iRacing experience fuels Timmy Hill’s Pro Invitational victory

Photo by Justin Mellilo / The Racing Experts / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Although he’s an underdog in real life, Timmy Hill’s years of iRacing experience left him on top at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway.

Hill used this experience early in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 125. Starting 10th, he watched as several of his competitors that were relatively new to iRacing fly by him. Conserving the tires on his virtual No. 66 RoofClaims.com Toyota Camry, Hill easily picked off his competition.

Hill believe that his competitors likely have a new respect for the iRacing simulation:

“I think a lot of them are definitely taking it more serious now; they’ve underestimated the amount of effort it takes to be competitive. I think that’s why the situation is much better this week because they saw how tough it was at Homestead. They said we got to work harder at this.

“I think the respect for the service has just increased, and it’s only going to get more and more as we go down the line. I think they understand this takes a lot of effort a lot of work. You can’t just jump on it and expect to be good. I look forward to seeing how the drivers react in the next coming week and see how the competition increases.”

Just past halfway, Hill moved inside the top-five. As the green flag run forced a round of green flag pit stops, he found himself second, 1.7 seconds behind race leader William Byron. A spate of cautions closed the gap for Hill. With three laps to go in the scheduled distance, he used the virtual chrome horn to move Byron.

A caution with two laps to go sent the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series into overtime. On the restart, Hill put his iRacing experience to work, and blocked Ryan Preece, halting his competitor’s momentum. When the checkered flag waved, Hill was just 0.050 seconds ahead of the JTG Daugherty Racing driver.

“The race was really exciting,” admitted Hill. “The last lap basically was a two‑lap run to the finish, green‑white‑checkered. I had to fight off Ryan Preece and Garrett Smithley, two excellent iRacers. They put in a lot of practice; I knew they would be tough to beat. 

“After the white flag, I knew how tough it was to pass into three and four, I knew if I could hold them off going into turn one, I could almost coast and drive to a victory. That’s all I was focusing on the final lap. I held those guys off in one and two, got a good run in three and four.

“I couldn’t be more excited. Very exciting times for us because we just don’t get the recognition on a normal basis. To be on an even playing field is excellent. To be on this platform, the Cup platform, is exciting. The amount of folks that reached out to me has just been tremendous.”

Garrett Smithley, Landon Cassill, and Alex Bowman, who had to overcome a pit road speeding penalty, rounded out the top-five. Like Byron and Hill, Smithley and Cassill are veterans on iRacing. The four NASCAR Cup Series drivers have over 900 wins, combined, on the service.

Hill believed that his competitors likely have a new respect for himself, as well as Cassill and Smithley:

“I think so. To be honest, I think they always did. I think in the back of their minds they always have. This almost puts an extra stamp on it. I think drivers in general, in situations where I do have a better car, I look back to some of the other people, I kind of know what guys are up against, what they’re driving, some of the struggles they can’t control. You can always tell. 

“I think for the most part a lot of these drivers understood and respected the driving I’ve always done each weekend. They understand the struggles I’ve always been up against. I think if they haven’t, it almost clarifies that throughout these couple weeks we’ve been doing iRacing.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth after he bounced off the wall with 40 laps to go. He stayed on track, hopeful for a late-race caution. That caution came two laps after Earnhardt pitted in the virtual No. 8 Hellmann’s Chevrolet Camaro ZLE 1LE.

That caution changed the complexion of the race. Daniel Suarez attempted to wreck Ty Dillon on the backstretch. When the virtual No. 96 CommScope Toyota Camry missed its’ target, Suarez bounced off the outside wall before ricocheting off the inside wall. He was parked for his actions.

Byron, John Hunter Nemechek, Kyle Larson, and Kurt Busch, who attended the Virtual Racing School earlier this week, rounded out the top-10.

The Finish

1. Timmy Hill [10], 2. Ryan Preece [7], 3. Garrett Smithley [12], 4. Landon Cassill [5], 5. Alex Bowman [20], 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. [2], 7. William Byron [1], 8. John Hunter Nemechek [3], 9. Kyle Larson [27], 10. Kurt Busch [30], 11. Clint Bowyer [15], 12. Parker Kligerman [4], 13. Bobby Labonte [6], 14. Michael McDowell [11], 15. Matt DiBenedetto [16], 16. Ty Dillon [24], 17. Kyle Busch [19], 18. Chris Buescher [18], 19. Jimmie Johnson [25], 20. Chase Elliott [28], 21. Erik Jones [22], 22. Ross Chastain [33], 23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. [31], 24. Denny Hamlin [17], 25. Bubba Wallace [29], 26. Alex Labbe [32], 27. Ryan Blaney [26], 28. Tyler Reddick [13], 29. Austin Dillon [8], 30. Ty Majeski [34], 31. Ruben Garcia Jr. [21], 32. Greg Biffle [35], 33. Daniel Suarez [9], 34. Christopher Bell [14], 35. Anthony Alfredo [23].

Lead Changes: 14 among nine different drivers

Lap Leader(s): William Byron 1-17, John Hunter Nemechek 18-20, William Byron 21-40, Denny Hamlin 41-43, Chase Elliott 44, William Byron 45-52, Ryan Preece 53-59, John Hunter Nemechek 60-66, William Byron 67-87, Ryan Preece 88, Ty Majeski 89, Michael McDowell 90-92, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 93-106, William Byron 107-121, Timmy Hill 122-130.

Laps Led: William Byron 81, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 14, John Hunter Nemechek 10, Timmy Hill 9, Ryan Preece 8, Denny Hamlin 3, Michael McDowell 3, Chase Elliott 1, Ty Majeski 1.

Cautions: Five for 21 laps.

Margin of Victory: 0.050 seconds.

Average Speed: 133.776 mph

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