Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin used fresher tires to chase down the leaders and got by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the final turn to take the checkered flag.
“It’s always fun when you win, but regardless, I mean, it’s just it was a great event,” Hamlin said. “For the community, the racing community, the NASCAR drivers to come together and put 20 something drivers on the racetrack with such short notice, everyone is buying up simulation rigs this week and last week getting ready for the event, and for it all to come together and have a great finish, I think it was definitely a success.”
With the win, Hamlin is donating $5,000 to benefit families affected by COVID-19 in the Homestead-Miami area. In addition, the Kevin Harvick Foundation matched Hamlin’s pledge, along with iRacing and NASCAR on FOX.
“With the donation I made, Kevin Harvick backed and FOX backed, we made a good chunk of contribution today,” Hamlin said.”
Heading into the race, Hamlin had posted 30 wins in 163 iRacing starts in public oval events in stock car disciplines. He won today’s race wearing no shoes and had to deal with an exploding Coke bottle mid-race.
“I like feeling the pedals,” Hamlin said. “With shoes I just can’t do it. I always go barefoot.
“My extra man/child over the wall that was supposed to hand me my drink and get a tear off gave me a shaken Cherry Vanilla Coke bottle, which that didn’t work too well with electronics. That was a bit of a problem. We got through it, though. Got the hands clean, threw the towel out the window and I was off.”
Earnhardt Jr. battled Timmy Hill for the top spot in the closing laps and took the lead with five to go. He was able to maintain the lead before the hard-charging Hamlin got to him on the last lap.
“We got together off of (Turn) 4,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I thought I might have been able to get a photo finish at the line, but we got together in 4 and I about wrecked there. Denny had better tires and he was just really, really fast, but it was a good race.”
Hill, Chase Briscoe, Garrett Smithley, Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Preece, Ty Majeski and Erik Jones rounded out the top 10.
Hill (673) and Smithley (146) have a combined 819 wins on iRacing.
“I think it’s great for those guys who normally you would not see up front,” Hamlin said. “I thought for sure they were one of the top five favorites going in, along with William and myself and Dale Jr. was really fast through the week, so I think that the guys who you expected to be up front, they were up front, and it’s who you had to beat for the win.
“It’s great that those guys were able to participate, and not only participate but challenge for the win. Normally on a normal week, they’re thinking, well, how can I run 30th, right, so it’s just a different beast when everything is all up and out.”
NASCAR.com: Watch the Final Lap
Briscoe and Majeski were two of the five drivers that advanced to the 100-lap race after competing in a 20-lap race with 11 overall NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series drivers. Majeski, who has 914 iRacing wins, started on pole and led every lap.
“It was fun to get to do some type of racing, especially with the Cup guys and some others that I don’t get to race against a lot,” Briscoe said. “Hopefully, it was a way for the fans to escape from everything that is going on and enjoy some good racing.”
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William Byron led a race-high 28 laps, but finished 34th. He was involved in an incident with Bowman to bring out the caution on Lap 69 and then dropped out of the race 10 laps later.
Each driver had the chance to reset the damage on their car twice during the race.
Clint Bowyer, who finished 16th, was the in-race reporter for the FS1 broadcast that was anchored by Jeff Gordon and Mike Joy.
During the broadcast the race hashtag – #ProInvitationalSeries – was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States.