BRISTOL, Tenn. – After two weeks of leading the most laps in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series but not ending up in victory lane, William Byron finally sealed the deal Sunday at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
Wheeling a specially-painted black-and-blue flamed No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that he helped to design, Byron led 116 of 150 laps in the Food City Showdown to notch the win at the .533-mile concrete oval.
Byron, perhaps the most well-known iRacer to advance all the way to the NASCAR Cup Series, paced the first 73 laps from the pole before ceding command just before the halfway point to pit under caution for fuel and tires.
He restarted ninth, but undeterred, methodically worked his way back up through the field on the fresher rubber and ultimately made the winning move on lap 108 with an inside sweep past then-leader Chris Buescher.
Once he got back out front, Byron was untouchable despite a handful of yellows in the final laps. He pulled away on every restart, including the final one with four laps left, and took the checkered flag in front by 1.371 seconds.
It was Byron’s 309th iRacing oval win in his 1,499th start.
“I thought we had a pretty solid race,” Byron told reporters after the event. “Obviously, there was a lot to kind of decipher and try to get through, but I thought we stayed up close to the front. We had the one tire-strategy call that got us back to the top five, and then we just had to work through the top five methodically after that.
“I was really proud of how we kind of did things, and thankful for Nick Ottinger, who kind of helps me on my eSports team, as well as Axalta for letting us run this cool paint scheme. It looks awesome,” he continued. “Hopefully we can it run it sometime on the real Cup car. I had a lot of fun.”
Byron’s victory on Sunday came one week after he was the recipient of a bump-and-run by Timmy Hill at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway, which handed the win to Hill following an overtime finish.
This time, there was no one who could even get close to Byron’s bumper, let alone try to pass him.
“I mean, obviously when the race is going, I think anybody would be dumb to tell you that they don’t take it seriously because it’s a race, but it took me probably an hour after the race to really cool off and realize that I was just racing on the computer and I could get over it.”
“For me mentally, I try to treat it as a race when the race is going on,” Byron added. “But I think that it was just frustrating because we hadn’t closed one out yet and we had led the most laps, so to finally close the deal this week was really awesome.”
John Hunter Nemechek, who started alongside Byron on the front row, chased the No. 24 for most of the race on Sunday afternoon before finally settling for a runner-up finish for Front Row Motorsports.
Hill completed the top three, followed by Homestead winner Denny Hamlin and Matt DiBenedetto.
Ryan Preece, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley and Michael McDowell were sixth through 10th, respectively.
Sunday’s race, much like the Saturday Night Thunder event the previous evening for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and other touring series invitees, was chock full of yellow flags.
In all, 12 caution periods slowed the pace for 66 laps, dropping the average speed of the race down to just 68.472 mph.
Sunday’s feature lineup was set with a heat-race format, seeing the inside lane aligned by the results from the first 50-lapper and the outside lane ordered by the results from the second 50-lapper.
Byron and Nemechek led every lap of their respective heats en route to their front-row starting spots.
1. William Byron , 2. John Hunter Nemechek , 3. Timmy Hill , 4. Denny Hamlin , 5. Matt DiBenedetto , 6. Ryan Preece , 7. Parker Kligerman , 8. Tyler Reddick , 9. Garrett Smithley , 10. Michael McDowell , 11. Clint Bowyer , 12. Christopher Bell , 13. Bobby Labonte , 14. Alex Bowman , 15. Austin Dillon , 16. Ross Chastain , 17. Joey Logano , 18. Kyle Busch , 19. Kurt Busch , 20. Landon Cassill , 21. Jimmie Johnson , 22. Dale Earnhardt Jr. , 23. Chris Buescher , 24. Brad Keselowski , 25. Ty Dillon , 26. Ryan Blaney , 27. Daniel Suarez , 28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , 29. Kyle Larson , 30. Chase Elliott , 31. Erik Jones , 32. Bubba Wallace .
Lead Changes: Three among three drivers
Lap Leaders: William Byron 1-73, Landon Cassill 74-77, Chris Buescher 78-107, William Byron 108-150
Laps Led: William Byron 116, Chris Buescher 30, Landon Cassill 4
Caution Flags: 12 for 66 laps
Hard Charger: 11-Denny Hamlin (+24)
Margin of Victory: 1.371 seconds
Time of Race: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 3.450 seconds
Average Speed: 68.472 mph