THE VIRTUAL LINCOLN, Ala. — “I’m legitimately confused how this happened,” Alex Bowman tweeted minutes after crossing the virtual Talladega Superspeedway finish line to capture victory in the GEICO 70 on Sunday afternoon.
The 70 lap affair had three-wide racing, lead changes, and of course, multiple accidents, many worthy of the title of “The Big One“, but at the end, it was Bowman coming across the line in front of Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece, and the rest of the field after a single attempt at eNASCAR Overtime.
“I guess just right place, right time, kind of the normal speedway racing deal,” Bowman told NASCAR media members in the post-race teleconference. “I felt like the bottom wasn’t the place to be, so kind of let Ty (Dillon) have the bottom on that restart and got up, and just tried to keep the run timed well and knew that most of the time the top was leading there at the start‑finish line.”
Off of Turn 4 on the final lap, Ty Dillon led the field heading into the Tri-Oval, but he moved ever so slightly off of the bottom. There was no “Yellow Line” rule in effect, but regardless, LaJoie stuck a fender beneath Dillon as Dillon attempted to prevent the run.
The two made contact, and sent the No. 13 Germain Racing Chevy through the Tri-Oval grass. It was enough to give the advantage back to Bowman, who held off LaJoie on the bottom, and Preece on top against the wall.
LaJoie started on the virtual pole position. iRacing officials had pre-determined that there would be an invert of the first ten starting positions, and that the Top 3 finishers from the prior week (William Byron, Timmy Hill, and Parker Kligerman) would have to start from the back of the field.
Unfortunately for iRacing officials, and also who would have led the field to the green after qualifying 10th, Daniel Suárez, the invert did not occur as planned, and it was LaJoie who led the field to the starting line.
LaJoie, along with several other drivers, battled continuously for the top spot. Brad Keselowski and John Hunter Nemechek tied for leading the most laps on the day at 11 laps a piece, but neither would be in contention when it was all said and done.
There were only three cautions in the race, including one that extended the race an extra four laps into eNASCAR Overtime. That incident saw Ryan Blaney go for a flip after contact with multiple drivers.
On the final restart, there were multiple incidents in the middle and back of the pack, but assumably due to time constraints, and also those incidents not affecting the race for the win, iRacing officials kept it green the final two laps.
Bowman held a steady wheel, and after saying sim racing wasn’t for him a few weeks ago following The Replacements 100, he now is the latest winner in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
“I’m just surprised that we won an iRace,” Bowman said. “I mean, it’s like ‑‑ it’s pretty wild to me with how good a lot of those guys are, and how much experience that they have, but if it was going to happen somewhere, like Talladega is a place where you can kind of be in the right place at the right time and make it happen.”
For the first four races in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Bobby Labonte have been welcomed guests of the series, both stepping out of retirement to compete virtually against many of the stars currently in the NASCAR Cup Series.
On Wednesday night, during FOX Sports 1’s “Wednesday Night iRacing” special, Jeff Gordon, who currently announces the real and virtual races for FOX Sports, announced that he would also step out of retirement to give the virtual racing a shot at Talladega Superspeedway.
Gordon’s first iRace wasn’t as good has he would have hoped it to be.
All drivers were awarded one Fast Repair again this week, as they didn’t have one last week at Richmond Raceway. Gordon had to use his early, as his virtual No. 24 Pepsi / Axalta Chevy tumbled into the fence and got stuck.
Laps down, and cautions scarce, Gordon kept in it, hoping to get a wave around at some point, but he ended up a part of the second caution as well, this time involving his teammate, Chase Elliott, as well as a few others.
Gordon wound up finishing 38th, nine laps down, but still running after repairing his damage.
On Saturday night, the eNASCAR iRacing Saturday Night Thunder Series took part in a 57 lap Talladega race utilizing iRacing’s NASCAR Xfinity Series vehicles.
The series is made up of many NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series, and NASCAR Regional Series drivers. 48 drivers showed up to race, but only 40 could make the show.
Two 10 lap heat races of 24 drivers, and the Top 20 drivers would advance. Kyle Weatherman took the first heat, while Chase Briscoe won the second.
After 57 laps and many, many incidents, Landon Huffman, a part time Truck Series driver, as well as a CARS Series Late Model driver, took the checkers.
Huffman is also the CEO of Total Advantage, a “Multi-platform eSports and gaming entertainment organization” which recently stepped up their involvement in iRacing in the eNASCAR iRacing Road To Pro Series, partnering with Deadzone Racing, a team that fields nine drivers in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series in 2020.
The next event is the last scheduled event in the six race series, next Sunday, May 3rd, at Dover International Speedway. It will be on FOX and FOX Sports 1, most likely at 1:00 pm ET as the other races have been.
It’s unclear if they will add another event in the midst of the event Martinsville Speedway getting postponed earlier last week. That race was scheduled to happen Mother’s Day weekend on Saturday night.
Many in the NASCAR media circle are reporting that NASCAR intends to return to the real track at Darlington Raceway on May 17th. The COVID-19 pandemic halted all NASCAR racing starting at Atlanta Motor Speedway last month.
The Replacements 100 and Pro Invitational Series were created in response to the real action going dark for a while.
There is no word what the status of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will be after Dover.
Talladega Photo Gallery (all photos by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com):
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com