William Byron won Heat 1 of the Food City Showdown at eBristol Motor Speedway to earn the pole for Sunday's race. He capitalized on the track position to dominate and win Week 3 of the virtual race schedule.
With this performance, Byron showed that track position is just as important in the virtual world as it is in real life, but he also proved that drivers have to practice for iRacing as much as in the Cup series. This was Byron's 309th win in his 1,499th win in iRacing competition, which gives him a winning percentage of 20.6%.
Last week at eTexas, Byron was leading on the last lap before Timmy Hill executed a bump-and-run to secure the victory. Knocked out of the groove, Byron slipped to seventh at the checkers.
Draft Kings launched a competition for the virtual race this week. Byron was one of the most expensive drivers in the field, commanding the second-highest salary cap of $10,500.
John Hunter Nemechek won Heat 2 of the Food City Showdown, which allowed him to lineup on the outside of the front row. Like Byron, that placed the No. 38 on the front row and allowed him to stay out of trouble in the opening laps. That was a critical factor in his strong run as a caution waved on Lap 2 when Kyle Busch and Ryan Preece got together and went for a spin. The iRacing competition allows for two complete resets, so both Busch and Preece remained in contention.
Nemechek drove a virtually mistake-free race and finished second, although he was embroiled in traffic for a sizeable chunk of the race.
Hill finished third and in doing so, he is the only driver to sweep the top five in iRacing competition through three weeks. He finished third at eHomestead and won last week's Texas race. Hill was rewarded for his virtual racing prowess by being the most expensive driver in Draft Kings with a price tag of $10,700.
Denny Hamlin won the inaugural iRacing event at eHomestead before running into trouble last week at eTexas. While virtual racing is light years different than the real world, it takes some of the same skills to run well in this competition. Hamlin swept the top five in Cup competition last year with a win in the summer. He finished fourth in the Food City Showdown.
Rounding out the top five was Matt DiBenedetto. This is his first top-10 in the virtual series with a previous best of 11th at eHomestead.
Ryan Preece rebounded from his early spin and finished sixth. He was priced at $10,000 in Draft Kings competition, which made him the fourth-most expensive driver. In three races this year, he has swept the top 10 in iRacing. Preece was eighth at eHomestead and second last week.
Garrett Smithley finished ninth to become the third driver to sweep the top 10 in the iRacing NASCAR Pro Invitational since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Tempers flare just as badly in iRacing as the real world. Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez were parked for avoidable contact midway through the race. Larson finished 29th in the 32-car field; Suarez was 27th.