While COVID-19 continues to put a kibosh on live sports, stars from throughout the motorsports world put on one of the most watched virtual races in the world last night on Fox Sports 1. The first World of Outlaws Dirt Sprint Car & Late Model iRacing Invitational at the virtual Dirt Track at Charlotte featured drivers from the World of Outlaws, NASCAR and the NHRA, all of whom strapped into Sim Rigs from their couches or lazy-boy chairs and gave thousands of racing fans who have been desperately waiting for the return of the racing season the opportunity to once again feel that unique excitement.
Kicking off the historic night was a 35-lap World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series race, which gave NASCAR star, dirt racing aficionado and 2019 Chili Bowl Nationals champion Christopher Bell his first virtual dirt Sprint Car victory.
The hand-picked Sprint Car field of 20 elite of drivers was lined up by an algorithm of average iRacing lap times with a six-car invert, which put fan-favorites Rico Abreu and Kyle Larson on the front row. After going green, Robbie Kendall worked his way around Abreu for the early lead, but before the first lap was completed Kevin Swindell made a charge from seventh to first. While Swindell, with Kyle Larson lurking behind, held the lead for the first half of the race, the No. 21 of Christopher Bell quickly crept from a fifth place starting position to the front of the pack.
As Bell ran up near the wall of this popular virtual dirt track, he made his way past Larson for second at the halfway point of this race and set his sights on race leader Swindell. After the restart with 15 laps to go, Bell powered his way past Swindell for the race lead and, after, set sail for the race win.
With his right rear tire inches from the wall, Bell drove off Turn 4 for the final time to claim the virtual checkered flag, a $1,000 prize and the historic World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car iRacing Invitational win.
“This was definitely a fun race to win, although virtual,” said Bell. “It has been really cool to see the evolution of iRacing because I have been on this for so long now and with everyone being at home right now, we as drivers are so glad that this gives us a chance to race with both friends as well as our fellow competitive drivers.”
In the second race of the night, drivers from the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series got the chance to prove what they could do in a 50-Lap virtual race. Coming from his eighth-place starting spot, race winner Trent Ivey – one of several racers pulling doing double-duty and racing in both events on Wednesday night – put the hammer down right away and passed four cars in the opening lap to set himself up for a look at the leaders. Switching back to the high groove for Lap 2, Ivey stalked his competition into Turns 3 and 4, taking advantage of some contact between frontrunners Nick Stroupe, Kaeden Cornell and Matty Watkins to drive by on the low side and advance to the runner-up spot.
A quick yellow reset the field with Ivey on the outside of race leader Nick Stroupe. Following the restart, Ivey threw in a major slide job in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 10 and drove his way to the race lead that he never relinquished. The race, however, was far from over.
Although he would keep the lead through the remaining 40 Laps of this race, Ivey was forced to fend off several fierce challenges from his competition through multiple cautions. In fact, a restart with 15 laps remaining gave Super Late Model driver Kaeden Cornell the chance to line up behind Ivey and runner-up Kyle Larson. As Cornell and Larson traded several slide jobs for several corners in-a-row for the runner-up spot, Cornell got the best of the exchange and pulled away from Larson with 10 laps remaining.
Back out front, it was all Ivey. With several car-lengths between he and second-place Cornell, the Lil’ Headknocker cruised underneath the virtual checkered flag to collect the win and a cool $1,000 for his efforts.
“I am super excited about this win, and I just can’t believe I pulled this off,” said Ivey. “I was actually racing on Monday night, and my computer blew up coming to the green. So, I feel like this win was owed to me.”
FOX Sports will continue its coverage of eRacing with the iRacing Pro Invitational Series from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday, April 5 at 1:00 PM ET on FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com from coverage from other iRacing events throughout the season.