Alex Bowman held on in overtime to score a eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series victory in the GEICO 70 at virtual Talladega Superspeedway.
Bowman broke through in the fifth race of the simulation series, created last month in an effort to fill the sports-viewing void with real-world racing on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He held off all challengers in overtime, avoided a collision that stymied Ty Dillon and netted his first victory in the series.
Pole-starter Corey LaJoie grabbed second place with Ryan Preece a close third. Garrett Smithley wound up fourth and Landon Cassill completed the top five.
Jeff Gordon made his eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series debut, finishing 38th in the 39-car field after involvement in a pair of crashes. The first incident, on Lap 16, catapulted his throwback No. 24 Chevrolet into the catch fencing, forcing him to use a repair reset to continue. The four-time champion in NASCAR’s premier series also added commentary to the broadcast through his usual role as a FOX Sports analyst, offering plenty of back-and-forth with guest analyst Clint Bowyer, who slowed with engine failure while running second in the middle stages and later recovered for 33rd place.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]With a late-race pit strategy, Bowman restarted at the front and never looked back to secure his first victory in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
The victory at the 2.66-mile, high-banked virtual superspeedway marks Hendrick Motorsport’s third-consecutive triumph in the Series.
“I felt like the bottom wasn't the place to be, so I 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 startâ€'finish line," says Bowman.
“So, really just got to thank (Ryan) Preece for pushing me because that's what made the difference at that point. When you're that lead car, it's really the guy behind you making the difference. Glad it worked out."
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 CHEVYGOODS.COM CHEVROLET TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We are now joined by Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Chevygoods.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and the winner of today's Geico 70 at the virtual Talladega Superspeedway. Alex, congratulations on that win today, an exciting last lap. Tell us a little bit from your vantage point what that was like and how you pulled it off.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I guess just right place, right time, kind of the normal speedway racing deal. I felt like the bottom wasn't the place to be, so kind of let Ty 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 startâ€'finish line. So really just got to thank Preece for pushing me because that's what made the difference at that point. When you're that lead car, it's really the guy behind you making the difference. Glad it worked out.
Q: Alex, how weird is it to do a virtual Talladega race where you assume you don't have to worry about teammates or manufacturer orders?
|Bowman leads Ty Dillon|
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I mean, that part of it's definitely different. I feel like if we keep doing this long enough, we'll have teammates and manufacture orders in it, but it was definitely different to just focus on your deal and do your deal all day. It was kind of a weird race for us just with how we didn't get fuel under that first caution and then had to pit earlier under green and was kind of going to put us in a really bad spot, and the cautions kind of saved us.
Typically, you pit as a group and that's all ironed out, and we didn't have any of that today, so it was definitely different for sure.
Q: Just curious if during this break you've had any talks with Hendrick yet about next year, or is all that stuff put on hold as well as the racing?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, not really. I guess everything is kind of put on hold right now. You know, obviously I want to be at HMS for a long time, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully they're working on it for sure.
Q: I was going to ask you, they were talking about one of the biggest differences in iRacing as opposed to being at Talladega and actually racing is actually being able to feel the wind and feel the air around you kind of in the car. Was that a big difference to you today, or what was the biggest difference between actually racing on the real Talladega and what you experienced today?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I don't know that that's really how I would put it, but I would say the biggest difference for me is just not having the side draft. The way that the aerodynamics of the cars are in real life, you use the side draft a ton. It's really crucial, and you can really stall guys' runs out and build runs that way, whereas in iRacing kind of with the model that they have, that side draft doesn't work the same way. It's really, really different than it is at the real racetrack.
|Hamlin gets spun by Cole Custer|
Just how you draft and how the runs form was really the biggest difference. Other than that, it's pretty spotâ€'on. The bottom can get pinched down by the top unless they get a couple cars out front kind of about like real Talladega, kind of a normal deal there, and yeah, it was pretty spotâ€'on. Didn't hurt when I crashed and got a quick fix and reset the car and kept digging, so that was good.
Q: Finally, when we do go back to racing which doesn't look like it's going to be that long, there's going to be no fans in the stands, obviously. Is that going to be weird? And actually, can you confirm that Finn did not win the race and that it was actually you?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, it's going to be different without fans for sure, obviously. The fans are why we get to do what we get to do. It's unfortunate that we're not going to be able to have fans there, but at least we'll be able to put on a show for everybody at home watching. Hopefully we get to go do that soon. That would be great.
I don't know; I think I'm going to leave it up to your imagination if it was me or the dog driving, but it was one of us, so there's only so many people it could have been.
Q: Given the extensive amount of time and preparation that you put into these races, are you surprised that it's finally paid off with a victory?
ALEX BOWMAN: I ran the practice race this week, come on. Yeah, I don't know. I think Talladega was the one that I think you could get away with running minimally, so that was good. You know, I think it obviously â€'â€' last week at Richmond, we didn't run very well, and that came down to a lack of practice, but I think this week I ran a little bit, and it ended up being enough, so that was good.
But yeah, it's been a learning curve for sure, and I've kept myself busy in other ways, so probably haven't put the same amount of time into it as some of the other guys have. Probably take it a little more lighthearted than some of the others do, as well, but that's just kind of my approach to it.
Q: I was just curious, at the end were you really seriously thinking that you didn't have enough fuel to make it? You seemed to make it pretty clear while you were tweeting and driving. I just wondered if it was as close as you thought it was going to be.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, we were â€'â€' I think we were a lap to the good before that last caution, and then the race gets extended a little bit with that greenâ€'whiteâ€'checkered, so it was close. It was going to be really tight, and glad we were able to make it because that was pretty nerveâ€'racking. We were in a situation where you can't really trust the fuel gauge on that deal, so like we were â€'â€' I started saving running around like threeâ€'quarter throttle, just trying to make it to the end, but glad the cautions fell where they did because we were going to run out for sure.
Q: Alex, you tweeted postâ€'race, "legit confused how this happened," and earlier you said, "I'm scared to death right now" via a GIF. Was it so different from what you would do at Talladega? What were you so scared, and why were you legitimately confused?
|Jeff Gordon gets caught up in one of his two crashes|
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I'm just surprised that we won an iRace. I mean, it's like â€'â€' 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.
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.
Q: It is possible, although it hasn't been announced, that the race shops could start opening next week. How does a driver integrate into that knowing races are likely coming up but everything is still fluid? What are you sensing, and when things open up at the shops, do you go in and start throwing yourself into it or what?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I don't know. You know, there's been a lot of talk and speculation, and you see everything on Twitter. There's been like four or five different this is what's going to happen on Twitter I feel like, so it's hard to say what really is or isn't going to happen. For me on my end, I'm just trying to stay as ready as I can or be as prepared as I can because we know when we do go back racing that it's probably going to be a tougher schedule than we've seen in the past. Just trying to stay as fit as I can or probably more fit than I was previously and be prepared because when we do go back racing, it's going to be pretty tough on us for sure.
Q: Technically this makes you a multiâ€'time winner this season. Your crew chief was joking about that. But could you just talk about the good vibes that it gives you going forward?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I mean, it's great. To me, I'm still kind of confused how it happened, to be honest with you. But yeah, it's really neat. Just glad to be able to get a win. You know, it's good for everybody with Chevy Goods on the car and it's good to have some momentum. You know, obviously the season was going really well for us in real life, and then as we got into this virtual deal, had some ups and downs, but to get a win is really cool.
Q: You were asked about when we come back the likelihood that we won't have fans, but I was curious about what you think the rust factor might be like when you do get back into the real race car, and what do you think of the possibility of limited or no practice as well as maybe nonâ€'competitive pit stops?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I mean, I think going to a place like Darlington is going to be really tough. Probably be a little Rusty getting into Turn 1 if that was the first one. That would be a tough place.
Hard to say when we really do go back or what the situation really does end up being, but I'll try to do my best to be ready for whatever the situation is. But yeah, just trying to be as prepared as we can be is a big part of it. What was the second part of your question?
Q: Talk about the possibility of racing without much or any practice and the possibility that you might have nonâ€'competitive pit stops if it comes to that.
|It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's just Jeff Gordon again|
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, yeah, it's different for sure. I mean, we've raced without practice a couple times just because of rain and things like that, so that's obviously different. But then going to â€'â€' if we were to not have competitive pit stops, that would be pretty strange, as well. So, it's just adapting to all that and trying to stay on top of it and be prepared the best we can be for all of that is really all I can do.
You know, there's a lot of speculation on what's going to happen or how it's going to be, but until we get that solid word from NASCAR, I'm just trying to be prepared for whatever situation comes at us.
Q: How have you seen the mindsets or the attitudes of the drivers change when it comes to these races over the past five weeks, and what was Finn and Roscoe's reaction to the win, regardless of who happened to be driving at the time because it sounds like they think they should be being interviewed right now.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, it's interesting for sure. They just want to hop on and drive sometimes. Sometimes while I'm driving, they like to walk up and nudge me and yank on the wheel and things go wrong. But that's okay.
You know, I think the attitudes of the drivers, it's really interesting. You have some guys that take it super seriously. Obviously, some guys put a lot of time into it and have a background in it, guys like William, he takes it really seriously and he's like unbelievably good at it. It's so frustrating to hop on â€'â€' like we were practicing for Richmond and I was trying so hard and I was like threeâ€'tenths off of him and could not get any closer.
You know, it's interesting, and it's different for sure that those guys with that background are so good at it.
But they're also guys that kind of take it like I do and are a little more lighthearted about it and just try to make it more fun, more fun than work. So just try to have fun with it, and I somehow ended up with a win that way.
Q: How antsy are you to go back to real racing? We're five races in to the Pro Series here. Does this satisfy the need for speed at all, or are you just getting more antsy?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, it doesn't satisfy it for me. I can't wait to get back in a real race car. I think that's something that is definitely important for me. The iRacing thing is great, and I think we've done a really good job entertaining the fans, but as far as it being actually driving a race car, it's not, and we all want to get back in the real thing.
You know, hopefully we get to do that soon.
Q: You talked a little bit about when you go back to racing without fans; that's obviously one of the things we'll have to contend with. How different is that going to be for you? Do you draw energy from the fans when you're on pit road, you're getting ready to race, you see a lot of folks in the grandstands? Do you draw energy from that, and how do you replace that?
|Ryan Blaney flips over Dale Jr.|
ALEX BOWMAN: I don't know, that's a good question. I feel like it's going to be really weird visually not having any fans there, but aside from that, I mean, I'm pretty shy, I keep to myself, kind of just want to do my own thing. When it comes time to go into work and drive the race car, I think it'll be business as usual for me. The situation might be different with practice or schedules or whatever that may be, but other than that, really just be business as usual, just because I just kind of do my own thing.
Q: Alex, with the notion that NASCAR could return in the coming weeks, other sports have looked at trying to return, and one of the things they've looked at is kind of basically having their athletes, whether it's like baseball potentially stay at hotels and go from hotels to games basically to limit any contact that they could have with anybody and prevent any type of infection. Obviously, that's not going to be the case with racers, but I'm curious once racing resumes, do you almost have to look at as a driver further quarantining yourself because if you get potentially infected, that could mean potentially missing a few races, potentially costing you a chance at the championship and things like that? Do you have to start thinking along those lines, and how might you have to do things or live, in a sense, once racing resumes?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, for sure. I think that's going to be really important. I don't think it's going to be good for anybody if somebody in the garage or a driver or anybody like that gets it, so I think just taking the social distancing thing really seriously and doing all we can to kind of add layers into that and really just be super careful about it and mindful about it at all times and probably take it more seriously than we may have to begin with.
I think that's really going to be crucial to it working out and to getting back on the racetrack is for us all to take the social distancing stuff really seriously and do whatever is needed to make sure that we all stay healthy.
Q: Can you give me a sense of kind of the balance? With the sport potentially returning soon, could be the first sport to really return, that balance between making sure that you're safe and the precautions that are needed when you're working in the garage or around the team, but also the role of with potentially being among the first sports back, to being the athlete/entertainer for a country that is slowly getting back and in a lot of areas still quarantined and just kind of the roles, the concerns or questions healthâ€'wise for you but also the role that you could be playing and you and other drivers in being entertainers and athletes when there won't potentially be as many live events when you guys get started?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I think there's really â€'â€' I feel like with social distancing stuff in place and all that, we can still do the jobs that we've done and still be entertaining. Obviously, there's â€'â€' I would just assume less cameras and interviews and stuff like that, so some of that stuff might be cut down or have to be in a different format, but we're all still the same people that we are. Clint Bowyer is still going to be hilarious; Kyle is still going to have people mad at him. Kyle Busch, that is. I feel like it's all â€'â€' the personalities are still going to be there. It's going to be the same in that sense.
I think when it comes to our sport, the objectâ€'track product is the most important thing, and I really think we can put on great shows and do that safely, and I think that'll be really good for everybody.
Q: We know the kind of iRacing prodigy that your teammate William Byron has been over the course of this Pro Invitational Series. Have you leaned on him or is there anybody specific that you've tried to lean on in terms of picking up iRacing more since you weren't one of the guys that ran it regularly to start?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, for sure. I definitely lean on William quite a bit. I text him quite a bit just asking him about tips and how much to do burnouts for qualifying to warm your tires up and stuff like that. He's been a big help. I think he's really â€'â€' he's probably been the biggest help out of anybody that I've worked with. DiBenedetto and I talk about it quite a bit, but I don't think either one of us are great at it, so I think we kind of just talk about our struggles a lot. William has been a big help, and that's been a great thing to have for sure.
Q: And as far as going forward when we do get back to regular racing, obviously iRacing is not perfect, but the realism, there are a lot of things that are there. Do you see yourself using iRacing maybe more as a tool once we get back to regular racing than you did in the past?
ALEX BOWMAN: Man, I don't know about that. I think it has its place, and there are things it's useful for, but I think we have tools like our Chevy simulator and things like that that can create some other great things, as well. We used it a little bit before, and I'll continue doing that, but probably won't change how much I used it. It'll probably be about the same going back.
THE MODERATOR: Alex, thanks again for joining us. We know you have to hop off for a couple more interviews, but thanks for spending some time with us today.
ALEX BOWMAN: Thank you. Y'all have a good one.
|14||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Chevy||74||3.249|
|25||38||John Hunter Nemechek||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|26||41||Cole Custer||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|27||17||Chris Buescher||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|28||9||Chase Elliott||Chevy||73||-1 Lap|
|29||6||Ross Chastain||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|30||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Chevy||73||-1 Lap|
|31||19||Bobby Labonte||Toyota||73||-1 Lap|
|32||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chevy||73||-1 Lap|
|33||14||Clint Bowyer||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|34||34||Michael McDowell||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|35||21||Matt Dibenedetto||Ford||73||-1 Lap|
|36||22||Joey Logano||Ford||67||-7 Laps|
|37||20||Erik Jones||Toyota||67||-7 Laps|
|38||024||Jeff Gordon||Chevy||65||-9 Laps|
|39||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||64||-10 Laps|
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