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Texas eNASCAR Pro Invitational race boasts large entry list, returnees

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Credit: iRacing/NASCAR

Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at Texas Motor Speedway carries plenty of fanfare for a variety of reasons, from the hype of last week’s opening race to Fox Sports simulcasting the event. However, perhaps what has most fans excited is the gigantic entry list of sixty-five drivers who will battle it out for thirty-five spots; thirty-one are already guaranteed spots in the field. If this were an actual race, it would boast the largest entry list since sixty-one entered the 2007 Daytona 500.

Among the names are Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne, both of whom will make their return to NASCAR in a virtual manner. Although Biffle is locked in, Bayne will have to qualify or race his way in.

Biffle’s entry technically counts as a return to a former organisation as he will drive the #16 for Roush Fenway Racing. He spent much of his NASCAR Cup Series career in the car and number from 2003 to 2016, where he won nineteen races and recorded a runner-up points finish in 2005. After departing RFR, he began racing in the Stadium Super Trucks on a part-time basis in 2018.

Despite having virtually no experience on the track in iRacing, the 2000 Truck and 2002 Xfinity Series champion has enjoyed much success at Texas Motor Speedway. He won two Cup races at the circuit and was triumphant in his NASCAR return at last June’s Truck Series event.

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the #16,” Biffle stated. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.”

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – JUNE 07: Greg Biffle, driver of the #51 Toyota Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane with $50,000 after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 07, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500, was also a Roush driver until he was released at the end of 2018. In three full-time seasons in RFR’s #6 (he was scaled back to a part-time basis in 2018), he never finished higher than twenty-second in points. He eventually opened the Mahalo Coffee Roasters coffee shop in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.

On Instagram, Bayne posted a photo of his #29 Mahalo-sponsored car, remarking he is “coming out of retirement this weekend… well virtually!”

Much of last Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 150 grid will return for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 150, including winner Denny Hamlin, runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr., and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Labonte. The three are locked into the race.

On the other hand, Bayne will be fighting for a spot in the feature against thirty-four Xfinity, Truck, and lower series drivers.

Much of the entrants’ cars sport the same numbers as their real-life counterpart, though exceptions include Tyler Reddick in the #31 rather than #8; since #8 is taken by Earnhardt, Reddick switches to Richard Childress Racing‘s previous number #31. Xfinity drivers Joe Graf Jr. and Jeb Burton are also affected by #8 being unavailable; in real life, Burton drives the #8 part-time while Graf is in the #08, though Burton moves to the #08 and Graf swaps the digits. At the Truck level, Todd Gilliland, who runs the #38 for Front Row Motorsports, will switch to the team’s former #35, while Sheldon Creed, driver of the #2, is bringing back his SST and off-road racing number #74.

Other names not currently racing in any of NASCAR’s three national series include Rubén García Jr. and Drew Dollar. García is a three-time PEAK Mexico Series champion, including winning the last two titles, while Dollar races in the ARCA Menards Series.

In response to Fox’s Bob Pockrass explaining the network’s decision on whether to air the Last Chance Qualifier is yet to be determined, Xfinity veteran Ryan Ellis, who will pilot the #78, quipped, “I want people to see me DNQ”.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 will kick off on Sunday at 1 PM Eastern. FS1 and Fox will simulcast the race.

Entry list

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History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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