In the real world, three of Richard Petty’s historic 200 NASCAR Cup Series wins came at Darlington Raceway behind the wheel of his famous #43 car. In the virtual one, it was Erik Jones adding another historic triumph to the Petty racing legacy at Darlington on Wednesday night.
Jones swooped around Timmy Hill and Anthony Alfredo with two laps remaining to steal the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series victory from the Lady in Black, the ultimate nod to NASCAR’s history in the culmination of an industry-redefining day. Driving a throwback to the late John Andretti’s STP ride that gave Petty Enterprises its final win in 1999, Jones scored the first-ever win in NASCAR’s Next Gen car, which was unveiled to the world on Wednesday afternoon and released in iRacing shortly afterward.
Darlington has hosted NASCAR Throwback Weekend for nearly a decade, and Wednesday’s virtual event featured the unique juxtaposition of retro paint schemes on cars that won’t race for real until next year. One of those throwback designs belonged to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified on pole and led the first third of the race before finally yielding the top spot for the first time to William Byron on Lap 48. Earnhardt Jr. managed to outrun two immediate wrecks on the opening lap, and spent most of the race in the top 10.
Byron and Hill would establish themselves as the fastest cars on track in the middle stretch of the race, before contact between Joey Logano and Austin Dillon bunched the field again with under 20 laps to go. That restart led to an immediate wreck, tearing up many of the top cars, but with Jones and Earnhardt Jr. escaping unscathed.
Hill held the lead coming into the final restart with three laps to go and pounced to an early lead, but a strong run from Anthony Alfredo’s damaged car would force Hill to defend. That opened the door for Jones to pass both on the penultimate lap and establish just enough space to keep Alfredo from challenging to take the spot. Earnhardt Jr., Tyler Reddick, and Chase Elliott would complete the top five, with Hill fading to outside of the top 10 after contact with the wall in the mad dash to the finish.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will continue on Wednesday, May 19 at Circuit of the Americas, with racing beginning at 7PM ET on FS1. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iRacing.com.