The champagne might be virtual but the winning feeling is still the same.
39 of NASCAR’s real-life drivers took to the virtual Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to battle in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series live on FOX and FS1. After 70 laps, and a four-wide overtime finish, Tucson’s Alex Bowman took his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the virtual victory lane, one day after his 27th birthday.
It was the first victory for Bowman in the iRacing Pro Invite Series to add to his two career victories in the NASCAR Cup Series. Bowman attended Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson and move to North Carolina to pursue his dream of racing in NASCAR. In 2018, Bowman took the reins of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No.88 following his retirement.
“I’m just surprised that we won an iRace. I mean, it’s pretty wild to me with how good a lot of those guys are and how much experience that they have,” Bowman said. “You know, that was pretty awesome to be able to do that, but definitely quite a few guys that take it way more seriously than I do, and that kind of ends up helping them run better for the most part, but glad we were able to make it happen.”
Bowman earns absolutely nothing from the win, no trophy, no real-life points, or anything besides bragging rights for approximately the next six days.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 26, 2020
This was the fifth race of the Pro Series where NASCAR’s pros took on the virtual world. iRacing laser scans real-life race tracks to make their virtual venues as similar to reality as possible. Along with accurate track with dynamic track conditions to change with weather and tire wear, the virtual cars are also made to be adjusted similarly to a real NASCAR vehicle, running the same rules package as real life. In essence, iRacing has become the closest thing to real-life racing from setups, to tracks, and everything in between.
Drivers even use iRacing and other simulators to take virtual test laps at tracks to gain experience before racing at the track in real life.
NASCAR has sanctioned a championship series on iRacing since 2010. The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series reached nearly 300,000 viewers in their weekly championship series race on Tuesday, and over 1.1 million minutes watched. The series has had multiple races broadcasted live on NBCSN and FOX Networks in the past few weeks.
The next iRacing Pro Invite race will be next week at the virtual Dover International Speedway and Bowman will have to start last due to winning this weekend.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) April 26, 2020