CHARLOTTE, N.C. Talladega Superspeedway was not immune to "The Big One" or a typical overtime submission, even in virtual races.
Alex Bowman scored his first iRacing victory in NASCARThe inviting series, stopping Corey LaJoie and Ryan Preece in a two-hour race to the finish at virtual Talladega, Alabama. The win is Hendrick Motorsports' third consecutive win, which won consecutive victories for William Byron in Sunday's esports event.
"I am legitimately confused about how it happened," Bowman joked on Twitter. Since the league was launched in late March, Bowman has used his Twitter feed to entertain followers with witty comments about the races. It sometimes allows the dog to sit on the simulator bench.
Garrett Smithley finished fourth and Landon Cassill fifth, with less-advertised drivers still using the iRacing platform to get attention. Byron and Brennan Poole were sixth and seventh, with Chevrolet drivers taking six of the top seven.
It took only 16 laps for the multicar accident, a hallmark of Talladega races. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading – not so unusual for super speed racing – when he misjudged a Ty Dillon block. This happens frequently because of Stenhouse's aggressive style in live races in Talladega and Daytona International Speedway, and his blockade went wrong and caused a massive accident.
The race was the virtual debut of Jeff Gordon of the Hall of Fame, who ran on a platform borrowed from Clint Bowyer's son, Cash. Gordon was part of the accident, but was able to use his only reset to resume the competition. He needed a quick fix after his famous Chevrolet 24 entered the fence.
As Gordon usually calls the races alongside Mike Joy, he was replaced at the Fox booth this week by Michael Waltrip.
Fox reporter Bowyer had his race ended by a broken engine for the second week in a row. He was running for the lead, pushing Bowman, when the engine practically overheated.
NASCAR tried to change Talladega's starting order by inverting the top 10 and placing the 10th fastest driver on pole, but some sort of failure at the beginning failed to apply the switch. LaJoie started on pole and the top three in last week's race in virtual Richmond started at the back.
That meant two-time champion Byron, single winner Timmy Hill, and Parker Kligerman, who finished third last week, all started at the back of the 40-car field.
Denny Hamlin, winner of the first iRacing event when NASCAR linked to the virtual series because the live races were on hiatus, his race ended prematurely when his daughter Taylor accidentally turned off the screen on his simulator. Without sight, Hamlin fell.
"Uh-oh," said Taylor Hamlin, a horrified look on her face as she walked away from the simulator. Her father finished last.
Ryan Newman made a brief appearance on Fox's pre-race show to say he is healed from the head injury he suffered in the Daytona 500, which opens the season, and is ready to race when NASCAR resumes competition.
"That's the absolute plan, for sure. I'm healthy," said Newman. "I've been blessed with another layer of this situation (coronavirus), giving me more time to heal and I'm looking forward to going back to the bank, for sure."
Newman suffered a spectacular accident while competing for the lead on the last lap of the Daytona 500 on February 17. Because the coronavirus pandemic forced NASCAR To suspend the season on March 13, Newman has only lost three races so far.
NASCAR said in a statement that Newman has not yet been released by the series to return.
NASCAR expects to resume its season without spectators on May 17. The situation remains fluid when the sanctioning body sets a new schedule and finds states that will host the series and teams will return to their races.