Denny Hamlin bumps Ross Chastain for iRacing win at North Wilkesboro
Denny Hamlin put the bumper into Ross Chastain with nine laps to go and held on to win Saturday’s final eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race at a virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Hamlin and Chastain had battled for a couple of laps as the North Wilkesboro 160 was closing in on the finish. Chastain tried to come down on and block Hamlin, but the latter got his right front fender into the left rear of Chastain, pushing him out of the way.
It was Hamlin’s second win in the series. He won the series’ first race (Homestead) and final race (North Wilkesboro).
“I knew we had the fastest car, it was just getting through traffic,” Hamlin told Fox. “We got into an early incident, had to use the (reset) right off the bat, so that wasn’t advantageous for us but we were able to methodically make our way back up to the front.”
Chastain avenged Hamlin’s race-winning move by spinning the FedEx Toyota after the checkered flag on a cool-down lap on the .625-mile oval.
“We were two guys going for the same spot,” Hamlin said of the incident. “I got a good run on him off Turn 2 and as soon as he saw I was going low, he pulled down the straightaway to try and block and we both just let off the gas at the same time.”
Timmy Hill finished second, followed by Tyler Reddick, Chastain and Austin Dillon.
Sixth through 10th were Garrett Smithley, Brennan Poole, Parker Kligerman, Kevin Harvick and Landon Cassill.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who helped facilitate the race by leading efforts to clean up the track so that it would be realistic for iRacing engineers to build a platform around, hung around the top 10 for most of the race before finishing 15th.
William Byron, who won three of the first six races in the series, did not participate in this race.
Next up is NASCAR’s return to real-life racing next Sunday at Darlington Raceway. Hamlin can’t wait to continue is momentum.
“There’s nothing that’s going to sidetrack us on race day,” Hamlin said in a post-race teleconference. “I envision that people are going to be pretty timid, at least for the first few laps. ... There’s plenty of times where these teams unload, cars are hitting the track and you’re not ready to be in a pack. We do have data from last year so I think everyone is going go be very confident going into turn one.
“All in all, it’s going to be like an old shoe. From a fan’s perspective, I don’t think it will be any different (watching it on TV).”