NASCAR making a big mistake with iRacing series

Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) /

NASCAR is making a big mistake by excluding one of its drivers, arguably the best, from the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.

Back in January, it was announced that the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series would be returning for 2021 in the form of a 10-race series.

This series was introduced last season during the start of the coronavirus pandemic when there was no live NASCAR Cup Series action, and it lasted for seven races before the series returned to action after 10 weeks off.

The 2021 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series season opener is scheduled to take place this evening at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway on dirt, mimicking what is set to be the first Cup Series race on dirt in over five decades at the four-turn, 0.533-mile (0.858-kilometer) high-banked oval in Bristol, Tennessee this Sunday, March 28.

The 36 chartered Cup Series cars are the 36 cars set to complete, plus two additional drivers.

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The only significant driver change among the chartered entries is the fact that Austin Cindric, who competes for Team Penske in the Xfinity Series, is set to drive the #2 Ford instead of Team Penske Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski.

The lone exception to the 36 chartered car rule is that Ryan Preece is set to be in the #37 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He competes full-time behind the wheel of this car, but it is not a chartered entry. However, the reason he is doing so is reportedly because of that fact that Kevin Harvick, who drives the chartered #4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, is not competing in the event. Preece is managed by Kevin Harvick Incorporated, so it makes sense that he would be the driver who gets that 36th spot.

The two other drivers added to the entry list are former drivers Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bowyer is set to drive the #79 car for Clint Bowyer Racing while Earnhardt is set to drive the #88 car for JR Motorsports.

But why there can’t be 39 cars on the entry list instead of 38 has been disturbing to many fans for a simple reason.

While the idea of limiting the number of drivers was implemented as a result of preventing it from effectively becoming a free-for-all, MBM Motorsports’ Timmy Hill was omitted from the entry list.

This is simply ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination.

Hill has competed full-time in the Cup Series since last season, only not competing in this year’s Daytona 500 as a result of an unsuccessful qualifying attempt.

But because of the fact that his #66 Toyota is not a chartered entry, he isn’t allowed to compete — and let’s not forget, we’re talking about a video game/racing simulation.

Talk about a self-inflicted controversy and a subsequent horrible look…

You’ve already added Bowyer and Earnhardt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But is adding Hill, a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, really going to create a “free-for-all”?

Let’s not forget the most important point here, either. Hill was the driver to beat in last year’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Not many even knew who he was before that, despite the fact that he was a full-time driver.

He finished in the top three in six of the seven events and won the race at virtual Texas Motor Speedway after an impressive late pass on William Byron, who won three races of the series.

Points weren’t kept for this series last season, but here is what the top five would have looked like had they been (excluding stage points, given the fact that none of the seven races featured any stages).

Position – Driver: Points (Behind)
1st – Timmy Hill: 238 (0)
2nd – Garrett Smithley: 206 (-32)
3rd – Denny Hamlin: 189 (-49)
4th – William Byron: 184 (-54)
5th – Landon Cassill: 183 (-55)

Of those five drivers, Byron competed in just six of the seven races, but Hill still averaged more points than he did, and as you can see, he would have run away with any sort of a championship had one been established.

But if you can’t beat him, ban him.

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Fox Sports 1 is set to broadcast tonight’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race live from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET. Sunday’s real race, the Food City Dirt Race, is set to be broadcast live from the track on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Will a last-minute exception be made for Hill?