In the final event of the iRacing Pro Invitational Series, Ross Chastain led 31 laps and held the point in the closing laps at North Wilkesboro Speedway before getting moved up the track from behind with seven to go. He still managed a fourth-place run in the Acronis / Nutrien Ag eFord, while teammate Chris Buescher finished 21st in the Fastenal eFord.
North Wilkesboro – which had not hosted a NASCAR sanctioned event since 1996 – was part of NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock (now called Cup Series) season in 1949. Twenty years later, iRacing, FOX and others partnered to bring it back to life virtually with the culmination of the seven-week series.
Chastain – who showed significant speed throughout much of the Pro Invitational Series – was in the thick of the action Saturday afternoon, putting the Acronis / Nutrien Ag machine up front for 31 laps. He posted the third-quickest lap in qualifying to start eighth after the top-10 qualifiers were inverted as a competitive measure.
The Alva, Florida, native quickly fought his way to third by lap 20, and would take over the point by lap 39. After pitting from the second spot under yellow at lap 53, Chastain fired off ninth after the top seven cars stayed out.
Following several yellow flags before the halfway point, Chastain restarted fourth at lap 81 in what proved to be the longest green-flag run of the day (46 laps). His final pit stop came at lap 127 when he and a host of other drivers took just two tires, putting him back in the lead with 25 laps remaining.
After an immediate yellow, the field went back green with 14 to go with Chastain leading. He maintained the spot until lap 153, when the No. 11 made contact with his rear bumper, forcing Chastain out of line. He ultimately got tagged again in the sequence, but was able to hold the Acronis / Nutrien eFord in line, bringing home a fourth-place run.
Buescher rolled off 24th in the Fastenal eFord, but unfortunately was collected in a pair of incidents within the opening third of the race. He was forced to use his only reset at lap 53 after a multi-car incident, and later suffered a blown engine to ultimately finish the race 21st.
After seven weeks of the Pro Invitational Series, NASCAR returns to the real track next weekend at Darlington Raceway (May 17, 3 p.m. ET, FOX), in the first of four Cup Series events over an 11-day span.