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.”
Martin Truex Jr Victorious At Martinsville Speedway
MARTINSVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Martin Truex Jr passed teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 485 and went on the win the rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The victory was Truex’s second of 2021 and 29th of his Cup Series Career.
“He (Hamlin) started getting tight, our car was getting better and better,” said Truex of the late race pass. “We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would.”
Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott finished second, his seventh top-10 finish in 13-races at Martinsville and fourth top-10 of 2021.
“Really, really hard-fought second actually for us,” said Elliott. “We were not great, but had some, I guess our strong suit was kind of early on in the run, then really faded hard, too hard there in the latter part of a run. But we never got one of those super long runs, which is probably a good thing for us because we were struggling on that end. But, yeah, proud we could fight back.”
Hamlin settled for third after leading the most laps in the race (267).
“Had a really good car on the short run all day,” said Hamlin. “Got great restarts. Was fast for 25, 30 laps. Then it seemed like guys would start catching us. Unfortunately it was just too many laps there at the end that we couldn’t hold those guys off.”
Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson finished fourth and fifth respectively, giving HMS three cars in the top 5.
The race featured 18-lead changes among 7-drivers and was slowed by 15-caution flags for 105-laps.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is April 18, 2020 at Richmond Raceway.
Josh Berry Gets First Career Xfinity Series Win At Martinsville Speedway
MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josh Berry passed Ty Gibbs for the lead on lap 223 and stayed out front for the final 27-laps to get his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the rain-delayed Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway. The victory was the first career victory for Berry in 13 Xfinity Series starts.
“Man, I wanted to win so bad for these guys,” said Berry referring to his No. 8 JR Motorsports team. “They’re such a great group. I knew this would be a good opportunity to win. (Crew chief) Taylor (Moyer) called a perfect race. The car was good, and we just kept tweaking on it. The tires were pretty worn out there at the end. I was struggling a little bit with wheel-hop. This is just unbelievable.”
Berry’s JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson finished second and picked up a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus, which eased the pain of being the runner-up.
“One hundred thousand dollars richer,” said Gragson. “Great 1-2 finish for our team at JR Motorsports. I really wanted to win there, but I was having to protect the bottom to keep the guys behind me from moving me out of the way. I couldn’t open up my arc the way I needed to and make speed.”
Daniel Hemric finished in third position followed by Gibbs, who faded to a fourth place finish. Gibbs’ teammate Brandon Jones finished fifth. Jones was the leader Friday night when storms red-flagged the event after completing 91-laps.
The race featured 13-lead changes among 9-drivers. The race was slowed by 12-caution flags for 75-laps.
The next race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is April 24, 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Mother Nature Wins At Martinsville Speedway
MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Mother Nature is throwing a wrench into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series Schedules at Martinsville Virginia.
Friday’s Xfinity race is under a red flag following 92-laps of the scheduled 250-lap event after rain showers put an end to NASCAR’s attempt to get the event finished. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones is scored as the leader of the race.
NASCAR has rescheduled the remainder of the event for Sunday at Noon ET.
The Cup Series race was red flagged on lap 43 because of showers. JGR’s Denny Hamlin is scored as the leader. Hamlin has led 38-laps. Team Penske’s Joey Logano started on the pole position and led the other laps.
NASCAR will restart the event on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
Per NASCAR rules, an event is considered official after half of the scheduled distance has been completed.
Both races will be broadcast live on FS1, the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.