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US stock car drivers stage televised virtual race

US stock car driver Denny Hamlin won the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational series virtual race on Sunday as the series tried to deliver televised entertainment to fans despite being shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic - Meg Oliphant / ©AFP
US stock car driver Denny Hamlin won the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational series virtual race on Sunday as the series tried to deliver televised entertainment to fans despite being shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic - Meg Oliphant / ©AFP

(AFP)

US stock car drivers turned to the internet to compete and entertain fans with a televised virtual race Sunday while the actual series remained shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Drivers in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) competed over a virtual replica of the Homestead Miami Speedway oval, where an actual race was to have been conducted on Sunday.

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Cars remained silent and race tracks sat empty as drivers turned to the internet for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series with simulated overtaking and realistic sounds.

Denny Hamlin, a 38-time winner in the real series, passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final turn and held on to capture the 100-lap virtual race.

“That was unbelievable,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t think we were going to get back there. Really made the top line work the last two laps to get the win.”

Such famous NASCAR racers as Hamlin, Earnhardt, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer were among 35 drivers competing from their homes in simulated racing, cars bumping into each other but continuing as they often would in a regular race.

“It’s sort of a comeback but I’m just happy to be a part of it,” retired star Earnhardt said.

NASCAR has postponed actual events through May 3.

“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience,” NASCAR vice president of racing development Ben Kennedy said.

IndyCar plans a similar event next Saturday involving its drivers.

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