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William Byron wins Richmond iRace

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: April 19, 2020, 9:38 pm ET

NASCAR has a long history of changing the rules for exhibition races and the NASCAR Pro Invitational iRace was no exception. Originally scheduled for 26 drivers, four were added at the last minute to create a 30-car field.

After winning last week on the short track of eBristol, William Byron became the first repeat winner in the virtual series. He was our top pick in this week's Draft Kings preview.

"I wasn't in a racing family growing up, so (iRacing) was really my avenue to cut my teeth," Byron said on Fox Sports after winning the race. 

Byron beat Timmy Hill to the line, surviving a green-white-checkered finish to sustain a rivalry in the making. Three weeks ago, Hill and Byron were battling for the win at eTexas when Hill performed a bump-and run that handed him the lead and sent Byron home seventh.

Winning in iRacing is not a fluke. It takes practice. And Byron was prepared for what might come.

"My crew chief Nick Ottinger, who runs my eSports team, he actually just worked on beating my back bumper off in a couple of practice sessions," Byron said. "So I was prepared to hold the brake when he got there. Better than I was in Texas." 

Hill finished second. He is the only driver to sweep the top-10 through four races. In fact, he has not finished worse than third in the Pro Invitational series.  

Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill were not even scheduled to be in this race until the rules were changed. Kligerman finished third. Cassill was fourth. 

A Joe Gibbs juggernaut took the next three spots with Kyle Busch rounding out the top five, Denny Hamlin in sixth, and Erik Jones seventh.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bubba Wallace, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10.

The first three races featured a ton of cautions as the best drivers in the real world struggled to figure out how to make their virtual cars fly. At eRichmond, the field went green for the first 25 laps, which is one of the best starts these drivers have managed in the short history of the series.

Cautions breed cautions, and after a short stoppage for Chris Buescher losing his steering wheel (it came lose from the computer), the e-rivalry between Clint Bowyer and Wallace continued. On a Lap 30 restart, Bowyer was tipped into the wall by Wallace. Luckily, iRacing allows the drivers to reset their setup. And Bowyer did not rage-quit. Unfortunately, his engine expired before the halfway point and he finished last. 

Joey Logano has been struggling in the virtual world. He finished 15th at eHomestead and was 17th at eBristol. 

"I'm struggling my butt off in iRacing," Logano said while sitting in the pits awaiting a reset. "I can't get the queueing right. I want to be aggressive like I normally am, but my ability is not there."

Of course in the virtual world, there are fewer consequences to ones action. After contact a few laps earlier that sent Matt DiBenedetto into a spin, he waited on Ryan Preece and intentionally wrecked him. Then again, that is not an entirely unknown factor in the real world. 

Preece entered the race with three straight top-10s. He was unable to survive the damage and finished 19th after leading the first 59 laps. DiBenedetto was park for rough driving and finished 27th.

The other driver to enter the eRichmond race with a perfect record of top-10s was also involved in an accident. Garrett Smithley was spun late in the race and finished 17th after recording a worst finish of ninth last week at eBristol.

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.