William Byron Wins Again in iRacing Pro Invitational Series, Going Back-to-Back at Richmond
After the Easter off weekend, William Byron picked up right where he left off in iRacing-victory lane. Byron was able to go back-to-back by winning at the virtual Richmond Raceway. This victory comes on the heels of his dominant win at Bristol. The 22-year-old is the first multi-time winner in Pro Invitational Series history. After being hailed as an odds on favorite for each virtual event, Byron’s iRacing experience seems to finally be paying off.
Byron Assumes Lead Early, Never Looks Back
After qualifying in the third position, Byron’s black and gold No. 24 car was up to second on the first lap. Byron only trailed polesitter Ryan Preece, who he would ride behind for the opening 60 circuits. Once Byron passed Preece for the lead, he would only cede the lead for a lap 100 pit stop. Byron’s eventual margin of victory was less than three tenths though. The Charlotte native just narrowly edged out Timmy Hill in an Overtime finish. Byron’s win came despite having older tires on his 24 machine.
Amazingly Clean Racing After Bristol Wreck-fest
In response to the craziness that was the Bristol Pro Invitational Series race two weeks ago, Richmond would see format changes. These alterations were made in an attempt to make the race more realistic and less chaotic. First and foremost, only 26 drivers would be locked in. Four additional contestants earned their way in through a Last Chance race. These drivers were Bobby Labonte, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Daniel Suarez. The latter two each made their way in through a FOX-determined provisional.
Another major change for Richmond would be the elimination of fast repairs. With no proverbial reset button, drivers would have to race more cautiously and make smarter moves on-track.
Both of these changes did produce a more lifelike race, as there were only six cautions for 36 laps. This is half of the number of cautions that were seen in the Bristol race.
Are Real-Life Rivalries Developing in iRacing?
The first restart at Richmond would not last a full lap before another caution flag flew. This yellow flag was triggered by two drivers who had a run in at Bristol: Clint Bowyer and Bubba Wallace. Bowyer was slowing for contact up ahead of him, and Wallace drove straight into the 14. On the broadcast, Bowyer said ‘two races in a row I got Bubba’d,’ referencing the Bristol crash that saw Wallace rage quit. Post race however, it was determined that one of them was evidently lagging due to connection issues.
This was far from the only on-track argument in Richmond, as Ryan Preece and Matt Dibenedetto also traded blows. Will any of these altercations transfer over to real racing rivalries once the Cup Series resumes? We will have to wait and see, but for now Clint Bowyer’s antics are only adding to the fun value of FOX iRacing broadcasts.
Polesitter Poaches the Italian Stallion
After Ryan Preece lost the lead to William Byron, he began free-falling through the field on older tires. On lap 98, Preece was in the process of being passed by Matt Dibenedetto. Preece had cleared himself into turn one while the 21’s nose was still to his inside. As a result, Preece looped it, triggering only the fourth caution.
Not long after, a very heated Ryan Preece was once again racing around the 21 car. Preece sent Dibenedetto spiraling hard into turn one, causing the 21 to go nose-first into the outside wall. Dibenedetto would later hunt down and wreck Preece in retaliation. After this third incident, Dibenedetto was parked for the remainder of the race.
Both drivers exchanged words later on Twitter. There was an added element of humor to this feud, as Dibenedetto ran the entire race in a giraffe onesie. Similar to the Bowyer/Wallace fracas, could this iRacing incident also translate into a real-world NASCAR rivalry?
Post race recap. I do not feel very intimidating currently but you guys can still sense my rage pic.twitter.com/I8uK1lMNrr
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) April 19, 2020
Byron’s Winning Reaction
“I wasn’t in a racing family growing up, so this was really my avenue to cut my teeth. Obviously, a much different way than most guys grew up. But I feel like in my generation, it’s pretty normal. I’ve very thankful for what its done for me,” said Byron. Richmond marks Byron’s 320th oval win on iRacing.
“Really pleased with how it turned out,” Byron went on. “Definitely the pit call there with about 40 ‑‑ yeah, 40 laps to go was a tough one. I didn’t really know how that was going to work out, but luckily, we were able to have a little bit of buffer to the guys with four tires, and then the late restart, just executed that well. Yeah, it was fun. Really enjoyed it. To go back‑to‑back is really cool. Having fun with it while we’re kind of in a hiatus here, but looking forward to getting back to real racing soon, too.”
Top 10 Finishers
The top 10 results from the Toyota Owners 150 were Timmy Hill, Parker Kligerman, Landon Cassill, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Bubba Wallace, and Brad Keselowski. For many of these drivers, Richmond marks their best result in the Pro Invitational Series.
How to Watch the Next Race
The next stop for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will be Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday. Race format and broadcast time are yet-to-be-determined, so stay tuned to our writer’s Twitter accounts for any updates. Talladega may be the craziest iRacing event yet, so be sure to tune into FOX or FS1 on Sunday for all of the action. Real racing may be on the near horizon too, we will give any information on the resumption of the 2020 NASCAR season.
Written by Peter Stratta
Be sure to follow the writer on Twitter.
Photo credit to NASCARMedia