NASCAR Drivers Participate in Eventful Pro Invitational Series Race

Josh Calloni, Reporter

NASCAR hosted its weekly Pro Invitational and Saturday Night Thunder races this past weekend at the virtual Talladega Superspeedway through iRacing, and the race produced some of the best racing that the series has seen since its start last month.

The Saturday Night Thunder race, which is strictly for drivers of NASCAR’s lower divisions, kicked off with Wentzville’s own Kyle Weatherman leading the first handful of laps before the wreckfest started behind them. Wrecks that took out notable NASCAR names like Brandon Brown, Noah Gragson, Tyler Ankrum and Justin Algaier thinned out the field for the final restart with two laps to go, and the finish certainly did not disappoint. The eventual winner was going to come out of an eight car break away who got away on the restart, and out of turn four on the last lap, Logan Seavey held the lead. However, a drastic move from Josh Berry turned Seavey around, in front of Drew Herring, Justin Haley and Brett Moffitt. That gave late model driver Landon Huffman a clear path to victory, with Berry, Joe Graf Jr and Tommy Joe Martins finishing behind him. 

That led up to Sunday’s race with the top drivers in NASCAR, and a returning face. Hall of Fame driver and current FOX broadcaster Jeff Gordon made his virtual return to NASCAR during Sunday’s Pro Invitational race, racing in FOX’s studio alongside Clint Bowyer as the broadcasts In-Race Reporters. Corey LaJoie led the field to the green flag in what was a pretty calm first half of the race. The race was green up until lap 30 when Ty Dillon spun Ricky Stenhouse Jr in front of the entire field, forcing many drivers, including Gordon, to use their quick repair earlier than expected. After another lengthy green flag run, a late caution involving most of the lead pack changed things. Ryan Preece clipped Joey Logano, sending Logano into the wall and back into the field of cars, creating chaos and sending Ryan Blaney up and over. 

That set up a late restart. Alex Bowman and Dillon led the field to the green, and that order stayed much of the same until the last lap. Coming out of turn four, Dillon tried to block LaJoie, wasn’t clear, and spun himself into the trioval grass. This heavily slowed the momentum of LaJoie, who was passed by Bowman, who had help from Landon Cassil. LaJoie’s push from Garrett Smithlet was not enough, leaving Bowman to win the weekend’s iRacing Pro Invitational.

Next week, the series heads to the virtual Dover International Speedway, where the race will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1. However, the series is coming to a sudden end soon, as NASCAR is hoping to go racing on the real tracks starting May 17th in an attempt to get their full 32 remaining races in before December.