Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin surged in the closing laps to defeat Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 from Homestead-Miami Speedway. Broadcast live on FS1, the first event to showcase real-world NASCAR drivers on iRacing saw 35 of the world’s best drivers take on 100 challenging laps of the popular Florida oval, and featured a thrilling finish worthy of the build-up.
“First thing I did, I got out of the rig and I came up and watched the last six laps to kind of see what was going on,” Hamlin admitted after the race. “I can’t see everything when I’m sitting in the car, but certainly I was intrigued to see the last six laps and see what it looked like on TV. I thought it looked great. My first reaction 10 seconds in to watching it was like, I asked the people around me, I was like, ‘Do you believe this is not real.’ Like it looks so real. That part was really cool.”
Sunday’s field included a mix of iRacing veterans like William Byron, Timmy Hill, and Parker Kligerman, as well as newcomers like Kurt Busch and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. Racing from the FOX Sports studios in Charlotte was Clint Bowyer, who joined Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Larry McReynolds as Sunday’s in-race reporter.
The action started with a heat race for NASCAR Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series drivers, with 11 racers looking to earn six transfer spots to join the 29 NASCAR Cup Series drivers that earned automatic berths. Ty Majeski, who boasts an iRating of more than 10,000 on multiple accounts on the service, scored the victory, while Garrett Smithley earned the pole in the subsequent qualifying session. He wouldn’t lead the first lap, though, as Byron jumped out to an early lead, holding the point for a race-high 28 laps.
While a number of early cautions slowed down the race, and many top drivers were forced to use resets to get back in the thick of the battle, the iRacing veterans established themselves as front-runners in the closing stages of the race. Smithley and Hill found themselves first and second with under 20 to go, but Earnhardt Jr. methodically reeled them in, with Hamlin not far behind.
Earnhardt Jr. made what looked like it would be the pass with just a few laps remaining, but Hamlin—who, like Earnhardt Jr., owns a team in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for professional sim racers—got an excellent run on the final lap to set up a photo finish. Earnhardt Jr. tried to maintain the spot, but had to take evasive action to avoid contact, and was eventually beaten to the line by .152 seconds. Hill, Chase Briscoe, and Smithley completed the top five.
Dixie Vodka 150 Results
Full results from Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 from Homestead-Miami Speedway were as follows:
|2||5||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Chevrolet||100||14||-0.152||31.714|
|6||12||88||Alex W Bowman||Chevrolet||100||0||-0.717||31.739|
|21||33||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Chevrolet||100||0||-7.898||31.959|
|28||21||17||Chris Buescher||Ford||99||0||-1 L||31.823|
|29||34||18||Kyle Busch||Toyota||94||0||-6 L||31.699|
|30||22||38||John Nemechek||Chevrolet||93||0||-7 L||31.858|
|31||35||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chevrolet||93||0||-7 L||31.881|
|32||17||33||Anthony Alfredo||Chevrolet||86||0||-14 L||31.748|
|33||14||42||Kyle Larson||Chevrolet||86||0||-14 L||31.781|
|34||2||24||William Byron Jr||Chevrolet||79||28||-21 L||31.715|
|35||31||1||Kurt Busch||Chevrolet||46||0||-54 L||31.843|
Announcements about the next eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series events will be made in the coming days. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.