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NASCAR champ Kyle Busch finishes 13th in IndyCar sim debut

Kyle Busch’s quest to drive in IndyCar became a reality Saturday.

A virtual reality.

The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion from Las Vegas accepted an invitation to compete in IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge race on the virtual Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan, finishing 13th in a 32-car field.

Simon Pagenaud held off Scott Dixon in a battle of former Indianapolis 500 winners to claim the race that featured a wheel-banging final lap.

“Yes, I’m racing IndyCar,” Busch said in a video message on his Twitter account before adding a dramatic pause. “It’s on iRacing. But I’m still looking forward to it. The IndyCar group of drivers has been really cool to invite me in and be a part of it all.”

Busch drove using a traditional gear knob shifter on his setup at home rather than a paddle device favored by real life IndyCar drivers.

“I’m going retro,” said Busch, who started 25th and made an early pit stop that enabled him to run as high as fourth in the latest simulated event to entertain auto racing fans during the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m going 1980s, 1990s IndyCar.”

For Busch, it was a taste of the real thing for which he has been thirsting for many years. The stock car superstar has repeatedly expressed interest in joining big brother Kurt in doing the Indy 500-Coca-Cola 600 same-day double on Memorial Day weekend.

Driving for Michael Andretti, Kurt Busch finished sixth in the 2014 Indy 500 en route to being named Rookie of the Year.

Kyle Busch drove the white No. 51 Rowdy Energy car in the virtual IndyCar race. The paint and graphic scheme honoring his new energy drink was almost identical to the one he used in winning a late model race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring kicking off NASCAR weekend in late February.

Around the horn

■ During a recent interview at Las Vegas Ballpark, expectant father Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Bonanza High said he wasn’t sure he wanted his baby son to become a ballplayer, that maybe he would steer him toward golf instead.

Unless, of course, grandpa intervened.

Kyler Lee Bryant was born April 7. Grandpa Mike Bryant, Kris’ dad, already has intervened. The youngster’s tiny hands are too little to grip a Louisville Slugger, but he has already been in the family batting cage.

“He’s had his first verbal session,” Mike Bryant said Friday. “First I said ‘watch your dad,’ and then I told him make sure you hit it in the air, and hit it hard.”

Mike Bryant, who made it to Double-A with the Boston Red Sox and taught Kris the batting stroke that helped his son became National League MVP in 2016, said Kyler weighed 9 pounds, 3 ounces at birth.

It has been decided he will throw right and bat left, because if the little guy can run like his dad, it probably will add 10 points to his batting average by hitting from the left side and getting a jump to first base on ground balls.

What about Kyler Bryant becoming a switch hitter?

“That’s a lot of work, man, ” his grandpa said.

■ Joey Gallo is going viral during the viral shutdown.

A video showing the Texas Rangers’ slugger and Bishop Gorman product taking batting practice inside his living room attracted 3.1 million clicks. Then Gallo won his first 11 games in MLB.com’s The Show 20 Players League video game competition before being defeated by the Dodgers’ Gavin Lux on Thursday.

“That’s a huge win — what were the Vegas odds on that game?” Lux asked after recording the final out. “Good game to Joey, though. He’s a savage.”

Reds pitcher and former Sierra Vista High standout Amir Garrett was 6-2 and co-leading the NL Central standings heading into the weekend. Oakland A’s prospect Jesus Luzardo, who pitched for the Aviators last season and against the Cleveland Indians during the recent Big League Weekend at Las Vegas Ballpark, was 4-4 and trying to close ground on the savage Gallo in the American League West.

0:01

Social media post from a man named Steve MacArthur after learning the MLB Network would be celebrating Las Vegan Greg Maddux’s 54th birthday by showing five of his classic pitching performances back to back Tuesday :

“In Maddux fashion, all five games will take only about an hour to watch.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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