As a short track, Bristol Motor Speedway has always been a fan favourite on the NASCAR circuit for providing close action and wild moments. In the case of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, the stars of the Cup Series might have taken the virtual Bristol into the amusingly absurd territory.
Sunday’s Food City Showdown saw numerous wrecks and even drivers rage-quitting as they fought their way around the high banking of the short oval; by the end of the 150-lap event, eleven cautions had occurred. Once the dust had settled, William Byron was the victor.
Erik Jones almost immediately exited the first race when his game disconnected, while Daniel Suárez quickly found himself a lap down. At the front, Byron dominated en route to the heat win, while Jimmie Johnson wrecked along the way. Tailing were Christopher Bell, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Alex Bowman, Michael McDowell, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Matt DiBenedetto (who received a black flag on the final lap), Ryan Blaney, Suárez, Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. Jones finished at the back, though he was able to return to the race partway.
Clint Bowyer, who has been the star of the Pro Invitational Series for the hilariously wrong reasons so far, continued to remain in the spotlight when he wrecked twice in the second heat, including taking out Bobby Labonte.
On Twitter, many of Bowyer’s peers quickly poked fun at his antics.
At the front, John Hunter Nemechek edged out Ryan Preece in a photo finish to take the heat win. Following them were Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Texas winner Timmy Hill, Landon Cassill, Garrett Smithley, Bubba Wallace, Ty Dillon, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, and Denny Hamlin. Labonte and Bowyer were classified in last.
The Showdown almost immediately took a turn when both Busch brothers, Preece, and a number of other drivers were collected on the frontstretch shortly after taking the green flag. Meanwhile, Internet problems once again plagued Jones as he disconnected from the server before rejoining laps down.
Bowyer’s shenanigans continued shortly after when he collided with Wallace and spun. While Bowyer remarked he got “Bubba’d” on stream, Wallace promptly quit the game.
The race resumed on lap 26 with Byron leading Nemechek. Moments later, Jones lost connection yet again.
The frequency of wrecks persisted as Elliott flipped, Larson plowed into Suárez (leading to both drivers being parked—in Suárez’s case, for the second straight race), and Buescher took Cassill out from the lead. In response, iRacing changed to single-file restarts, which haven’t been used for green-flag starts at the real-life Cup level since 2009.
Suárez tweeted after the Larson clash, “I was waiting for @iRacing to get him disqualified like i was last weekend in 5 seconds, but they never did… and by the way our ‘racing incident’ was him pushing me to the apron… if this was real life my amigo would get his but[t] kicked”.
Other incidents included Johnson missing his pit box while Fox commentator and car owner Jeff Gordon called the shots, prompting Johnson to call him out with the Twitter hashtag #BlameJG.
As the field took itself out, Byron maintained his lead at the front. With less than 20 laps to go, the Team Penske drivers Logano and Keselowski wrecked, turning the latter before Buescher slammed into his stationary car.
The race resumed on lap 132 as Byron led Nemechek. As the Showdown crossed the ten laps remaining mark, the eleventh caution of the day came out after Preece hit Kyle Busch, sending the latter into the inside wall and clipping Chastain.
The restart took place with three laps to go. A strong restart gave Byron the advantage, while DiBenedetto found himself fighting with Hill for third.
With the opposition battling among themselves, Byron pulled away for the win. It was his 309th victory on iRacing.