‘I Could Beat Any of the Cup Guys’: Professional iRacers on NASCAR’s Takeover

NASCAR went virtual last week with iRacing’s Replacements 100 on Twitch and will be going digital again this weekend, but with a broadcast partner. Yes, this weekend’s NASCAR race will be played on iRacing and brought to your TV in real time on FS1. It’s a crazy world—crazier these last few weeks than most.

“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s vice president of racing development. “Our longtime partners at iRacing offer an incredible product, and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”

With that in mind, we decided to talk to veteran iRacers Michael Conti and Ray Alfalla to see what they think about professional drivers jumping into the mix. To be fair, there are already a bunch of pros playing iRacing, but these events will bring a group of newbies to the game. And they have a lot of catching up to do.

How long have you been iRacing?

MC: I joined iRacing in December of 2009. I’ve been sim racing throughout a variety of different platforms and titles since 2002. I started sim racing at 5 years old, crazy enough!

RA: Since 2008.

Are you part of an iRacing team?

MC: Yes! I was drafted by JR Motorsports at the beginning of 2019 and am now entering my second season with the group. WR1 Sim Chassis is our team’s primary sponsor for 2020.

RA: Yes, Slip Angle Motorsports, and representing Team VRS in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series.

What’s your best discipline?

MC: Hands down, oval racing is my bread and butter. I cut my teeth on NASCAR Racing Season: 2002 and have been laser-focused on NASCAR-style racing from that point forward.

RA: Oval tracks.

What are your favorite tracks?

MC: Martinsville and Watkins Glen.

RA: Indianapolis and Darlington.

Do you also participate in real racing?

MC: I’ve tried my hand at real racing, but because of monetary constraints, I never got far. After I won the 2014 eNCiS championship (with $10K burning a hole in my pocket), I bought all of the necessary safety equipment and a one-weekend ride in Legend car down in Charlotte. It was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. While I didn’t have as much time in the car as I would’ve liked, I was thrilled by the fact that I acclimated to the car so quickly.

RA: Not at the moment, but I have done some karting and Miata racing in the past.

Did you watch last weekend’s Replacements 100?

MC: I sure did! Along with about 23,000 other people, my eyes were glued to the TV for The Replacements 100. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would touch (William) Byron, but Josh Williams, who I’ve raced with numerous times on iRacing, got out in front of him and did what he had to do to keep him at bay. Drawing a parallel to its real-life counterpart, the iRacing NASCAR Cup car is also very much affected by dirty air. While William definitely had the better pace by himself, he just didn’t have enough to get around Williams. From what I can tell, the race was received very positively, which was great to see! The more people that are exposed to competitive iRacing races, the better!

RA: Yes, and I raced in one of them!

What do you think about NASCAR going full esports for the immediate future?

MC: While under unfortunate circumstances, this is the perfect opportunity for NASCAR and iRacing to showcase how well they do esports. The eNASCAR Coca Cola iRacing Series is now in its 11th season, but how many people knew about the series before last year? It was relatively unknown, outside the niche sim racing crowd. We blew up in 2019 with the introduction of the real teams’ support, NBC’s broadcasts and NASCAR’s increased involvement.

RA: It’s great exposure for the sim racing world and allows NASCAR to stay connected to its fans when other sports are not able to.

Could you/have you beaten any of these guys in an iRace?

MC: Man, I’m going to try not to sound cocky with this response! As someone who has cut his teeth on sim racing for 18 years, has nine wins at the top level and a championship to his name, I’d really like to think that I could beat any of the Cup guys in a race on iRacing. In fact, I’ve done so several times. Byron, Jr., Hamlin, Allmendinger, among others are all guys I’ve competed with and beat. Byron is probably the toughest competition at this point, but I still think I’d have the upper hand with him, too. Now, if you put me in a Cup car, yeah, I know that all of those guys would wax the floor with me.

RA: I’d say yes (laughs).

Where do you see iRacing going in the future?

MC: With the exponential growth iRacing has seen in the past few years, I can only imagine where iRacing will be in the next five years. All of us had always wished that iRacing would become a household name, and after 12 years of being on the market I think the simulation has finally reached that point.

RA: Continuing to grow and increase in popularity, with more races on TV and bigger prize money.

MC: For kids, it’ll be a proving ground—a place to cut their teeth, learn vehicle dynamics and perfect their race craft. Maybe it’ll help them land a real ride one day; it already has for some. And for adults, it’ll be an alternative to racing a physical car. For some, this may be their only option because they don’t have enough money to go real-world racing. For others, they have no interest in driving a real race car and just want to do it from the comfort of their own home. iRacing has and always will provide a plethora of different choices that appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Source: Read Full Article