BRISTOL, Tenn. – William Byron picked up right where he left off last season by winning the season opener for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Wednesday night at the virtual version of Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt-covered oval.
Byron, who started from the outside pole after winning his heat race earlier in the night, controlled all but one of the final 39 laps of the 70-lap feature. He held off ninth-starting Tyler Reddick in the closing stages for the victory.
“It was a lot of fun,” explained Byron. “(iRacing’s) my background, everybody knows that. I really enjoy the dirt, something new for me. Really felt out of my comfort zone at the start. With some help from some guys that do dirt racing I learned it and got better. I’m excited with the different discipline, moving around, running the top around the track.
“Hopefully we can have a good result this weekend.”
Polesitter James Davison, after winning the opening heat race to secure the pole, jumped out to the lead on the initial start before the track began to transition through the race.
As the grip started to shift around the track, Chris Buescher eventually tracked down Davison for the top spot on lap 19 before Byron made what amounted to the winning pass 13 laps later.
Though Tyler Reddick edged out Byron on a restart to lead lap 48, Byron never lost control of the race and retook command of the field for good the next time around.
Christopher Bell, Garrett Smithley and Davison filled out the top five finishers. Three cautions slowed the pace during the virtual Bristol dirt main event.
Initially left off the Pro Invitational entry list, Timmy Hill subbed for Austin Cindric in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang at the behest of the team’s regular driver, Brad Keselowski, who was not competing Wednesday night.
Hill crossed the line eighth at the checkered flag.
Wednesday’s victory netted Byron a $5,000 donation – courtesy of iRacing – to his charity of choice, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
The Charlotte, N.C., native was a Big Brother during his high-school years.
“In high school I was a Big Brother, had a Little Brother then, really enjoyed it,” explained Byron. “My sister was in it then. I did it before I started traveling for races. It’s cool to give back to them, a local community that I’m happy to be a part of. We’re having a golf tournament later this year in May. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Twenty-one cars started the main event, trimmed down from 38 by a trio of qualifying heats.
James Davison won the first heat, with Byron topping heat two and Ryan Preece grabbing the victory in the third and final heat.
Failing to transfer out of heat one were Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Cole Custer, and Chase Elliott.
Eliminated following heat two were Josh Bilicki, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Martin Truex Jr.
Bounced during the final heat were Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, BJ McLeod, Daniel Suarez, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
1. 24-William Byron , 2. 8-Tyler Reddick , 3. 20-Christopher Bell , 4. 51-Garrett Smithley , 5. 15-James Davison , 6. 48-Alex Bowman , 7. 5-Kyle Larson , 8. 2-Timmy Hill , 9. 42-Ross Chastain , 10. 53-Joey Gase , 11. 00-Quin Houff , 12. 18-Kyle Busch , 13. 17-Chris Buescher , 14. 22-Joey Logano , 15. 77-Justin Haley , 16. 37-Ryan Preece , 17. 21-Matt DiBenedetto , 18. 34-Michael McDowell , 19. 38-Anthony Alfredo , 20. 23-Bubba Wallace , 21. 7-Corey LaJoie .
Lead Changes: Four among four drivers
Lap Leader(s): James Davison 1-18, Chris Buescher 19-31, William Byron 32-47, Tyler Reddick 48, William Byron 49-70
Laps Led: William Byron 38, James Davison 18, Chris Buescher 13, Tyler Reddick 1
Hard Charger: 00-Quin Houff (+9)
Cautions: 3 for 23 Laps
Margin of Victory: 1.334 seconds.
Fastest Qualifier: 22-Joey Logano, 19.209 seconds (93.706 mph)
Fastest Lap: 15-James Davison, Lap 2, 18.469 seconds (97.461 mph)