When NASCAR stars visit a new track for the first time, it seems James Davison’s a quick study.
Davison led flag-to-flag in Tuesday night’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series’ Windy City 110, picking up his second consecutive victory on a brand-new circuit on the streets of Chicago in iRacing’s virtual version of the NASCAR Next Gen race car.
For the first time ever, NASCAR Cup Series stars took to a conceptual street course brought to life on iRacing in the downtown Chicago Loop around Grant Park. The 2.2-mile virtual circuit features plenty of Chicago landmarks, including Lake Shore Drive and Buckingham Fountain. And, while the circuit doesn’t host NASCAR races today, iRacing still laser-scanned the streets and modeled the famous Chicago skyline for as much of a realistic experience as possible.
In the last Pro Invitational Series race, which was hosted at Circuit of the Americas, Davison dominated, earning his first series victory at the 3.41-mile road course in Austin, Texas, just four days prior to the Cup Series’ first visit to the track.
Davison picked up where he left off last month, grabbing his second win in a row and writing his name in history as the first NASCAR winner on the streets of Chicago — virtually, at least.
Mirroring COTA’s front row, Davison, the 34-year-old Australian racer, qualified on pole alongside second-place Anthony Alfredo. Alfredo’s promising qualifying run went sour in a hurry, however; a first-turn, first-lap spin ended his trip to the Windy City early, denying his hopes of a first Pro Invitational Series win.
Davison wasted no time putting distance on the field after Alfredo’s mishap, running fast lap after fast lap, untouchable from any other driver.
A necessary pit stop added another twist with most drivers opting to split the race in two with a refuel and fresh tires around the halfway mark.
Attrition was the name of the game, with plenty of Cup Series heavy-hitters, well, hitting heavily against the track’s narrow course and tough walls. Drivers were afforded two fast repairs — a fresh, new car after a crash that’s a luxury of racing virtually — but plenty of racers quickly used up their cars on the unfamiliar twists and turns.
But all the while, Davison checked out from the field, easily picking up the win over Rick Ware Racing teammate Josh Bilicki — by a staggering 56-second margin.
Justin Haley held his own against the road-racing experts throughout the night to finish third, while Garrett Smithley and Martin Truex Jr. finished just behind. Timmy Hill edged Matt DiBenedetto late to claim sixth place, and Ross Chastain, Quin Houff, and NASCAR on FOX in-race reporter Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
And, while the race is all just for fun — and to sling some stock cars around the streets of Chicago for the first time ever — iRacing will donate $5,000 (that’s U.S. dollars, James) to a charity of Davison’s choice in celebration of the victory.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is set to continue later this season with coverage on NBC Sports. For now, however, iRacing members can try out the Chicago Street Circuit, made available for the first time in the sim following the Windy City 110.