With NASCAR having 36 scheduled races in the Cup Series annually, the season is already busy with teams traveling on a week to week basis. Race teams had made it to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA, before being told the race would be postponed and rescheduled at a later date due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak, which has caused a worldwide plague.
NASCAR also cancelled the next five races, which were scheduled to take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. Since there will be no racing until mid-May, drivers decided to race on a virtual racing platform called iRacing and put on a show on FOX broadcast networks.
With nothing happening whatsoever during the weekend of the scheduled race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR threw together a 100-lap race on “virtual” Homestead-Miami Speedway with 35 of NASCAR’s stars on Sunday, March 22. Every driver in the NASCAR Cup Series was guaranteed a spot into the main event, while drivers in the lower series had to grab one of the few spots left in the last-chance qualifier.
Four drivers made it in through the last chance qualifier, including NASCAR Truck Series regular Ty Majeski and NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor, Anthony Alfredo. Both are drivers who frequently utilize iRacing to become better real-life drivers, as iRacing is frequently used to give drivers extra practice when they cannot make it on the real track.
The race started with NASCAR Cup Series underdogs Garrett Smithley and Timmy Hill starting on the front row. Smithley led the most laps and was frequently challenged by retired NASCAR Cup Series star, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and this year’s Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin. Towards the end of the race, Earnhard Jr. and Hamlin would be the drivers battling for the win in the virtual showdown. Hamlin nudged Earnhardt Jr. coming off the final corner and won the race. He and several drivers who decided not to participate in the event decided to donate $5,000 to those who are being affected by COVID-19, which is a win for more than just Hamlin.
The following Sunday, March 29, the second virtual race was held at “virtual” Texas Motor Speedway. This week, Majeski and Alfredo once again made it through the last chance qualifier, with NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Alex Labbe also making it in. Labbe had not attempted the prior week’s race so this was his first event. This race also had semi-retired NASCAR Cup Series star, Greg Biffle competing.
This event started smoothly, but an accident occured on the backstretch with the caution not being thrown out, which many fans and drivers found odd. However, the yellow flag was thrown out eventually, being that this was most likely a glitch in the system. Ultimately, the race finished with few problems, but a memorable finish.
NASCAR Cup Series underdogs Ryan Preece and Timmy Hill battled until coming to the checkered flag, with Hill ultimately winning. Hill is known for driving cars with used equipment and finishes last in real NASCAR races, so this was a huge deal for him, proving he could possibly be a winning racer if the right opportunity arises in the real world. Every weekend there will be a virtual race on one of the FOX networks. Anybody can enjoy them, espesially those who are hardcore gamers.