Format, schedule set for eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series opener on Bristol dirt

The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series makes its return next week with a twist, one that parallels the real-life NASCAR Cup Series’ newest schedule addition.

The iRacing circuit — which made its debut last year with Cup Series drivers and other stars in action — opens its 10-race season Wednesday on the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, four days before the Cup Series races on its real-world counterpart venue. Series organizers announced some details about the race format and schedule Friday afternoon.

Coverage on FS1 begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday, with the first of three 20-lap qualifying heats to start at approximately 8 p.m. ET. Qualifying to set the fields for the qualifying heats will take place at 7:50 p.m. ET, with drivers using the best of two laps. Seven drivers will advance from each heat to make up a 21-car field for the feature.

The nearly two-hour block before the heats will be for open practice, and FOX Sports’ Race Hub will feature live look-ins as drivers get their feel for the .533-mile track’s surface. The main event — set for an 8:40 p.m. ET grid — is scheduled for 70 laps.

Caution periods will be set manually, and competitors will be allotted two car resets for damage. Should the race go into overtime, a maximum of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish will be held.

A full entry list will be released next week. NASCAR Cup Series standouts will be featured, and former driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has committed to entering the Bristol Dirt event.

The iRacing Pro Invitational Series was created last year as NASCAR officials looked for alternative ways to race after the COVID-19 outbreak. Drivers from multiple NASCAR circuits competed in the seven-race simulation series, which began March 22 and concluded May 9.