NASCAR: Kind gesture solves problem that never should’ve existed

Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Timmy Hill is set to compete in tonight’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race after NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric stepped aside.

The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, which was launched during the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season when live action was at a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, is set to make a return this evening.

Virtual Bristol Motor Speedway is set to host the first of 10 races on this year’s schedule on a dirt surface, preceding what is slated to be the first Cup Series race on dirt in more than five decades this Sunday afternoon at the real four-turn, 0.533-mile (0.858-kilometer) high-banked oval in Bristol, Tennessee.

The entry list for tonight’s virtual race was released earlier this week, and there was one notable omission.

MBM Motorsports’ Timmy Hill, who has competed full-time in the Cup Series since last year, was not included.

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Hill dominated last year’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, winning at virtual Texas Motor Speedway and finishing in the top three in five of the other six events.

Had points been tallied for the series to determine any sort of champion, he would have run away with the title. Yet because of the fact that his #66 car is a non-chartered entry in real-life competition, he was not allowed to compete in this event. Only the virtual editions of the 36 chartered Cup Series entries were permitted to compete, plus additional cars for former drivers Clint Bowyer an Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The lone exception was that Ryan Preece’s non-chartered #37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet was permitted to compete since Kevin Harvick is not participating behind the wheel of his chartered #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Preece is managed by Kevin Harvick Incorporated, so the move made sense.

The whole idea behind limiting the field size was to avoid this race from becoming somewhat of a free-for-all. However, the idea that the addition of Hill, a full-time Cup Series driver who is also arguably the top iRacing competitor in the world, would make it a “free-for-all” was somewhat of a joke.

Yet nobody at the top acted on this mistake, and the race was set to go on without who many consider to be the best driver.

However, that’s where Team Penske’s Austin Cindric stepped in, and give him a ton of credit for being a game changer here.

Cindric, who competes full-time in the Xfinity Series, was set to run the #2 Team Penske Ford as Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski’s replacement for tonight’s race.

However, he stepped aside to make room for Hill.

Keselowski supported the decision.

And Hill was extremely appreciative.

Team Penske posted the following “driver change” animation of the #2 Ford to celebrate Hill landing a spot in tonight’s event.

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Tune in to Fox Sports 1 for the live broadcast of the race from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET this evening.