Byron cleanly sweeps Bristol Pro Invitational

PHOTO BY SETH EGGERT for KICKIN' THE TIRES / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

NASCAR Cup Series regular and iRacing veteran William Byron swept the Food City Showdown at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.

After he posted the fastest qualifying time, the Hendrick Motorsports driver won his heat race to start on the pole for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Byron utilized fresh tires on his virtual No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to chase down race leaders Chris Buescher and Landon Cassill.

Byron narrowly avoided Cassill, who was spun from second. On the ensuing restart, he passed Buescher to take the lead on lap 107. Despite multiple cautions and a switch from double-file to single-file restarts, Byron held off his competition to take the checkered flag 1.371 seconds ahead of John Hunter Nemechek, and without a single incident point.

“I thought we had a pretty solid race. Obviously, there was a lot to kind of decipher through and try to get through, but I thought we stayed up close to the front. We had the one tire strategy call that got us back to the top 5 and then we just had to work through the top 5 methodically after that. 

“Was really proud of how we kind of did things, and thankful for Nick Ottinger, who kind of helps me on my esports team, and AXALTA for letting us run this cool paint scheme. It looks awesome. Hopefully we can it run it sometime in the real Cup car. I had a lot of fun.”

The Pro Invitational win is the 309th iRacing win, on ovals, for Byron. The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series team owner practice with his drivers in the lead-up to Sunday’s race. Ottinger sits seventh in the series standings with John Gorlinsky 12th.

In addition to practicing with his Coca-Cola Series drivers, Byron competed in official iRacing ‘Class A Fixed’ races. That series uses virtual NASCAR Cup Series cars with a similar set-up to the Pro Invitational Series.

Byron credited the William Byron eSports drivers and “Class A Fixed” for helping in his victory.

“They were pretty helpful. They’ve been helpful since this deal got going a couple weeks ago, so it’s been good to work with them. I feel like I’ve learned — obviously I’ve raced on everything, but I’ve learned a lot about the little nuances that those guys do really well. I feel like that’s what they’ve helped me with, and I’ve definitely grown an appreciation for how good they are.

“What really helps me a lot is running, iRacing has these races that are called A-fixed races. It’s Class A, which is the Cup cars, so I run those. I probably ran a handful of them, less than 10 this week, but somewhere around that number.  They’re very similar length of race to what we just ran, so I feel like those help me.”

Last week’s winner, Timmy Hill finished third after being swept up in several incidents. The winner of the first Pro Invitational race, Denny Hamlin was fourth with Matt DiBenedetto fifth.

Ryan Preece, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley, and Michael McDowell rounded out the top-10.

The race started off with a bang. On lap nine, Clint Bowyer tangled multiple times with Bubba Wallace. With three incidents that damaged both cars, Wallace stopped on track and disconnected from the race session, effectively ‘rage-quitting.’ Bowyer, would go on to be involved in at least two other incidents and finished 11th.

The Finish

1. William Byron [1], 2. John Hunter Nemechek [2], 3. Timmy Hill [10], 4. Denny Hamlin [26], 5. Matt DiBenedetto [21], 6. Ryan Preece [4], 7. Parker Kligerman [11], 8. Tyler Reddick [13], 9. Garrett Smithley [14], 10. Michael McDowell [9], 11. Clint Bowyer [32], 12. Christopher Bell [3], 13. Bobby Labonte [30], 14. Alex Bowman [7], 15. Austin Dillon [24], 16. Ross Chastain [20], 17. Joey Logano [15], 18. Kyle Busch [6], 19. Kurt Busch [17], 20. Landon Cassill [12], 21. Jimmie Johnson [25], 22. Dale Earnhardt Jr. [5], 23. Chris Buescher [28], 24. Brad Keselowski [22], 25. Ty Dillon [18], 26. Ryan Blaney [19], 27. Daniel Suarez [23], 28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. [29], 29. Kyle Larson [8], 30. Chase Elliott [27], 31. Erik Jones [31], 32. Bubba Wallace [16].

Lead Changes: Three among three drivers

Lap Leaders: William Byron 1-73, Landon Cassill 74-77, Chris Buescher 78-107, William Byron 108-150

Laps Led: William Byron 116, Chris Buescher 30, Landon Cassill 4

Caution Flags: 12 for 66 laps

Hard Charger: 11-Denny Hamlin (+24)

Margin of Victory: 1.371 seconds

Time of Race: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 3.450 seconds

Average Speed: 68.472 mph

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