The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series returns on Wednesday night with a 70-lap trip around a virtual Talladega Superspeedway. There will be several big names on hand for the race, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., but a young go-kart racer will try to defeat his father. Keelan Harvick, the 8-year-old son of Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick, will compete in the stacked field.
Harvick announced the news on Tuesday evening in a Twitter video. He celebrated the fact that he will be able to race against his son, as well as other names from NASCAR’s top series. Harvick also revealed that Keelan was already showing off his competitive side, saying that he and his spotter were keeping their race strategy secret.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 20, 2021
Harvick and his son will face off when the virtual green flag waves on Wednesday night. The race will take place at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and will feature 39 total drivers. Earnhardt and Clint Bowyer will join the Cup Series’ biggest names as Promoter’s Provisional entries. Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kurt Busch will not take part due to ongoing tire tests at Nashville Superspeedway.
The Pro Invitational Series includes the winner of the fan vote
Prior to Wednesday’s virtual race at Talladega, eNASCAR unveiled the first-ever Pro Invitational Series fan vote. 10 drivers sat on a list of potential entrants, and the fans had to decide which one would have the opportunity to compete in the iRacing event. Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry was on the list, but he finished in second place behind fellow driver Jesse Iwuji.
An officer in the United States Navy Reserve, Iwuji has competed in both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. His most recent outing was a 31st-place finish at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Truck race. Iwuji also serves as a part-time pit reporter for NBC Sports.
As the winner of the fan vote, Iwuji will drive the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro during Wednesday’s virtual race. He will also have an opportunity to qualify for a top spot. The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series gives drivers two laps and three minutes to set the fastest time at Talladega Superspeedway instead of relying on the points formula utilized by the top three series.
2020’s virtual Talladega race featured out-of-control stock cars
A NASCAR Hall of Famer, Fox Sports analyst Jeff Gordon joined the virtual field for 2020’s iRacing event at Talladega Superspeedway. He faced off with William Byron, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Alex Bowman, and Clint Bowyer among other drivers while trying to take the checkered flag. However, a massive wreck caused major problems for Gordon.
Have you landed yet, @JeffGordonWeb?
The Big One strikes with a vengeance early at @TalladegaSuperS. pic.twitter.com/c3WGnVJK0P
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 26, 2020
The No. 24 Chevrolet raced near the front of the pack early, running in fifth place while Stenhouse led. He did not remain in this position due to Ty Dillon’s No. 13 Chevrolet setting off a chain reaction. He pushed Stenhouse from behind, spinning him into the wall. Gordon had no time to react, and he drove into the side of Stenhouse’s No. 47 Chevrolet. Tyler Reddick hit Gordon from behind and sent him into the wall. The collision launched the No. 24 Chevrolet high into the air, where it spun several times before crashing back onto the track.
Gordon was not the only driver dealing with surprising issues during the virtual race. Denny Hamlin ended his day sideways on pit road after losing visibility. His daughter walked in during the race and asked about go-karts. Hamlin waved her away but didn’t see the controller in her hand. She shut off the monitor and removed his ability to see anything, prompting a crash and his dismissal from the race.
Hamlin will now have an opportunity to find success at Talladega while avoiding any technical issues. Although he will have to once again contend with Alex Bowman, who passed him to reach Victory Lane during Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. Bowman also won the virtual Talladega race in 2020.
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