Dale Earnhardt Jr and Denny Hamlin met in 2003 on a racing game; Sunday, sim racing took center stage and the two drivers battled for the win
Years ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Denny Hamlin met on NASCAR Racing 2003. The popular video games was the last made by Papyrus.
Watch the NASCAR iRacing video below.
Dale Jr invited Denny Hamlin to the 2004 Daytona 500. Earnhardt Jr won that year and Denny Hamlin signed his first NASCAR contract with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Years later, the majority of the Papyrus group joined forces once again. This time, it was for an online-only racing simulator service called iRacing.
On Sunday, iRacing took center stage during a coronavirus outbreak. With no sports on TV, NASCAR drivers, while in quarantine, jumped behind the wheels of their home simulators and put a show on for race fans.
At the end of the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr worked his way to the front. Denny Hamlin was charging in a hurry with fresher tires.
The race came down to the last lap. Dale Earnhardt Jr moved low and blocked the preferred groove into turn one.
Hamlin was forced to the outside lane, the slower lane. They ran side by side through turns one and two. They remained even down the backstretch and into turn three.
They two drivers came off the final corner of the 100 lap race door-to-door.
The two drivers banged doors and Dale Earnhardt Jr slid toward the infield wall. Hamlin drove by to take the win, with a pass on the final lap, final corner.
This race was broadcast on LIVE TV. NASCAR dominates the sports headlines, with no competition.
Denny Hamlin comments on the pass
After the digital race, the race winner was a part of a post-race teleconference with NASCAR media members.
The race winner said that’s the same move he would have pulled in a real race. Given the same circumstances.
“I wanted to the bottom. He was really, really smart to block the bottom,” Denny Hamlin stated after the race in a media availability.
“The bottom lane at Homestead, on iRacing, just has tremendous more grip than the lane I was running in.”
“I knew the difference between the two lanes was about a tenth and a half to two tenths. I felt my tires were about 3 tenths better.”
“As long as I got beside him, I was going to be able to complete it.”
With under 20 laps to go, Hamlin pitted from the 3rd position.
“I was nervous. Restarting where I was, I thought I was going to get wrecked,” Hamlin concluded.
Dale Earnhardt Jr on the race with Denny Hamlin
Dale Earnhardt Jr has a long history with iRacing. Several years ago, he competed weekly at the highest level within the sim service. He did that while also running weekly in his full-time NASCAR ride.
“It was a lot of fun. Finished 2nd to Denny Hamlin, it’s not the first time he’s beat me on the sim racing. The guy’s pretty good,” Dale Earnhardt Jr stated in a post-race video.
“I’ve been racing online for about two decades. And I’ve been racing against Denny online for that long too.”
“A lot of guys were putting in a lot of work to get better in a really short period of time. Denny really doesn’t race a lot but worked really hard this week to be able to get competitive and it showed.”
“We took tires with 30 laps to go. Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go. And we were racing really hard up front too, burning our stuff up.”
“I didn’t expect Denny to get up there but he did. I went to the bottom because if I go to the top, he can pass me a whole lot easier, I think.”
“Plus, if he wanted to, he could just take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top 5.”
“I really just wanted to get a good finish. I never even thought I was going to be in the battle for the win because there’s so many good, fast guys.”