NASCAR driver Landon Cassill had a ridiculous idea to spend his Sunday evening: get sixty-two drivers onto iRacing and run Cup Series cars along the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza oval layout with no cautions or damage. With the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series on Easter break, Cassill partnered with Podium Esports to organise the Monza Madness race. True to its name, the Madness was filled with chaos as drivers wrecked left and right; by the end, Justin Bothelho survived the carnage for the win.
The entry list was a who’s who of names across a variety of racing disciplines including NASCAR, IndyCar, dirt, eSports, and even Formula One, sports car, and NHRA veterans. The Madness also enlisted longtime NASCAR announcer Allen Bestwick to assist in commentating the race; Bestwick last called NASCAR races in 2014.
A five-minute qualifying session took place before the race. Adam Gilliland won the pole with a time of 46.135 seconds ahead of Jason Lofing. Tailing the front row were ARCA Menards Series racer Chase Cabre and dirt star Logan Seavey, both of whom raced in the NASCAR-sanctioned Saturday Night Thunder last weekend.
Also in the top ten were World of Outlaws driver Kevin Swindell and NASCAR veterans Josh Bilicki, Bayley Currey, Garrett Smitley, and reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick. Defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was the highest qualifier of the series’ drivers in eleventh. Cassill qualified fifteenth. Other notable faces were NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte (twenty-second), IMSA star Jordan Taylor (twenty-fourth), Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin (thirtieth), Pro Invitational race winner Timmy Hill (thirty-fourth), inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr. (thirty-ninth), and NHRA champion Ron Capps (forty-first).
Those from IndyCar included Patricio O’Ward (thirteenth), Colton Herta (thirty-ninth), Tony Kanaan (forty-fourth), Stefan Wilson (forty-sixth), James Hinchcliffe (fifty-second), and Conor Daly (fifty-eighth).
At the back were Max Papis, Tim Clark III, and Kurt Busch. iRacer Bothelho started fifty-third.
After Cabre was pushed by Seavey to the lead on the opening lap, the Madness descended into madness shortly after with cars wrecking on the frontstretch. About three laps later, Seavey got loose and fell off the pace.
Swindell flipped on the backstretch and off the course, sparking a chaotic pile-up that claimed a variety of drivers.
Bilicki took the race lead during the carnage only to also wreck himself. Xfinity driver Justin Haley fell victim to the inside retaining wall after six laps.
“I’m trying to keep a list of all the cars that have been in incidents so far,” Bestwick quipped, “I have already given up.”
Lofing found his way to first before also crashing, allowing Hill to sneak his way into first. Robby Lyons also spent time in the lead, enjoying a brief clean period until he was clipped and flipped on the frontstretch. As such, Tommy Joe Martins inherited the top spot with Seavey in tow.
With 14 laps to go, Martins pitted to give Bothelho the lead. Cassill remarked on Twitter, “the madness is also a game of strategy”.
The race began to settle for the leaders as Bothelho and Seavey worked together in the draft. As the laps ticked down, Seavey and Martins attempted to chase down Bothelo through lapped traffic.
Bothelho pulled away to take the win. NASCAR veteran Martins finished second. Sim racers Casey Kirwan and Ray Alfalla were the only other drivers to finish on the lead lap.
“I was shaking on that last lap. I cannot express my emotions right now, I am so excited and that was a hell of a race, that was awesome,” Bothehlo said in a post-race interview. “I just kinda kept it up high and drove by ’em. I cannot believe we won this thing.
“I’m just so excited. We raced against a lot of really good drivers, one of the best in the world, and I cannot believe, to just be a part of this race. I gotta thank Kevin Hamlin for just inviting me to this and Landon Cassill for putting this on because I’m just excited as heck.”