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Josh Williams wins star-studded Replacements 100 race

While there’s no true replacement for cars on track Sunday afternoons, NASCAR stars and team members took to the virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway to put on an exhibition race using iRacing — the aptly-named Replacements 100.

The 100-lapper featured NASCAR stars Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Tyler Ankrum, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, William Byron, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Parker Kligerman, Garrett Smithley and Bubba Wallace — not to mention quite a bit of the NASCAR spotter stand, including Kevin Hamlin, TJ Majors, Coleman Pressley and Josh Williams. Chicago-Bear-gone-iRacer Kyle Long joined the show, too, as well as country star Tim Dugger.

The Replacements 100, brainchild of Hamlin and Majors, came together in less than a weekend with support from iRacing and broadcaster Podium eSports.

Noted iRacing enthusiast William Byron started on pole, edging out Josh Williams, spotter for Ryan Blaney by day — an early preview for who’d contend for the afternoon’s grand prize of, uhh, bragging rights.

Cautions rolled in early, taking out plenty of contenders — Noah Gragson’s race ended before it even started, for instance.

Once things settled down, the afternoon became the Josh Williams show at the front of the field.

Williams’ closest challenger Parker Kligerman crashed from second place on Lap 43 when a computer issue sent his No. 77 car — a replica of the car raced by Ashton Crowder in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series — into the Turn 1 wall. Luckily for PK, an available backup car ensured his afternoon didn’t end prematurely.

The “Big One” struck on the ensuing restart when NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Justin Haley connected with iRacing staffer Kevin Iannarelli, collecting NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace, ARCA Menards Series driver Taylor Gray and others.

The halfway-point multi-car crash served as a sort of wake-up call to drivers, who pulled the belts tight to cool down in the second half — a long green-flag run to the finish.

Early in the final run of the afternoon, William Byron gave Josh Williams the business, trying to pass Williams’ Ryan Blaney paint scheme replica on both the outside and inside grooves. Unfortunately for Byron, the tire on his No. 24 car started to fade as Williams extended his lead.

(Who do you think spotted for Williams, a spotter by day?)

In the end, nobody had anything for Williams, who cruised to victory by 2.1 seconds over William Byron — a swap of the initial front row.

Full race results:

1. Josh Williams
2. William Byron
3. Steven Steffen
4. TJ Majors
5. Parker Kligerman
6. Tyler Overstreet
7. Garrett Smithley
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. Bubba Wallace
10. Coleman Pressley
11. Chase Briscoe
12. Bryan Boris Cook
13. Justin Haley
14. John Theodore
15. Kevin Iannarelli
16. KC Heschel
17. Kyle Long
18. Anthony Pelican
19. Tyler Truex
20. Gary Sexton
21. Anthony Alfredo
22. Tim Dugger
23. John Guidone
24. Harrison Burton
25. Myatt Snider
26. Chad Knaus
27. Ben Rhodes
28. Matt Noyce
29. Justin Allgaier
30. Alex Bowman
31. Taylor Gray
32. Jonathan Davis
33. Kevin Hamlin
34. Tyler Ankrum
35. Noah Gragson

Was it a good race? Well, we’ll leave that question to the pros.

We voted yes, but we’re just happy to watch NASCAR stars racing on Sundays.