Homestead-Miami Virtual Speedway, The Cloud — March 22, 2020
NASCAR is racing again, sort of. A number of Cup drivers participated in an iRacing event at the Homestead-Miami virtual speedway, all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. While a lot of NASCAR fans have heard if iRacing, the large majority have never participated in eNASCAR, or even viewed an event.
That changed today as FS1 televised the Dixie Vodka 150. At mid-race, it was the #1 trending topic on Twitter. Admittedly, I approached the event with some skepticism. It turned out to be fun and entertaining.
Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Larry McReynolds from Fox Sports provided commentary. The video quality was exceptional, live check-ins with drivers showed a variety of iRacing setups and some tongue-in-cheek staging kicked off the event.
Pre-race interviews with Michael Waltrip on his traditional grid-walk, an invocation, and a race-team crew member delivering an acapella National Anthem. No virtual flyover, the drones were grounded. No issues with social distancing, everyone was confined in studios, rooms, or basements.
It was very obvious from the drop of the green flag that the field held a wide diversity of virtual racing talent. The younger guys seemed to have an advantage. Garrett Smithley(51) sat on the pole, with William Byron(24) starting on the front row next to him.
Smithley held the lead into Turn 1, Byron passed down the backstretch and led laps early. Jimmie Johnson(48) was late logging in and lost laps getting started, Kyle Busch(18) was an iRacing rookie. Both were involved in multiple incidents on the virtual track. The good news, iRacing offers a reset button that restores your car and gets you back in the race.
Yes, iRacing has pitstops. Tire wear is a significant factor in how virtual cars handle. It’s all programmed into the simulation package. As the cars settle in their pit stalls a camera at the exit of pit road displays the action. No pit crews, if the right side of the car goes up the driver has opted to change right-side tires. If the left side goes up also, its’ a four-tire change.
Johnson created the first major incident of the day. Running off the pace, Johnson claimed he thought the caution had come out, he was swallowed up by the field and lost control in the middle of the pack.
Kurt Busch(1) ignited another accident going down the backstretch and pulling to the outside before clearing the car of Chase Briscoe(98) he was passing. Busch hit the wall and collected a number of other virtual cars including brother Kyle.
The race came down to a last-lap battle between Denny Hamlin(11) and Dale Earnhardt Jr.(8). The duo came out of Turn 4 in a dead heat, they bumped and Earnhardt over-corrected losing momentum as he dipped low across the finish line. Hamlin held his car straight and took the victory, much to the disappointment of Jr. Nation.
Drivers seemed to enjoy the event, fans did too. Will there be future iRacing at more eNASCAR tracks? I’d bet on it, they had no trouble selling advertising to this show. Better than watching endless reruns, count me in. How do I get a virtual media pass?
Results of the Dixie Vodka 150 from Homestead-Miami Virtual Speedway
|2||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr||100|
|21||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||100|
|30||38||John Hunter Nemechek||93|