NASCAR iRacing: William Byron wins at Virtual Dover
For the third time in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, William Byron made his way to victory lane in the Finish Line 150 at Virtual Dover International Speedway in his No. 24 Axalta/Voltatex Chevrolet. The victory is his fifth top-10 finish in six races in the series.
With a four-tire stop on the final round of pitstops, Byron’s speed prevailed to take the lead with six laps to go to bring home the victory at the virtual 1-mile oval known as the “Monster Mile”. Leading 79 laps during the 150-lap race, Byron has led the most laps in five of the last six races. “It was fun! We had to go on that restart,” says Byron.
“We had four tires and unfortunately, the strategy made us to where we knew we were going to be back in the pack on that last restart. So, it was just all about getting clear and once we got to Timmy (Hill), I knew we had better stuff and just had to work him over for a couple of corners.
"It was fun, I enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed this iRacing Series we’ve had going, but definitely ready to get back into my normal car, as well. But this has taught me a lot in the last few weeks, so it’s been fun.”
Byron’s win marks the fourth-straight trip to victory lane for Team Chevy and Hendrick Motorsports in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The win was celebrated by Byron’s teammate Alex Bowman, who finished eighth in his No. 88 ChevyGoods.com/NOCO Chevrolet. Garrett Smithley finished ninth in his No. 51 Chevrolet to give Team Chevy three of the top-10 finishers.
Christopher Bell (Toyota) was second, Timmy Hill (Toyota) was third, Erik Jones (Toyota) was fourth, and Michael McDowell (Ford) rounded out the top-five finishers of the race.
Denny Hamlin was the fastest qualifier for the 36-car field, but started 10th after an inversion of the top 10 in time trials. Hamlin was shown on social media pre-race, collecting remote controls at his home; his daughter, Taylor, inadvertently turned off his iRacing monitor during last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The inverted order placed Ross Chastain in the first starting spot, with Garrett Smithley sharing the front row.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA / VOLTATEX CHEVROLET TRANSCRIPT:
William, welcome back. This is your third win in six races. Talk to us a little bit about that exciting finish at Dover.
WILLIAM BYRON: It was a lot of fun today. Obviously there was a lot of cautions so I just had to kind of pace myself. It was hard to predict when we were going to get a longer run so it's hard to know what to do with the tires in terms of how much to save, whatnot.
My help there, Nick, Matt Holden, did a great job of really kind of leaving the strategy up to them as far as what tires to take. I think four tires at the end was the right call to be aggressive. Just thankful for their support and ready to get back to our normal racing here soon.
Q: William, going back to real racing, you touched on this on the broadcast, with the first four Cup races there being no practice and one qualifying session, what are some of the things you think about as far as preparation for going into these races starting off from scratch?
WILLIAM BYRON: It's going to be difficult. I think the biggest thing is just trying to prepare yourself well physically. Obviously you're not going to get that chance to really go through practice and kind of warm up your muscles, I guess you could say, to get ready in the car.
Honestly I've just been doing some training and trying to watch some old film of races at Darlington. With it being a daytime race, it's going to be different as well. A lot of different variables there.
The biggest thing is just being prepared. I've used iRacing to train me on the mental side, which I think has really helped me. I'm looking forward to carrying that confidence and momentum over to the Cup car.
Q: Next week you'll compete at Virtual North Wilkesboro. How do you approach that race? What do you expect you'll be doing between now and next Saturday?
WILLIAM BYRON: I'm not really sure what's going to go on there. I just kind of have to see how this week goes and prepare that way. We'll see how it goes, whether or not that's an event we'll run I guess.
Q: Who do you think this racing on a green track like at Darlington, the first race at Charlotte, who is going to have the advantage in that? What type of racecar driver will perform best?
WILLIAM BYRON: Gosh, it's tough. I think all the Cup Series drivers adapt really well. There's not really going to be an advantage there. A lot of it's going to fall on the teams and the cars, who hits the setup right.
It's going to be big because there's a lot of variables there. You're not going to have a chance to set the height of the car, predict where the splitter is going to end up, where the back is going to travel to.
As a driver all you can do is put consistent laps together. You have to be efficient in traffic at the start of the race. I do feel like there's going to be some mistakes made, some bounces off the wall, things like that. You have to avoid that in the first run or so. Then you'll start to see who really has the car after that.
I would assume it's going to be the same guys that run well at Darlington because they probably have an idea of what their setup needs to be and what they want to feel in their car. Probably no surprises there. But it will take adaptation as a driver, which I think we're all capable of doing.
Q: Racing at Darlington, one of the first major sports returning, what is the feeling? Pride, fear, excitement? Put that in perspective.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I'm excited. Obviously we're going to have to be careful health‑wise, really take care of ourselves. That starts with us as drivers to make sure that we're being smart and things of that nature.
When it comes to the racing I'm honestly just very excited because it kind of goes back to your roots as a driver of when you show up and you race, maybe you have a few laps' practice, but ultimately you get in the car and drive.
I'm looking forward to that aspect of the race, not really being there for a long time, but just getting out there and driving.
The result is going to be right there pretty quickly in front of you. I'm excited about that. It's going to be a different dynamic from what I'm used to in the Cup Series of two‑ or three‑day weekends.
Q: Talk about the art of working a guy over at Darlington cleanly, how it applies from iRacing to Darlington in real life?
WILLIAM BYRON: It's honestly very similar. You get a run on a guy, there's really one groove, one and a half at Darlington. It's all about timing that run off the corner to get to their inside. Then ultimately it comes down to who is the smartest in that situation to hold position.
Yeah, I mean, Darlington is a tough track to pass. It's easy to pass if you have a good car there, good rhythm going. It's very much of a rhythm track for a driver. Getting into rhythm quicker than later is definitely going to be key.
Q: You've run several Outlaw races. Do you have any interest in running a midget, the Chili Bowl Nationals, virtual, on Wednesday night?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I just heard about that. Christopher was tweeting a lot about it. We were talking a little bit after the race about it. I might try to do that. I mean, I don't really have any experience in the midget on iRacing at all. I've been doing the Outlaw cars, the 410 sprint cars, which has been a lot of fun.
I'll probably do that Tuesday show at Volusia, I think it is. If that goes well I might do the Wednesday show. Just kind of depends how the week goes.
Obviously there's a big emphasis on me for training, getting ready for the physical aspect of the car. I'm going to try to limit my iRacing just so I can get both in at the same time.
Q: Can you take us through what you're doing for training? What is your typical training regime? Is it something you're going to almost have to step up now to be prepared for the exhaustion level that comes with the first couple races, doing so many in a short period of time?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I think the sim racing, as much as it is not physical because there's no g‑load on your body, it is physical in the fact that adrenaline goes. That produces certain I guess things that your body does to cope with it.
Honestly, I'm glad that's happened through the iRacing races, the adrenaline aspect is there, because it's important to me at least. I like that. But obviously the physical aspect of g‑load and your legs, all the core exercise that you need to have is going to be a huge undertaking. I've tried to work on that lately.
Q: I know there's getting into shape and then getting into game shape. A driver or two talked about doing some go‑karting in the next couple weeks to get used to the beating and banging. Is that something you'd look to do especially with Max? What is the mindset in terms of stepping up the training to get more into game shape as opposed to being in physically good shape?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I definitely agree. I think going to the karting track is something that's big on our priority list. Really that's kind of why my iRacing structure this week might be a little different, just because of that. That's something that we use pretty heavily.
Yeah, that's going to be an aspect that can be used. Obviously you can't go get in any other racecar. The karting track will be a good tool leading up. Also the Chevrolet simulator as well.
I think there's a lot of tools that can be used. I'm going to try to prepare as similar as I do for the first race at Daytona every year, try to just follow those lines.
Q: Being two weeks out, the idea or thought about competing without fans, you'll be spaced out in the infield. For drivers, you'll be in your motor coach and then straight to the car. What do you imagine or think that is going to be like? What will you miss most in that type of situation, not being able to be with your team?
WILLIAM BYRON: I'm going to miss the family aspect at the track, the fan aspect at first. I think it's going to be much different not to have that prerace hype and environment around the race.
For me, it will just allow me to focus more and be around my team, not have any distractions I guess you could say. I think there's pros and cons for sure. I'm going to miss the environment, but it will make it a little bit easier as a driver I believe to get ready.
Honestly I'd liken it to the way that rain delays are when you kind of are sitting around, then all of a sudden it's time to go race. Those are difficult situations. You got to not kind of trap yourself in that cool and calm environment. It's difficult to get hyped up for the race, but I'll try to keep things as normal as possible.
Q: As a team, you've been doing virtual meetings during this time? Have you talked amongst yourselves?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, we've had a few. The team guys have had much more than I've had. I think there's a weekly for sure. For me, I've been involved in a couple of calls with Mr. H and Marshall and Jeff Andrews and Chad obviously, my crew chief.
Yeah, I think it's important that we kind of stay in the loop obviously because we can't really see each other. We've tried to do Zoom calls and all those things for the past couple weeks.
Q: Prior to Darlington you'll have a meeting, but is there talk about meeting in person prior to race day? Do you think it will be important whether you meet in person or virtual before the first race?
WILLIAM BYRON: I think it's going to be important to kind of meet in person maybe at a distance or something just to get going with Chad, just kind of understand where we are there.
Chad and I have kept pretty close contact throughout the last few weeks. Yeah, we're going to try to do what we can to meet but keep it safe at the same time.
Q: Before a race do you feed off the fact that all the crews are on pit road, there's fans, the anthem, all the stuff that goes into the prerace? If you do, how does that change with what's going to happen now because it will be a ghost town in relative terms?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it will be so much different. Really for us as drivers I think most of us get in the zone once we're in the racecar. That's similar whether it's iRacing or real racing. The adrenaline hits you once the engine fires and the window net is up, you're in your own capsule there.
It will be different for the teams of not having the aspect before the race of hype and buildup. As a driver, nothing matters until you're in the seat and actually driving.
Q: Does this create a new reality? Bubba Wallace said this will change how you interact with fans maybe long‑term.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it could, for sure. I don't really know the implications there. It could definitely change the reality for us. I think honestly that was kind of changing as we were still racing before this all started. It was hard to understand or come to terms with. It was changing rapidly. It will be different.
Q: You talked about the communication between you and Chad. What will it look like in a garage area or back at the shop for Hendrick Motorsports to start getting prepared for the next couple of weeks in preparation for Darlington?
WILLIAM BYRON: I'm sure it's going to be different just because guys are having to wear masks, kind of keep themselves isolated from each other. I'm sure I'll go over there a couple times this week to get a feel for what the car feels like and everything like that.
It is much different to be there and kind of just not be able to go about business as normal.
Q: Has the team been doing any practicing for pit stops? Is there going to be something somewhat different preparing for Darlington?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I'm sure they've done some practice. Obviously it has to be kind of on their own. I'm sure it's going to be an adjustment for the pit crew guys as well to be able to go out there kind of cold turkey. I'm sure that's difficult.
Q: I clearly understand the difference between being in a real racecar and iRacing. What kind of confidence or uptick does it give you to have so thoroughly dominated in this? You go back into racing at Darlington feeling pretty good I would think.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, it honestly feels really good. I feel like even though obviously it's virtual racing, it's a very similar platform to what we do. The physics and geometry of everything is similar.
What gives me confidence is the fact that in pressure situations, being able to deliver under those is critical in a real racecar because everyone can go real fast, but it comes down to the strategy and execution of that.
It gives me a lot of confidence in the heated moments of the race. I'm excited to bring that back over to the real racecar.
Q: You mentioned the Chevy simulator earlier. How much does iRacing compare with the simulator? What are some of the positives iRacing has versus the simulator and vice versa?
WILLIAM BYRON: I think that's a good question. There's some subtle differences for sure. I think the biggest thing that iRacing has is you can race against other people and you're not just racing laps by yourself. The other thing is the tire wear that iRacing has modeled is pretty exceptional. I think those two things allow you to be able to race against guys and to learn things mentally of how you would handle situations.
The thing that iRacing doesn't have that the Chevy sim has is the movement and the up‑to‑date setups and technology we use. It's much more similar on a car setup side to what we're actually doing in the real racing.
Q: As the Pro Invitational series is winding down, many have said they would like to keep iRacing with you guys to keep this relevant. Do you think an off‑season series is possible?
WILLIAM BYRON: It could be, yeah. I mean, I don't think anything required would be a good idea. If you love to iRace, I think it's a good idea to have a series of some sort in the off time. I already do that myself with iRacing. I already race in the off‑season to get better.
I feel like I would still use it regardless, whether there's a series or not. It is cool to have gatherings of some of the guys that are racing on Sundays and being able to kind of mix it up like we are.
Q: You're obviously from North Carolina. Have you been at the real North Wilkesboro Speedway before to go see it or for a race they've had?
WILLIAM BYRON: I haven't. I haven't, no. I've been past the racetrack but I've never even seen a lap around there. I don't know. I got to kind of watch some races, old races, see how it is.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, William, for joining us today.
WILLIAM BYRON: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to the media for joining us as well.
Feedback can be sent to email@example.com
Go to our forums to discuss this article