If there’s a bright side to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been the attention focused on auto racing—one of the few sports that translates well on a virtual platform, despite its participants being isolated from each other.
Now, the Greatest Show on Dirt has its opportunity to shine on Wednesday night as the World of Outlaws debuts its iRacing Invitational on DIRTVision at 9 p.m. ET.
Along with WoO regulars David Gravel, Carson Macedo and Logan Schuchart, NASCAR racers Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe are scheduled to join the party at virtual Volusia Speedway Park.
“Being able to go virtual racing is really cool, especially at a time like this when there’s nothing else going on,” Bell said. “It’s really awesome to see NASCAR and the Outlaws taking advantage of the time off and using iRacing to provide racing for the fans out there, and also the drivers, too.”
Both Bell and Briscoe raced in NASCAR’s iRacing Dixie Vodka 150 on Sunday. Bell finished 26th. Briscoe came home fourth at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway behind race winner Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Timmy Hill.
Bell’s introduction to NASCAR’s Cup Series in 2020 has been a rough one. In his first four starts behind the wheel of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota, Bell’s best result was 21st at Daytona, and that was after he was involved in a wreck. He wrecked at Las Vegas and experienced an engine failure at Auto Club Speedway.
While he qualified a career-best 15th at Phoenix Raceway—the last race prior to the NASCAR sabbatical—Bell suffered a rash of speeding penalties on pit road. Although Bell recovered and returned to the top 20, his Camry was tagged from behind and he hit the wall. Despite finishing 24th, the race was Bell’s first lead-lap finish in four races.
“The biggest thing is just getting to the end of the race,” Bell said. “We see from all of the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars, they’ve all been starting in the back and it takes them a while, but eventually they get up front. I haven’t even seen Stage 2 yet. I can’t speak to how we would run the second half of the race.”
Certainly, Bell’s graduation to Cup has been an eye-opener for the 25-year-old driver, who has excelled at every level of racing. The pace and the talent level of NASCAR’s top tour is dramatic, compared with the lower series. Like iRacing, perhaps this break from true on-track racing will give Bell the opportunity to hit the reset button.
“I would say (Cup) relates a lot more to truck racing, just the way they pack up and the restarts,” Bell said. “The restarts relate a lot more to truck racing. Then you’ve got more capable drivers – the truck series has capable drivers, too, but the Cup Series has more of them.
“There’s more depth, there are more competitive cars on the track. It’s like a truck race with 30 competitive cars.”
For Bell, who has been practicing his iRacing setup from the comfort of his living room a couple of hours a week, the competition with fellow racers has provided a great diversion.
“I’m thankful to be a part of it, and I’m really grateful to be able to have iRacing to continue to race until we can get back to the track.”