The stage is set at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.
Today’s 150-lap Food City Showdown eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event will feature national television coverage, pre-race concerts, celebrity grand marshals, and an appearance by all-time BMS winner Darrell Waltrip.
“It’s going to be surreal to see some of NASCAR’s biggest names compete on a virtual version of The Last Great Colosseum,” said BMS executive vice president and general manager Jerry Caldwell in prepared statement.
Before the 1 p.m. green flag on Fox Sports, there will even be two 50-lap heat races to set the field for the main event.
While Kyle Busch is usually the favorite at BMS, the top picks for today include a corps of youngsters who developed their racing techniques and instincts on iRacing rigs instead of short tracks.
That group of young guns includes Timmy Hill, a 27-year-old Maryland native who become an instant media sensation after winning last week’s event at virtual Texas Motor Speedway.
“The amount of folks that have reached out to me has been tremendous,” Hill said. “We don’t get the recognition on a normal basis.”
In a sport where multi-car teams rule and underdog drivers face longer odds each season, the backstory for Hill has a Disney-like quality.
The son of former NASCAR driver Jerry Hill and brother of current driver Tyler Hill, Timmy grew up racing karts and now competes for the underfunded MBM Motorsports operation in the Cup and Xfinity series
In 96 career Cup starts since 2012, Timmy Hill has failed to record a single top-10 finish. But he does have 674 wins in iRacing, a subscription-based gaming service
“With the iRacing platform, I’m in the same car as everybody else,” Hill said. “Most weekends, I’m in a situation where I’m racing on older tires with a motor that’s down on horsepower and a car that’s probably five years old. I’m really behind the eight-ball.”
So how neat is the iRacing Avenue for unheralded racers looking for that big break?
“Basically the driver conquers all in this situation,” Hill said.
Another competitor that could use a boost is 22-year-old William Byron.
In his first two years driving the familiar the No. 24 Chevrolet with the powerful Hendrick Motorsports Cup team, Byron recorded only five top-five finishes.
But the Charlotte native is an expert in iRacing, and that’s part of the season for his rapid climb to the Cup series.
“Bristol is going to be a wild race, just like every other time we race there,” Byron said. “The fast closing rates coming out of the corners, the lapped traffic, and track position in the top lane will all come into play.
“Fans can also expect to see a lot of bumping and banging.”
NASCAR social channels will provide a 30-minute pre-race show this morning featuring country music singer Justin Moore, with NASCAR.com personality Alex Weaver and Cup driver Austin Dillon serving as hosts.
The co-grand marshals will be former New England Patriots great Rob Gronkowski and current WWE star Mojo Rawley.
Entertainer Rita Wilson will also be featured on the pre-race show with Waltrip and his wife, Stevie
“The NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has been a great way to keep fans engaged during a tough situation and we’re thankful to NASCAR, iRacing and FOX for pushing forward,” Caldwell said.
For Hill and the other iRacing regulars, today’s race is a chance to gain national exposure.
“This is a great way to showcase a lot of guys who maybe don’t get the recognition,” Hill said.
“I think when we actually go back racing, fans will interact with us more, and I think the whole sport will be positively affected.”