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.”
Allgaier untouchable, conquers heat for Xfinity Series victory at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier captured his second win of the 2022 season under the sweltering western Tennessee sun Saturday afternoon. He led 134 of 188 laps in a dominating performance, beating Trevor Bayne to the line by 4.5 seconds.
AJ Allmendinger was Allgaier’s only real threat at any point of the race, starting on the front row and leading 48 laps spread over stage one and stage three. The race winner battled Ty Gibbs following a restart in the final stage, but Allgaier’s long run speed was too much for the JGR driver to overcome.
Following the race, Allgaier said that he didn’t think he’d ever driven a faster race car and was thrilled to finally take home the famous Nashville guitar trophy.
“This guitar has been on my bucket list for a long, long time,” Allgaier said. “Today was for the dirt racers though. It was slick, it was hot, we were sliding around… That’s the best car I’ve ever had.”
Saturdays’ Xfinity race was a clean one, absent of any notable incidents. Gibbs and Sam Mayer got tangled up while near the front, but Gibbs saved his spinning Toyota, recovering and finishing fourth. Riley Herbst had on of his strongest performances of the year, finishing third. Mayer rounded out the top five in fifth.
The Xfinity series will make their way to Road America next Saturday, starting at 2:30 p.m. It will air on USA network, continuing NBC’s coverage for the rest of the season.
Preece holds off competition, wins second straight at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — Ryan Preece was dominant Friday evening at Nashville Superspeedway, leading nearly half of the 150-lap race to capture his second consecutive Rackley Roofing 200. Preece, who drives part-time in the truck series, gave David Gilliland Racing their second consecutive win in the No. 17 Ford, while also notching his second career Truck Series victory in just eight starts.
Preece was forced to manage his tires fending off heavy pressure from points leader Zane Smith and the upstart Carson Hocevar. Smith looked to be dominant driving into turns one and two but would loose momentum exiting the second turn. Eventually he would battle Hocevar for second on the final lap, but the two chasers ran out of time. Preece bested the two young drivers by several car lengths.
Tensions rose with 25 laps-to-go between some of the veteran drivers and veteran drivers. Former NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto’s Chevrolet on the inside of Grant Enfinger and Cory Heim on the backstretch when Ty Majeski suddenly dove to the inside, forcing the trucks four-wide heading into Turn 3. Inevitably the drivers ran out of room, sending Enfinger, Heim and DiBenedetto violently into the outside wall, ruining their top-ten bids.
The usually happy-go-lucky DiBenedetto was furious following the race, indicating his patience for the younger drivers in the Truck Series had run out.
“[It’s] stupidity,” DiBenedetto said describing Majeski’s dive to the inside. “I have no idea what some of the guys are thinking, to be honest, I don’t even have an answer. Some of these guys race with such disrespect… It’s more than conversation — one, it’s threaten them, two, just start crashing, just wreck them.”
“It was the end of the race and everybody went crazy, just like always in these truck races,” Enfinger said.
Majeski ended up finishing the race in fourth with Stewart Friesen rounding out the top five.
Wexford, PA native Kris Wright put together one of his strongest results of the season, finishing 17th in the No. 44 Chevrolet
The Truck Series takes a one week break before racing at Mid-Ohio on July 9th. Tickets are available at www.midohio.com. The race starts at 1:30 p.m. and can been seen on FS1 and heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90).
Suarez captures first NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma
SONOMA, CA — Daniel Suarez is a NASCAR Cup Series winner after capturing the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday by beating Chris Buescher by 3.849-seconds.
Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity series championship, has been on four different Cup teams since winning that title six years ago and started 195 Cup Series races but since joining Trackhouse Racing in 2021 things started turning around the Mexican, who has been significantly more competitive than he’d been in his four previous seasons.
Suarez celebrated his victory by emphatically punching through a taco-shaped piñata — perhaps signifying a new celebration to rival his watermelon-smashing teammate Ross Chastain.
“I have so many thoughts in my head right now,” Suarez said. “It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series, these guys believed in me, Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me get to this point, a lot of people in Mexico… My family you know, they never gave up on me. A lot of people did but they didn’t. Very happy that we were able to make it work.”
Suarez got off to a hot start, making his way up to fifth by the second lap of the race. Still, his climb to the lead was slow, hindered by quick Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. As the race wore on, both frontrunners experienced problems, with Larson losing a wheel on the track and Elliott being punished with a crucial penalty on pit road.
In the closing stages of the race, Suarez and Buescher had proven themselves to be clear frontrunners, and were few seconds clear of the pack with less than 30 laps to go. Buescher would get close to Suarez multiple times, but was unable to ever make a move in the final hairpin corner. Eventually, Suarez’s long run speed prevailed, allowing him to lead 47 of 110 laps and win by almost four seconds.
Despite losing out to Suarez, Buescher’s second place finish was an impressive one — considering it was his first race since flipping at Charlotte then missing Gateway due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell put together one of his strongest starts of the year, finishing in third. Kevin Harvick and Austin Cindric rounded out the top five.
Fords and Chevy’s dominated the road course Sunday, with Kurt Busch being the highest finishing Toyota in eighteenth. The NASCAR Cup Series won’t race next week, and will resume racing at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26 at 5 p.m. eastern. NBC will take over coverage for that race and the rest of the season.