While there has been plenty of drama in the first four races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series, one thing has remained constant – the winners have all been drivers with extensive sim racing experience.
William Byron, whose NASCAR path originated with iRacing, won his second consecutive race in the esports series, navigating an effective tire strategy to in at the virtual Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Sunday.
The series’ first two winners were Cup veteran Denny Hamlin and Timmy Hill, both of whom are accomplished drivers on the virtual racing circuit.
Meanwhile, some of the Cup series’ most recent champions – Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson – entered the virtual world will little-to-no experience.
They’ve had a much more difficult time translating real-world racing success to its virtual equivalent.
In fact, Sunday was Harvick’s race in the series after get his sim rig set up this past week.
“I had a lot of fun today in my first real iRace that was competitive. It was a learning experience,” Harvick said. “I was happy with the way that we ran.
“We wrecked a few cars today. Got a call on Skype for the first time. It came up on my earphones. I’m technically challenged and wound up hanging an immediate left. Then I almost spun out but, in the end, I got wiped out and had an engine repair.
“But, all in all, it was a lot of fun and I was glad to participate in our Busch Light Ford Mustang. I appreciate everyone watching and we’ll be back next week.”
Who could be next to win?
Following his win Sunday, Byron was asked what driver without an extensive sim racing background might be able to break into the win column anytime soon.
“I think that what I saw this week was everyone was really equal on a short run in terms of speed, like even the guys with a little bit less experience,” Byron said. “I think the more experience is just running those longer runs and kind of knowing how the tires wear and stuff like that.
“I think Kyle Busch is the obvious choice (to get a win). In the practice race that I did, he ran third, and then he ran fifth today. So, I think his talent and ability to kind of understand the cars is coming through.
“I thought Brad Keselowski was really impressive recently. I think he was running third at one point in this race.”
Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Photo by: NASCAR Media
Busch was pleased with his first top-five finish after the race, but noted the challenges he has been having in qualifying.
“We don’t have very good qualifying efforts, but once we get going into the race, you can kind of methodically, slowly pick you way off and get yourself more up to the front and run with those top guys,” he said.
“It would be nice to figure out qualifying and start up front and see if we have a shot to race inside the top three all day and race for the win.”
Fox Sports announcers Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon both mentioned Busch and Keselowski’s improvement on the broadcast Sunday and also noted Keselowski had gotten a new sim rig in the last week.
“You know, it’s just little details here and there that make a difference, and everyone is really close now,” Byron said. “I’d say the top five or seven could all win, I think, soon.”
Timmy Hill and Ryan Preece
Photo by: NASCAR Media
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