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|What||North Wilkesboro 160 eNASCAR iRacing event|
|Where||Virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway|
|When||Saturday, May 9, 3 PM EST|
|How to watch||FOX, FS1|
Saturday’s North Wilkesboro 160 marks the final eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational event before the NASCAR Cup Series returns to real racing on the asphalt at Darlington Raceway on May 17. Though there’s plenty of sentiment within the traditional NASCAR fan base for a return to the .625-mile short track for a race in the real world, it won’t happen, because North Wilkesboro has fallen into disrepair in the 24 years since the last race there.
The virtual world is another matter. For the nostalgic, Saturday’s iRacing event will showcase an action track that produced many a memorable Cup event. Many of the competitors who will take the green flag weren’t even born when the NASCAR stars competed at North Wilkesboro for the last time in 1996.
The odds for the North Wilkesboro 160 are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||+1000|
|John H. Nemechek||+1200|
Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook.
The property is overgrown. The walls and the asphalt are crumbling. The speedway that highlighted the short-track acumen of stock car superstars a generation ago is beyond redemption and will never host another race at NASCAR’s highest level.
The powers that be in iRacing, however, have transformed the decrepit track into an esports venue that will recall the action from yesteryear.
The iRacing crowd will find the virtual racing characteristics eerily similar to North Wilkesboro of old, where the bottom lane will be preferred, and drivers will resort to their bumpers to gain positions. On Saturday, expect to see one of the most action-filled events of the iRacing season.
William Byron, winner of three of the last four Pro Invitational events, is sitting out the virtual North Wilkesboro race, ostensibly to spend time with his family.
Word in the garage, however, is that team owner Rick Hendrick has sidelined his stable of drivers–including Byron and virtual Talladega winner Alex Bowman—to allow them to prepare for the return to real racing the following weekend at Darlington.
Byron’s absence installs Timmy Hill (+275) as the favorite, but not the prohibitive choice Byron would have been. Hill has scored podium finishes (including one victory) in five of the six eNASCAR iRacing Pro events.
On Sept. 29, 1996, Jeff Gordon won the last Cup race ever held at North Wilkesboro Speedway when he took the checkered flag 1.73 seconds ahead of runner-up Dale Earnhardt.
An iRacing neophyte who has spent more time analyzing the iRacing series for FOX Sports than he has on the virtual speedways, Gordon will be a sentimental favorite at the short track where he posted podium finishes in his last four starts.
At +8000, however, Gordon is not worth a bet on Saturday. Only two drivers in the field, Chad Finchum and JJ Yeley, face longer odds at +10000.
Timmy Hill—Even though the experienced iRacer has one of the least expensive sim rigs in the field, a $300 unit mounted on his desk at home, his proclivity for podium finishes makes him an excellent bet to win at +275.
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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