Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola ready to dive in at virtual Talladega

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If iRacing was a lake, Kevin Harvick is ready to dive back in while Aric Almirola is about to get wet for the first time.

Harvick will be taking part in his second-ever iRacing event in this Sunday’s Geico 70 at a virtual Talladega Superspeedway. He finished 29th in his eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series debut last Sunday at a virtual Richmond Raceway.

Harvick is still lamenting how he finished next-to-last in the 30-car field, beating only his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, who was dead last.

“The whole iRacing process is sort of overwhelming for me,” Harvick said in a media release. “I finally just said, ‘The heck with it. I’m going to go race.’

“It’s just like racing anything else – if you don’t go race, you just get further behind, because everyone is getting better. So, I decided to dive in at Richmond.”

Harvick qualified 17th at Richmond, but right after that is when things began to get discombobulated. Here’s how the driver of the No. 4 Ford Mustang continued his woeful tale (sorry, but you can’t help but laugh at what he went through):

“I was running fine, but you’ve got your spotter in one ear, and you’ve also got the engine noise from the car. Plus, I was on Skype because the team was broadcasting on Twitch.

“So, I’ve got my laptop on my left, my iPad on my right, and my phone on the floor, and I’ve got all this stuff going on in my ear. I’m at the point in my iRacing career where if something flashes on the screen or something is in my ear, it distracts me because I have to be so focused on what I’m doing because I don’t really know what I’m doing.

“So, I’m running along there and have passed a couple of cars and all of a sudden we’re having trouble with the laptop with FOX connecting. Before the race, I sent them my other Skype account and said use this one because it’s on my iPad. Then in the race, I hit the car on the left side of me, and then I hit the guy on the right side of me and I brake checked the guy behind me. Well, it was because my iPad rings into my headset, so I don’t hear the engine noise, my spotter, nothing, because it’s that crazy Skype ring.

“I jerk the wheel to the right and to the left. I’m reaching over trying to shut the iPad off. I’m trying to hit send, but the facial recognition says use your passcode. So, I’m trying to reach over to grab the iPad and, meanwhile, I’m hitting everyone who is around me. From that point, it kind of spiraled out of control.”

Harvick vows to redeem himself this Sunday at what is arguably NASCAR’s hardest track. In 38 career starts at the 2.6-mile high-banked superspeedway in real life, Harvick has just one win (10 years ago in 2010), along with seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.

As for Almirola, he has a great deal of confidence coming to ‘Dega. But you can potentially chalk that up to youthful exuberance or naiveté, as Sunday will be his iRacing rookie debut.

“Well, I’ve won at Talladega before (fall 2018), so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?” the driver of the No. 10 Ford quipped in a media release. “In all seriousness, I’ve seen these veteran drivers and champions of the sport practice for hours and still struggle to finish the race, so the expectation for myself is low.”

But that doesn’t mean Almirola is totally pessimistic about his chances. Just like in real life, success at ‘Dega oftentimes comes down to being in the right place at the right time – like the last lap.

“It’ll be interesting to make my Pro Invitational debut at Talladega where we’ll just have to survive,” said Almirola, who has a record of one win, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 20 career starts at the real-life superspeedway. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be one of the last guys standing and have a shot at it.

“Whether we wreck on the first lap or have a decent day, this is just a lot of fun for race fans, my fans, and to get back on track – even a virtual track.”

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