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James Davison made it look easy in NASCAR‘s first glimpse at Circuit of The Americas, grabbing a win — a virtual one, at least — in dominant fashion.
Fans and NASCAR Cup Series stars got a first look at COTA Wednesday night in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series before NASCAR‘s inaugural visit to the Austin, Texas, road course this weekend.
RELATED: Complete COTA weekend schedule
Davison, the Australian racer, qualified on pole at the 20-turn road course, nearly a half second ahead of fellow sim-racing enthusiast Anthony Alfredo in single-car time trials. With all cars set up equally, qualifying relied entirely on drivers‘ ability to post a fast lap.
The field of 39 held a collective breath on the initial start of the race; the close-quarters pack heading into a tight opening set of corners had all the makings for a big mess. But, even on a new track, pros are pros — they made it through cleanly, for the most part.
Davison quickly made headway at the front of the field as Alfredo followed in his trails. Star drivers — Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick, to name a few — experienced trouble navigating COTA‘s tricky 3.41-mile circuit.
The 32-lap race required drivers to stop for fuel at least once, most opting to make a single stop — though others, like in-race NASCAR on FOX reporter Joey Logano, opted to make multiple stops for fresh tires. Davison made his lone stop just past halfway, handing the top spot to Alfredo for a moment.
Davison, who drives for Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, experienced a scary moment as the laps wound down in the race‘s second half. Clint Bowyer, who provided in-race TV coverage, struggled to keep his car up to speed — eventually careening into Davison, the lead car, while attempting to make a pit stop.
The contact with Bowyer didn‘t seem to slow Davison‘s No. 15 car, however; he continued on at full song, stretching his lead over the field.
Davison never looked back in the end, bringing home the virtual checkered flag for the first time in the Pro Invitational Series.
Alfredo finished second, while William Byron came home third. Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five.
The battle for sixth came down to the wire. In pursuit of Denny Hamlin in the final corner, Timmy Hill gave Hamlin‘s Toyota a bump — and then another bump — to send the No. 11 spinning.
While the race was for nothing but bragging rights (and fun), iRacing will donate $5,000 to a charity of Davison‘s choice for the win.
NASCAR visits COTA — the real version — for the first time this weekend. Catch the Cup Series’ EchoPark Texas Grand Prix Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1).
The Pro Invitational Series returns June 2 for another inaugural trip — this time, the fictional Chicago Street Course.