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Hamlin beats Earnhardt Jr. in Homestead iRacing event

A peek into the future when cars drive themselves
Sunday, March 22, 2020

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Hamlin crosses the finish line to beat Earnhardt Jr.
Hamlin crosses the finish line to beat Earnhardt Jr.

In what was a peek into the future of auto racing when cars drive themselves and drivers are no longer needed to put on real races at a race track, Denny Hamlin passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap Sunday to win the first event in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin led 14 laps in the No. 11 Toyota to land his 31st iRacing win, prevailing in the Dixie Vodka 150 at the virtual 1.5-mile track. The 100-lap, 150-mile event with a fixed setup was the first in a multi-week online racing series for NASCAR’s real-world standouts.

Earnhardt’s No. 8 Chevrolet, which also led 14 laps, survived some last-lap contact with Hamlin’s car to secure second place. Timmy Hill led until late in the race and grabbed third with Chase Briscoe fourth and pole-starter Garrett Smithley led 24 laps before settling for fifth.

“It’s always fun when you win,” Hamlin said in a teleconference after the race. “Regardless, it was a great event for the racing community and the NASCAR drivers to come together to put 20-some drivers together on such short notice. I think it definitely was a success.”

Earnhardt said afterward: “We took tires with 30 laps to and Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go and I think that was certainly a big advantage for him. We were racing really hard up front, too, burning our stuff up. I didn’t expect Denny to get up there and he did. Went to the bottom because if I go to the top he can pass me a whole lot easier. Plus, he wanted to, he could take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top five.”

The virtual race pitted 35 drivers with backgrounds in NASCAR’s three national series against each other, all competing on various rigs from their rec rooms, man caves and garages. FOX Sports’ usual race-day crew added a layer of authenticity to the event, with the two-man booth of Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon presiding over the online stream.

Smithley won the pole position in pre-race qualifying, held in a group format. iRacing standout and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series regular Ty Majeski prevailed in a last-chance qualifying race, leading all 20 laps as six drivers from the Xfinity Series and Gander Truck ranks advanced to the main event.

William Byron led a race-high 28 laps, but wound up 34th after his involvement in some of the nine caution periods. Byron, who has used iRacing extensively as a development tool, completed just 79 of the 100 laps.

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RESULTS

1. (9) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, 100.
2. (5) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, 100.
3. (7) Timmy Hill, No. 66 Toyota, 100.
4. (6) Chase Briscoe, No. 98 Ford, 100.
5. (1) Garrett Smithley, No. 51 Chevrolet, 100.
6. (12) Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet, 100.
7. (18) Bubba Wallace, No. 43 Chevrolet, 100.
8. (13) Ryan Preece, No. 37 Chevrolet, 100.
9. (3) Ty Majeski, No. 45 Chevrolet, 100.
10. (25) Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota, 100.
11. (16) Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Ford, 100.
12. (10) Landon Cassill, No. 89 Chevrolet, 100.
13. (8) Parker Kligerman, No. 77 Toyota, 100.
14. (4) Ross Chastain, No. 6 Ford, 100.
15. (19) Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, 100.
16. (11) Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Ford, 100.
17. (23) Ryan Truex, No. 40 Chevrolet, 100.
18. (29) Bobby Labonte, No. 19 Toyota, 100.
19. (28) Ty Dillon, No. 13 Chevrolet, 100.
20. (26) Justin Allgaier, No. 7 Chevrolet, 100.
21. (33) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Chevrolet, 100.
22. (15) Austin Cindric, No. 12 Ford, 100.
23. (32) Michael McDowell, No. 34 Ford, 100.
24. (20) Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet, 100.
25. (30) Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, 100.
26. (27) Christopher Bell, No. 95 Toyota, 100.
27. (24) Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, 100.
28. (21) Chris Buescher, No. 17 Ford, 99.
29. (34) Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, 94.
30. (22) John Hunter Nemechek, No. 38 Ford, 93.
31. (35) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, 93.
32. (17) Anthony Alfredo, No. 33 Chevrolet, 86.
33. (14) Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, 86.
34. (2) William Byron, No. 24 Chevrolet, 79.
35. (31) Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chevrolet, 46.

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