This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
NORTH WILKESBORO 160
North Wilkesboro Speedway (1.0-km oval)
One 160-Lap Main Event
William Byron claimed his third eNASCAR Pro Invitational series win last week at Dover with another confident showing in the makeshift NASCAR Cup series substitute series. He has been one of the most consistent drivers among the field, which is due in large part from his familiarity and extensive experience in the iRacing format. That experience has served him well and he has raced near the front of each of the six events held. Other drivers like Timmy Hill and Garrett Smithley have taken advantage of their knowledge of the format to put their names at the top of the competitor's lists in this period, too. Those again will be the names fantasy owners look to for the series finale this week at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway.
It will be bittersweet to see the Pro Invitational series end this week, but the realization that in-person racing will return in about a week is enough to put that melancholy feeling to bed. Actual NASCAR Cup series racing is set to return again just one week later at Darlington Speedway. It is fitting that the virtual series that popped up in these unprecedented times will end its run at a circuit that holds significant sentimental weight among many NASCAR fan and drivers. The return to North Wilkesboro Speedway the first time since 1996 will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of this forced offseason and a fitting prequel to what is yet to come in the 2020 NASCAR Cup series season.
Timmy Hill ($12,500) - Hill had another fantastic outing in last week's Finish Line 150, finishing third behind William Byron and Christopher Bell. Hill continues to show how strong he can be on the virtual platform racking up the top-10 finishes just about every week. The only race he hasn't finished in the top 10 yet since this series began was at Talladega where he finished 33rd. He led 32 laps in last week's race and is likely to be a factor again this week at North Wilkesboro. Hill is one of the drivers who is extremely familiar with iRacing and that experience is paying off in these races. Fantasy owners should expect more of the same again this week.
Denny Hamlin ($11,000) - Hamlin has almost been the exception to the rule in the Pro Invitational series. He seems to be the one veteran who can also get the job done in the virtual world as well. That should be the case, too. Hamlin has one of the most sophisticated rigs in action among the competitors. He was sixth last week at Dover, which overcame his disconnection the week prior at Talladega. He won the series opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway and has since gone on to pick up another top-5 and two more top-10s. This week's circuit might even the playing field a bit, but fantasy owners should expect that Hamlin will still factor into the finishing order at the front of the field when all is said and done.
Garrett Smithley ($9,700) - Smithley finds his way into the Pro Invitational series top options again this week at North Wilkesboro. Smithley is one of the drivers that doesn't get a lot of attention in the Cup series, but has risen to the challenge and made his mark in the unique circumstances we find ourselves in today. In six Pro Invitational start he has only failed to finish in the top 10 once. That lone outlier came at Richmond when he finished 17th. While Smithley isn't a driver fantasy owners reach for each week under normal circumstances, this should be a week they consider him as an advantage. He is a consistent top finisher in this format and that could open more doors for him when actual racing gets back underway in just about a week.
Christopher Bell ($10,500) - Bell's best finish in the Pro Invitational series came last week when he finished runner up to William Byron at Dover. Bell has been in the series since the inception, but hasn't found the results he probably should have expected. He started third at Bristol but only finished 12th. That was his best finish in the format until last week's race. His next best was 13th at Talladega. Still, Bell pulled it out of the bag at Dover and that could mean good things for North Wilkesboro. He is a three-time iRacing World of Outlaws winner, including a Tuesday night win at Volusia Speedway Park. While he hasn't been a front runner in this series much so far, North Wilkesboro could offer up continued success.
Jeff Gordon ($6,000) - While Gordon may have won his last race at North Wilkesboro back in 1996, that might not offer him much of an advantage this week. This will be his second start in this virtual series and his first wasn't exactly something to write home about. In his only start at the virtual Talladega Superspeedway he started 29th and finished a dismal 38th. He, like many of the other veterans, just doesn't have the edge on the drivers who have been cutting their teeth on the iRacing platform. While Gordon may be one of the legends of the sport, and will be forever connected with North Wilkesboro Speedway, his value this week on fantasy rosters is likely limited.
Martin Truex Jr. ($7,100) - Truex will be making his series debut this week at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway. Fantasy owners should know the story by now, though. Veteran drivers who don't have significant iRacing experience trying to jump into the mix have struggled. This will be Truex's first race in the series and the first at the Cup level at North Wilkesboro. Expectations should be low for him this week despite the amount of success he has achieved in the real world. While it will be fun to watch how he adapts and how well he performs, fantasy owners should not expect much from him in his series debut. Odds are good that Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin will be the one to watch versus Truex this week.
Austin Dillon ($5,200) - Austin Dillon hasn't adapted well to the virtual racing format. He was 23rd in Dover last week. His qualifying in the series has been very good, though. In the six races run he started inside the top 10 three times. However, he has yet to score his first top-10 finish in the series. His best result came in the Bristol round when he finished 15th. That was his only finish in the top 20, too. It seems no matter where he starts he simply hasn't been able to convert it into a top finish. It would be a stretch to think that may change this week. While Dillon can be a good fantasy pick at certain tracks in the Cup series, he just doesn't have the resume to suggest he would be a good option for rosters this week in the virtual world.
Clint Bowyer ($6,100) - Bowyer is making his return to virtual racing for this week's series finale in North Wilkesboro. While Bowyer has shown flashes of speed in multiple races in the series so far, he hasn't consistently translated that promise to finishes. He has five series starts with a pair of 11th-place finishes as his joint best results. He was in the lead pack at Talladega, but ended up blowing up his engine in what could have been his best finish. He skipped last week's round at Dover, but will join the fray again this week hoping for a better outcome. With a series-average finish of 20.2 from five races it would be a surprise to see him finish in contention for the win or a top-five finish this week.