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iRacers take on virtual 'Monster Mile'

Jeff Birchfield • May 3, 2020 at 10:00 AM

One more week of fun and games for the NASCAR Cup Series drivers in the iRacing Pro Invitational Series before they get back on the racetrack for real.

The eNASCAR Finish Line 150 at virtual Dover International Speedway is scheduled for Sunday (1 p.m., FOX and FS1). The actual racetrack is nicknamed the “Monster Mile,” so several drivers could be in for a nightmare racing on the computer-generated replica.

The experienced iRacers, however, have another chance to shine before NASCAR’s scheduled return to actual racing on May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, has won two of the last three Pro Invitational races — including at virtual Bristol, the real-life track closest to Dover in terms of design and the concrete surface. Byron led 116 of 150 laps in the Food City Showdown.

However, the young driver has struggled on the actual Dover track, recording just one top-10 finish in four races.

Timmy Hill, whose real-life MBM Motorsports team recently laid off its employees, is looking for his second Pro Invitational Series victory. The driver of the No. 66 Toyota won at Texas and finished as runner-up to Byron in the virtual Richmond race. He also posted a third-place finish at virtual Bristol.

Hill considers Dover to be his home track, the one closest to his Maryland home.

Chad Finchum, the former Kingsport Speedway champion who is driving the No. 49 Toyota, is one of Hill’s teammates. The Knoxville driver is making his second Pro Invitational Series start. Finchum finished 21st in his iRacing debut at virtual Talladega.

John Hunter Nemechek could be a good dark horse pick. The driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford has 29 iRacing victories and finished as the runner-up to Byron at vir- tual Bristol.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman won at Talladega in just his fifth iRacing start. He joined Daytona 500 cham- pion Denny Hamlin as the only drivers with wins in both the Cup Series and the Pro Invitational Series.

No one comes close to matching seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson when it comes to success at the real Dover. Johnson has a record 11 wins in 36 races on his best track and Dover is the site of the most recent of his 83 career wins, which came in June 2017. He’s struggled in iRacing, however, with an average finish in 26th position.

Defending NASCAR champion Kyle Busch, a three-time Dover winner, and Kevin Harvick, who has two victories at Dover, are also in the field. Other Dover winners entered are Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt, though still looking for first Pro Invitational Series victory, has the best winning rate (46.3%) in iRacing with 194 wins in 419 starts. Hill has by far the most wins (674) and starts (1,680) for a 0.401 winning percentage.

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