Ever wondered what the NASCAR Cup Series would look like on street courses? Wonder no more, thanks to the power of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
On Wednesday evening, the Cup driver-led sim racing league raced on a newly built Chicago street circuit located downtown in Grant Park. Unlike past PIS events where it races at tracks that the real-life Cup Series is visiting later in the week, the actual division is at another road course in Sonoma Raceway this Sunday. James Davison, who dominated the previous event at Circuit of the Americas two weeks prior, continued his string of virtual success by dominating the Chicago round from the pole.
Anthony Alfredo, who finished runner-up at COTA, started second but was caught in a wreck in the opening corner. Stock cars are generally not associated with street courses (though such races have taken place in the past at lower levels), and a multitude of incidents that included those like every Hendrick Motorsports drivers wrecking did little to disprove that. By the halfway point, there were more retirements than cars on the lead lap even with drivers being granted two resets.
Amid the carnage, Davison was joined at the front by his Rick Ware Racing team-mate Josh Bilicki. Despite a wave of green-flag pit stops midway, Davison’s advantage over the field grew over time. By the end, Davison had won by a whopping 54 seconds ahead of Bilicki while fellow RWR driver Garrett Smithley took fourth.
“Fun night street racing in Chicago. Hats off to @NASCAR @iRacing @ChicagolndSpdwy (Chicagoland Speedway) for the effort putting the circuit together,” Davison posted on Twitter, describing the course as a “tough bumpy track.”
“Got a ton of damage at the start when Alfredo tried to win on lap 1 which hurt my car’s performance, but luckily was able to hold on to bring @RickWareRacing home a 1 2 finish,” Bilicki tweeted.
While such an event does not guarantee an actual street circuit in the future, let alone one in Chicago despite Chicagoland’s removal from the 2021 schedule, NASCAR has held discussions about its possibility. In May, Fox Sports’ Chris Myers added about the sanctioning body considering a race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; the now defunct NASCAR Southwest Series ran a street course outside the stadium from 1998 and 2000.
The race is the last PIS event under the Fox broadcast banner for 2021. NBC has not announced a schedule.