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Denny Hamlin Wins at North Wilkesboro in eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2020

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - MARCH 22: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (Editors note: This image was computer generated in-game).  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota, celebrates after winning the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 22, 2020 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin prevailed in Saturday's eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race run virtually at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

The win was Hamlin's second of the series, as he was also victorious in the first race at Homestead-Miami on March 22.

Hamlin passed Ross Chastain with nine laps remaining to take the lead for good, and he managed to hold off Timmy Hill for the victory:

NASCAR @NASCAR

"move, plz." @dennyhamlin gives the bumper to @RossChastain as he moves into the top spot at North Wilkesboro! https://t.co/AZJPxswdAo

NASCAR @NASCAR

No monitor issues this week for @dennyhamlin. 😎 Retweet to congratulate the No. 11 on his virtual win at North Wilkesboro! https://t.co/njGD7ApDO4

Hill finished second to Hamlin, while Tyler Reddick was third, Chastain was fourth and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five.

Saturday's race was the final one of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series since the NASCAR Cup Series is returning to actual racing next Sunday at Darlington. It will mark the first race in two months following the suspension of the 2020 NASCAR season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hamlin has momentum on his side with a pair of iRacing wins to go along with an actual victory in the Daytona 500 to start the season.

North Wilkesboro was an original NASCAR Cup Series track dating back to 1949, but NASCAR ceased running races there when the track closed in 1996. Dale Earnhardt Jr. played a major role getting the track scanned for inclusion in iRacing.

Included in Saturday's iRacing field were two drivers who competed in actual Cup Series races at North Wilkesboro—Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte. Neither Gordon nor Labonte were a factor, but Gordon got into an entertaining back-and-forth with Clint Bowyer at one point:

NASCAR @NASCAR

C'mon @ClintBowyer and @JeffGordonWeb we just want you two to get along ... 🥺 https://t.co/91n9m2vejZ

Gordon also managed to avoid a huge wreck about midway through the race:

NASCAR @NASCAR

IT'S THE BIG ONE AT NORTH WILKESBORO! (also @ClintBowyer is all of us trying to avoid an iRacing wreck) https://t.co/T5dJ0rXkV9

NASCAR is planning to run two Cup Series races at Darlington and two at Charlotte over the next couple of weeks with no fans in attendance.

The schedule is a bit murky beyond that, which could open the door for iRacing to return, but there are no more Pro Invitational Series races on tap for now.

Given how entertaining the races were, however, there could be a market for iRacing featuring NASCAR drivers to air on television during the offseason moving forward.

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