After a week off for Easter, Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang return to the world of virtual racing with the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at Richmond Raceway.
It’s the fourth race of the series, which is providing racing content for fans while real racing is on hiatus due to the social distancing required to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the Menards and Richmond Water Heaters logos, DiBenedetto’s Mustang and a few of his fellow Ford drivers will carry decals representing Ford’s Project Apollo, the name given to a company initiative to work with other equipment makers to help design and build ventilators, respirators, face masks and face shields.
The project’s name came from the ingenuity and innovative ideas that NASA engineers and astronauts used to come up with quick solutions using current parts and pieces to save lives during the Apollo 13 mission.
The appearance by Richmond Water Heaters on the No. 21 Mustang is the first of the season for a company considered to be the industry leader for total water heating solutions. Richmond offers a variety of products including conventional tank-type water heaters, tankless water heaters, solar water heating systems, replacement parts and accessories for all categories.
With his No. 21 Mustang parked for the time being, DiBenedetto has spent more time lately on his simulation rig, which he’s had for three or four years. In recent days he’s run a variety of races, some of which apply directly to the Pro Invitational Series and some that don’t.
"I enjoy it more when I keep it fun," he said. "Some take it a lot more seriously than I do, but I don’t want to get burned out on it."
He said he is glad to do his part to keep fans entertained on Sunday afternoons while the real racing is on pause.
"It’s been cool to have that outlet to put on some sort of show for the fans," he said, adding that he expects Sunday’s race, like many an event in real cars, to be a matter of managing tire wear. "You don’t want to run too hard at the beginning of a run."
DiBenedetto said his results at Richmond in the past, in the Cup Series, have been dependent on the equipment he’s been in. But instead of looking to the past he’s focused on the future.
"What I’m most excited about is going back there in the 21," he said. "That’ll be the best ride I’ve ever had there."
Sunday’s race, the fourth in the Pro Invitational Series, will feature 26 drivers running 150 laps on the virtual version of the ¾-mile Richmond Raceway.
The 150-lapper at Richmond is set to get the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on FOX, FOX Sports 1 and the FOX Sports app.