By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Alex “Bowman the Showman” ekes out Corey LaJoie by just 0.036 seconds in an entertaining GEICO 70 at virtual Talladega Superspeedway Sunday.
It was no doubt quite the day for Bowman as his road towards victory had many bumps along the way. Not only he was collected in the big one on Lap 16, but also had to save fuel heading into overtime.
Those thoughts were thrown out the window LaJoie turned race leader Ty Dillon coming to the tri-oval for the final time in the race-extended 74-lap contest.
With drafting assist from Ryan Preece, that incident gave Bowman an opportunity to battle LaJoie and just managed to score his first eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series victory, making it a Hendrick Motorsports three-peat.
Garrett Smithley and Landon Cassill rounded out the top-five. As for Dillon, the contact from LaJoie relegated him down to an agonizing 23rd.
A genuinely confused Bowman had to collect his thoughts as to how he brought his No. 88 Chevy Goods Camaro ZL1 1LE to the top of the iRacing leaderboard.
“I’m just surprised that we won an iRace. It’s pretty wild to me with how good a lot of those guys are and how much experience that they have,” said Bowman. “If it was going to happen somewhere, like Talladega is the place where you can be in the right place at the right time and make it happen. That was pretty awesome to be able to do that.”
The race was slowed down three times for crashes and two of those involved NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who made his iRacing debut by driving a Pepsi paint scheme from his infamous 2004 Talladega victory.
There was none of that rich glory for the 13-time superspeedway winner as the first caution on Lap 16 proved to be the biggest accident of the race.
It unfolded when drafting went wrong for Ty Dillon as he ran into the back of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. at the end of the backstretch.
From there, all hell went loose as Bowman, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon and several others were wiped from the accident.
Flashbacks to the 2012 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona occurred for Gordon fans after his No. 24 Pepsi Camaro took several tumbles, even hitting the virtual fence. Fortunately, the quick fix button was there so he and everyone involved were able to continue.
Gordon’s day worsened on Lap 57 when he was collected in someone else’s mess again. This time, the incident happened as the field hit the backstretch. Ryan Blaney lost a bit of speed which hogged up the outside lane, forcing Elliott to slow down and got wrecked by Brennan Poole.
The contact from Poole sent Elliott into Gordon, sending him into the wall as only Cassill was the other notable driver in that crash. A shot of one more glorious moment were officially dashed for Gordon, finishing 38th out of the 39-car grid, but he was able to finish the race nine laps behind Bowman.
— eNASCAR (@NASCAR) April 26, 2020
“I had no chance. I knew coming into this race that I had no chance of winning this race,” said Gordon. “It’s just so awesome what iRacing has created. It’s incredibly realistic and I felt like I was in the race car. Of course I was very happy when I got caught up in some of those wrecks that I was able to just come down pit road and hit a reset button.
“I love being a part of this. It’s great to get back out there in the action and competition on the track. I had a blast, so thanks for the opportunity.”
Who ended up finishing behind Gordon? It was Homestead winner Denny Hamlin, who’s day ended in the most bizarre way imaginable. At first, Hamlin’s car appeared to have wrecked on pit road, notably on Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s Twitch stream. However, there was far more into that story as it turned out that Hamlin’s screen went pitch black.
I had so many questions about what just happened.. then we found 2nd hand footage at the end. I cannot believe it. pic.twitter.com/BfN1sNAsg8
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) April 26, 2020
Now that Talladega is out of the driver’s minds, the sixth stop for the Pro Invitational Series heads to Dover International Speedway May 3 with live coverage beginning at 1:00 pm EST on FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
eNASCAR/iRacing Pro Invitational Series Race – GEICO 70
Virtual Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, April 26, 2020
1. (22) Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet, 74.
2. (1) Corey LaJoie, No. 32 Ford, 74.
3. (31) Ryan Preece, No. 37 Chevrolet, 74.
4. (11) Garrett Smithley, No. 51 Chevrolet, 74.
5. (2) Landon Cassill, No. 89 Chevrolet, 74.
6. (32) William Byron, No. 24 Chevrolet, 74.
7. (7) Brennan Poole, No. 15 Chevrolet, 74.
8. (19) Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, 74.
9. (13) Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chevrolet, 74.
10. (10) Daniel Suarez, No. 96 Toyota, 74.
11. (33) Timmy Hill, No. 66 Toyota, 74.
12. (24) Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford, 74.
13. (34) Christopher Bell, No. 95 Toyota, 74.
14. (15) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., No. 47 Chevrolet, 74.
15. (20) JJ Yeley, No. 52 Ford, 74.
16. (35) Parker Kligerman, No. 77 Toyota, 74.
17. (39) Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford, 74.
18. (21) Aric Almirola, No. 10 Ford, 74.
19. (12) Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, 74.
20. (28) Joey Gase, No. 53 Chevrolet, 74.
21. (18) Chad Finchum, No. 49 Toyota, 74.
22. (38) Tyler Reddick, No. 31 Chevrolet, 74.
23. (6) Ty Dillon, No. 13 Chevrolet, 74.
24. (5) Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, 74.
25. (8) John Hunter Nemechek, No. 38 Ford, 74.
26. (23) Cole Custer, No. 41 Ford, 74.
27. (14) Chris Buescher, No. 17 Ford, 74.
28. (37) Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet, 74.
29. (3) Ross Chastain, No. 6 Ford, 74.
30. (4) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet, 74.
31. (27) Bobby Labonte, No. 19 Toyota, 74.
32. (25) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, 74.
33. (17) Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Ford, 74.
34. (16) Michael McDowell, No. 34 Ford, 74.
35. (9) Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Ford, 73.
36. (30) Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, 67.
37. (26) Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota, 67.
38. (29) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, 65.
39. (36) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, 51.