CONCORD, N.C. -- The Hendrick Motorsports drivers will take to the simulators as the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series makes its return to the Cup Series in a 10-race season starting this Wednesday at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
Looking back on last year’s season, Hendrick Motorsports returns with confidence. William Byron secured three wins in 2020 at virtual Bristol, Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway. Alex Bowman also took home a first-place finish at virtual Talladega Superspeedway.
“The success of our eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was underscored by an industry-wide effort to entertain fans during the early months of the global pandemic,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer. “This year, the Pro Invitational will return with a schedule of midweek races that will bridge the gap between our real-world races each weekend.”
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was created in March last year during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic while the NASCAR Cup Series season was halted. Current drivers and retired Cup Series greats took to the virtual tracks to test their racing skills and continue to entertain fans.
Starting the 2021 season this week, the Cup Series drivers will head to the virtual dirt race at Bristol. This event comes just four days before the Cup Series is set to take on the actual Bristol track, giving fans and drivers alike a taste of a new racing format on a dirt surface.
Sunday’s race marks the first time in over 50 years that the Cup Series will run on a dirt track, paying homage to the grassroots of dirt racing.
“It’s so cool that iRacing has done that, and they have a lot of background in adjusting to new tracks and tire models and different things,” Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 team, said. “Their resources are definitely very robust in trying to model that.”
Competing in the iRacing event leading up to the actual race will give the drivers and crew chiefs some data on some of the unknowns of racing Cup cars on a dirt track.
“iRacing does an amazing job,” Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 team, said. “It’s probably the best information we have right now, to be honest.”
Watch live as the Hendrick Motorsports drivers take on the virtual dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway this Wednesday, March 24, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. Practice and heat races will take place before the main event starting at 6 p.m. ET on FS1.