David Hudson mixes it up with the Pros in LeafFilter Replacements

Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN' THE TIRES / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

The beauty of iRacing is that casual fans or local short track drivers can compete with the pros, as David Hudson found out.

A US Legends Car racer, Hudson entered a contest organized by LeafFilter Replacements admin and competitor Kevin Hamlin. The contest allowed any iRacer with a Class C license or better to be chosen to compete in the league at Talladega Superspeedway. Two days prior to the race, Hamlin announced that Hudson was the lucky iRacer chosen to join the pros.

In real-life, Hudson has competed at short tracks across North Carolina. For the 2020 season he plans to compete at West Virginia’s only paved oval, the 0.375-mile Ona Speedway. The 2020 season was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My racing over the years has consisted of mainly racing in North Carolina,” explained Hudson. “This year, I will be running at my home track here in West Virginia at the Ona Speedway. West Virginia’s only asphalt oval.”

The long-time sim-racer started his online career with NASCAR Racing 2. The developers of that game went on to develop iRacing, for which Hudson was a beta tester.

Hudson explained how the connection between the original video game and iRacing drew him to the sim:

“I started sim racing offline with NASCAR Racing 2 at 14 years old, so I’ve been a big fan of the Papyrus and Sierra NASCAR Series since then. Most of the guys that developed those started iRacing. I became a beta tester and have never looked back.”

The opportunity to get behind the wheel of the virtual No. 1 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was enormous for Hudson. It placed him in front of both the pros and a much wider audience.

His entry also served as a bit of a homecoming. Hudson occasionally competed in the Dirty Mo’ Posse Online Racing League. The DMP Online Racing League included many of the same competitors that compete in the LeafFilter Replacements League. Hudson has also participated in other official and hosted races with Replacements competitors.

The veteran sim-racer reminisced about his previous competition with many of the pros:

“It’s really huge! I’ve actually had the privilege of racing with a few of the guys such as Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, and we can’t forget… TJ Majors on a few past events as well as the DMP Online Racing League.

“I would say more of a homecoming. It’s nothing new to me racing with the best of pro drivers that are out there! It’s such a privilege to be racing with such tough competition!”

With the unpredictability of Talladega Superspeedway and the importance of the draft, Hudson planned on an all-out strategy. Staying inside or near the lead pack was his ultimate goal in the scheduled 60-lap distance.

“I planned to keep it closer to the front or lead pack all race,” admitted Hudson. “I’ll be going for it and holding nothing back! It’s a huge gamble no matter what you do there!”

(Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN’ THE TIRES / iRacing)

Early in the race, Hudson made it up to third after qualifying 21st. Before halfway, he narrowly avoided getting caught in ‘the big one.’ The wreck started when NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Rodney Childers blew his engine running in fourth. The focus of the race for Hudson then turned to fuel mileage.

After he pitted under green, an incident on the backstretch involving Justin Allgaier and others cost him momentum. That allowed the leaders to catch Hudson in turns three and four. Unfortunately, he found himself mixed in with drivers attempting to pit under green. Hudson slid up to avoid running into the back of his competition and clipped Justin Haley.

The contact sent Haley and race leader Landon Cassill spinning. It turned the field upside down with several drivers were caught out in the cycle of green flag pit stops. Drivers such as Josh Berry, Kyle Busch, and others received a black flag for entering a closed pit road as the caution waved.

(Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN’ THE TIRES / iRacing)

Overall, Hudson believed that he earned the respect of his competitors:

“I think so, apart from the deal where I had made contact with Haley, which also turned Cassill, I was just in a situation there where I couldn’t really back out too much with cars also behind me. I had just made the one and only mistake of slipping up too much there trying not to get into them slowing down to pit, while Haley was right there in the wrong place.”

The incident started the chain of events that lead for a finish in LeafFilter Overtime. It also put Bryan ‘Boris’ Cook in prime position to win as Erickson ran out of fuel under caution. Hudson had inadvertently caused the pivotal caution of the race.

On the final restart in LeafFilter Overtime, Hudson had committed himself to working with Garrett Smithley. The duo reached fifth and sixth respectively, behind the lead tandem of Cook and Parker Kligerman, as well as the potent pair of Earnhardt Jr. and Majors.

However, it was not meant to be as Hudson ran out of fuel in the tri-oval on the final lap. While Smithley earned a top-five, Hudson coasted across the line in a respectable 14th. While the finish didn’t go as planned, he made the most of his opportunity. Hudson hopes that this opportunity will lead to a return invite for future Replacements events.

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