With one more weekend until NASCAR returns to the real track, drivers and fans are continuing to turn to the virtual world of iRacing to see some of the best racing competition around.
This weekend’s race at the historic virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway wraps up the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on May 17 at Darlington Raceway.
NASCAR, iRacing and FOX Sports teamed up to deliver the first-ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event, the Dixie Vodka 150, at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway after all national pro sports were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic several weeks back. The event produced a wild finish that saw Denny Hamlin just barely beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the line. Fans responded with an overwhelming reaction setting records in eSports viewership, and as a result FOX Sports committed to covering the remainder of the eNASCAR iRacing season.
The second eNASCAR iRacing event took place at virtual Texas Motor Speedway and again was a success with the fans. Longtime iRacing veteran and rising NASCAR star Timmy Hill won the race with an aggressive move on William Byron to take the win.
The third race of the Pro Invitational Series was at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, where iRacing veteran William Byron showed off his talents dominating the event and taking the checkered flag. Next, the series went to virtual Richmond Raceway, where Byron once again took the checkered flag and won back-to-back races.
The virtual race at Talladega Superspeedway was won by Alex Bowman and last weekend’s race at virtual Dover International Speedway was won by Byron. In total Byron leads the series with three wins.
Now the series heads to virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway for the series finale, the North Wilkesboro 160.
North Wilkesboro Speedway in Wilkes County, North Carolina, has a wide and renowned history in NASCAR dating back to 1949. The last time the venue hosted a NASCAR national series race was in 1996 when NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon won the NASCAR Cup Series event before the track closed.
The .625-mile short track was built in 1946 and became a North Carolina racing staple while hosting 93 NASCAR Cup Series races. The inaugural race, the 1949 Wilkes 200 on October 16, was won by Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Bob Flock. The track was known for being one of the fastest short-tracks in racing and in the 1950’s speeds reached up to 73 mph.
The track’s unique layout featured an uphill backstretch and downhill frontstretch with 14 degrees of banking in the turns and three degrees of banking on the straightaways.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty led the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at North Wilkesboro Speedway with 15 victories. NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip led the series in poles at North Wilkesboro Speedway with nine.
Last December, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led a group of drivers and NASCAR broadcasters in an effort to clean the track surface at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The cleaning allowed iRacing to scan and map the historic venue.
Among those that helped Earnhardt clean the speedway were Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith, iRacing executive vice president and executive producer Steve Myers, NASCAR Cup Series driver Chris Buescher, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Myatt Snider, NBC Sports’ Rick Allen and Marty Snider, William Byron’s spotter Tab Boyd, and Austin Dillon’s spotter Andy Houston.
This weekend will mark the debut of North Wilkesboro Speedway virtually and will feature 28 drivers, including Earnhardt.
The North Wilkesboro 160 rolls off at 3 p.m. ET on FOX (where available and subject to change), FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series
Next Race: North Wilkesboro 160
The Place: Virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway – North Wilkesboro, NC
The Date: Saturday, May 9
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FOX (where available and subject to change), FS1 and FOX Sports App
Distance: 160 laps