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Are you missing NASCAR? Give iRacing a go

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 22, 2020 at 12:55 AM

Stock car racing may be postponed through May 3, but NASCAR has a plan to fill the void.

Several current and recently retired Cup Series drivers will be racing simulators Sunday at the virtual track of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 will be broadcast on FS1, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Fox Sports broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will call the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 16-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver, and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Labonte will compete along with Cup champions Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

Other Cup participants are Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer. Thirteen of the top 20 drivers in the series standings are entered along with rookie contenders Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek.

Earnhardt also competed in last week’s iRacing event, won by Penske Racing spotter Josh Williams. Williams won the Replacements 100 at the simulated Atlanta Motor Speedway by holding off Cup driver William Byron. Earnhardt finished eighth, one spot ahead of Bubba Wallace.

“Not the real deal, but you won’t get much closer to reality than iRacing,” Earnhardt posted on Twitter. “Congrats to Josh. I didn’t think Willie could be beat.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers participating are Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley. The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is represented by Stewart Friesen, Ty Majeski, Ryan Truex and Jess Iwuji.

The virtual race will be limited to 35 drivers. All entered Cup regulars plus Earnhardt, Parker Kligerman and Labonte have been allotted positions in the lineup. On Sunday morning, a qualifying race across the group of Xfinity and truck drivers will determine the remainder of the grid.

Matt DiBenedetto, Byron and Earnhardt are longtime veterans of iRacing. Byron, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, started his career through virtual racing.

Bowyer will be making his first official iRacing start in a Cup Series race, although he has competed in the series as a hobby. Also an in-race commentator Sunday, he’s a team owner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.

Bowyer sees Sunday’s event as a needed diversion from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t know if I will be able to keep up with all these young kids who do this all the time, so my goal is to have fun and keep the fans entertained on Sunday,” he said. “Everyone needs some entertainment right now. This puts a new perspective on life and, when it all comes back, we will appreciate everything much more.”

Homestead-Miami is where NASCAR’s three major series were to run this weekend.

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