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Talladega Pro Invitational Series Preview Enascar 2021

Preview: Pro Invitational Series returns to Talladega Wednesday night

The stars of the NASCAR Cup Series are pulling double-duty at Talladega Superspeedway this week — if you count Wednesday night’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event from the virtual 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Here’s everything you need to know about the second iRacing exhibition event airing live Apr. 21 at 7 pm. ET on FS1.

This year’s format

Qualifying: Two-lap, three-minute solo session
Race: 70-lap, 2 resets
Field Size: 40 cars, comprised of 36 NASCAR Cup Series drivers, a fan vote winner and any past Pro Invitational winners, along with special guests Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

Last year’s Pro Invitational Series race at Talladega

The 2020 iRacing Pro Invitational Series race was one of the most memorable races of last spring’s seven-race season.

For starters, Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon made his iRacing debut — but it wasn’t before long the driver-gone-broadcaster ended up in Talladega’s virtual catch fence.

Denny Hamlin was also (now famously) knocked out by a technical glitch of sorts.

Birthday boy and frequent mid-race tweeter Alex Bowman ended up bringing home the win, holding off Corey LaJoie in overtime.

Last Pro Invitational Series race: Byron wins the Bristol Dirt Race

William Byron, the most decorated driver in the brief history of the Pro Invitational Series, picked up his fourth win last month in the 2021 season opener at the dirt version of Bristol Motor Speedway.

What to expect and who to watch

They say just about anything can happen at Talladega, and that’s no different in the sim-racing world. Alex Bowman wasn’t considered a favorite to win last year’s race — after all, his opening weeks of the series were spent, to our entertainment, in-race tweeting and blaming his dog for incidents — but he managed to prevail despite Brad Keselowski and John Hunter Nemechek leading the most laps.

Of course, we’ve got our eyes on William Byron, who’s an evergreen iRacing favorite, though Talladega’s draft is known as the great equalizer.

Like each time the NASCAR Cup Series visits Talladega, there’s a chance for an underdog story, too. Corey LaJoie finished runner-up at ‘Dega last year, just ahead of Ryan Preece and Garrett Smithley; Smithley also finished fourth at the Bristol Dirt iRacing race last month.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Daniel Suárez’s special paint scheme, honoring 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Red Farmer.

One more driver for the fans

Through a fan vote, fans selected one more guest entrant to round out the field: Jesse Iwuji will put on the virtual belts Wednesday to show his stuff against the Cup Series stars. Iwuji, who’s also a U.S. Naval officer, competes in the Camping World Truck Series. He competed in last year’s Saturday Night Thunder exhibition event on iRacing, held the night before the Pro Invitational Series race with non-Cup Series drivers.

Catch the live broadcast of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race from Talladega Superspeedway Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on FS1, following NASCAR Race Hub.