NASCAR Cup Series

Experience and Competition Getting Closer as Talladega Looms on Horizon

By: Ashley McCubbin

Photo By: Matthew T. Thacker | Nigel Kinrade Photography

When the iRacing Pro Invitational Series was announced, it seemed that fun would be the name of the game, and those who had played with the game the longest would rise to the top.

The first event at Homstead-Miami Speedway proved this with Denny Hamlin edging out Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win, with the likes of Timmy Hill and William Byron running up front.

Though when you put a group of racecar drivers together, you know it won’t take long to get competitive. Although those with experience have won the first four events, others relatively new to the service has been catching on rather quickly.

“I think that what I saw this week was that there was a lot of‑‑ everyone was really equal on a short run in terms of speed, like even the guys with a little bit less experience,” Byron expressed. “I think the more experience is just running those longer runs and kind of knowing how the tires wear and stuff like that. I think Kyle Busch is the obvious choice. He’s run ‑‑ in the practice race that I did, he ran third, and then he ran fifth today. So I think his talent and ability to kind of understand the cars is coming through.

“I thought Brad Keselowski was really impressive recently. I think he was running third at one point in this race. You know, it’s just little details here and there that make a difference, and everyone is really close now. I’d say the top five or seven could all win, I think, soon. I’d say those two guys, Brad and Kyle.”

On top of getting more competitive, strategy has certainly come more into the equation with the drivers feeling as though they are crew chiefs at times. Byron’s decision to stay out late at Richmond Raceway ultimately led to him scoring the victory.

“We made our decisions on staying out there based on our practice speed and what we anticipated the tires going through a heat cycle and taking back off,” he explained. “ I think if I had one more restart, I think that next seat cycle on my tires there would have been really bad for me. It’s the same thing in real life. I think that’s pretty cool how iRacing simulated the heat in the tires and stuff like that, which you saw in qualifying. It was a big deal to get heat in your tires and stuff.”

Now as the series gets ready for the next event at Talladega Superspeedway, early expectations are to expect the unexpected with a couple big wrecks. As Byron notes, there should be some good racing, but it’s going to be wild.

“I think the goal should be to have a couple of resets to keep us all in the game, and I’m really actually looking forward to it because I feel like some guys will be really good at drafting,” he commented. “But at the same time it’s going to be really interesting.”

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