Results

NASCAR

Timmy Hill Wins eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational At Virtual Texas Motor Speedway

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NASCAR Media

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.

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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.

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IndyCar

Chip Ganassi Racing Begins “Best Paint Scheme” Contest

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Ford Motor Company

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.

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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.

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NASCAR

Denny Hamlin Edges Dale Earnhardt Jr. In eNASCAR Race At Virtual Homestead Miami Speedway

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NASCAR

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.

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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.”

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