NASCAR: The devastating consequence of the first iRacing event

Timmy Hill, MBM Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Timmy Hill, MBM Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Timmy Hill may have gotten to race in Wednesday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, but his initial omission from the entry list may prove costly for his NASCAR Cup Series team.

If anybody thought that the controversy stemming from virtual NASCAR racing was going to remain in 2020, they would have been incorrect.

NASCAR brought back the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series for the 2021 season after it proved to be a success last year when live action was paused during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

The series lasted for seven races last year before live action returned in mid-May, and a 10-race schedule was announced for 2021 in late January.

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Even before the series got underway on Wednesday night on dirt at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, there was controversy due to the fact that the driver — the best driver — from last year’s seven-race slate was omitted from the entry list.

Timmy Hill placed in the top three in six of last year’s seven events, winning the race at Texas Motor Speedway, and would have run away with the title had points been officially tallied.

Yet he wasn’t even invited to compete in it this time around.

Despite the fact that he has competed full-time for MBM Motorsports behind the wheel of the #66 car since the start of last season and despite the fact that he reportedly reached out to those in charge about being added to the series this year, he wasn’t included on the entry list.

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Even though Fox reportedly could have added as many as four drivers to the field, which included the 36 chartered Cup Series entries, only Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were added.

That would be two extra drivers, not four, leaving two spots unfilled.

An exception to the 36-charter rule was even made, with full-time driver Ryan Preece driving the non-chartered #37 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing since he is managed by Kevin Harvick Incorporated and Kevin Harvick did not compete behind the wheel of his chartered #4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

So Preece effectively used the #4 team’s charter to compete in this virtual race. Yet no exception was made for Hill, and he was not added as driver number 39.

And this could prove costly for the 28-year-old Port Tobacco, Maryland native and his team in the long run.

In an interview with Frontstretch amid this disappointing news, Hill stated that he and the team “try to package our real life racing to the Pro Invitational”, noting that they really leverage that aspect of the sport to sponsors.

So this omission was naturally a huge blow for them, especially when there is absolutely no legitimate reason for him to have not received an invitation no matter what anybody attempts to up at this point. None.

He added that he was initially told that all full-time drivers and teams would be not only invited but required to compete in this virtual racing series, and he and MBM Motorsports certainly qualify.

Only later was he told that it depended on charters, not “full-time” status. Even from that standpoint, he easily could have been one of the additional drivers in the field.

Again, no reason.

In fact, one of the reasons why he and Carl Long’s team are back competing full-time in the Cup Series this season after their full-time effort last year is so that they could run in this virtual series to attract partners.

Last year’s unexpected addition of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series amid the pandemic proved to be a huge blessing for the group, as Hill had great success and was in the spotlight more than he ever gets to be in real-life races.

That’s a dream come true for sponsors, especially those backing a relatively underfunded and real-life backmarker team. How can you go wrong?

So as a result of this ridiculousness, Hill noted that he and the team will “probably end up cutting the Cup schedule back now.”

I don’t want to go pointing fingers here. But let me be the first and hopefully the last to say great job to everyone involved who kept Hill from driving the #66 car in this race for whatever reason.

I’m sure it’s a good one — good enough to justify the potential loss of a full-time driver from the actual Cup Series, at least.

Of course, we can’t forget one thing. Hill did get to compete in the race and finished in eighth place.

But only because of a super kind gesture from Team Penske Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric, who was set to drive the #2 Ford in place of Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski.

But Hill driving a #2 Discount Tire Ford for Team Penske does himself and MBM Motorsports absolutely no good for sponsorship and for their Cup Series effort. To that end, he might as well have not even competed.

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Hopefully this will be sorted out by all parties involved by the time the second race of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series rolls around at virtual Talladega Superspeedway on Wednesday, April 21. And hopefully Hill and MBM Motorsports are still in the Cup Series by then.