By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Most drivers that have embraced the concept of ‘Sim 2 Reality’ compete both online and in real-life. However, Garrett Lowe is one of the few, if not the only driver, that has done both on the same night.
Separating Virtual from Reality
Online, Lowe competes for Wood Brothers Racing in the virtual No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Mustang. The North Carolinian is locked into the 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series playoffs by virtue of a win at Kansas Speedway earlier this season. Lowe opted to skip the eNASCAR All-Star Race and compete in the 2022 Cook Out Summer Shootout Series season finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He entered the season finale third in the points standings.
At the Cook Out Summer Shootout, Lowe drives the No. 06 Legends Car in the Pro division. Despite missing a race to compete in the eNASCAR race at Pocono, a flip, and driving in someone else’s car, he was still third in the standings with one drop week factored in. Throughout the season, Lowe was often one of the fastest cars in the final 10 laps. However, he didn’t have the track position to contend for the win some weeks.
In the season finale, Lowe finished outside the top-five on track. He was third in the final points standings behind Landen Lewis and Jordan Black.
However, running this unique style of double duty between eNASCAR and the Summer Shootout dates back to the 2020 season.
“I did double duty between eNASCAR and the Summer Shootout back in 2020 at Indy and it was the first time we tried to do it which worked out really well,” explained Lowe, “Michigan 2020 as well. It’s insanely hectic. It takes about a week of planning just to organize where I’m going to race, how I’m going to do this, what the schedule is going to be like for shootout and working with not only Stillwell racing, but with my racing team, Wood Brothers Racing and Legacy eSports to make sure that when I get done with this here at the shootout that I can go straight into the car and lay a lap down for qualifying.”
A Balancing Act
Running for multiple teams in multiple series in both the real and virtual world does mean that Lowe juggles multiple hats, sometimes on the same night. Not unlike drivers competing for different teams in the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series, it can be hard for fans to keep track of. Adding the factor of the eNASCAR competition and both the main Wood Brothers team and the back-end Legacy eSports team just add another level for race fans to understand.
“It’s a lot to keep up with and it’s hard for my fans and followers to understand,” admitted Lowe. “I got all these different things going on, but it’s a cool experience, nonetheless. I’m just happy to be able to do both at the same time and on the same night sometimes. It’s definitely helped me in the past.
“A couple of years ago that was one of my best races and I think my best qualifying effort. I think I started fourth after jumping right out of the Legends Car and onto iRacing. It’s like I can just flip a switch in order to go. Other times, like Nashville for instance, I struggled. That was that was one where I wasn’t sure why, but just didn’t have it that night.”
Pros vs. Cons of Double Duty
Running double duty both in real-life and in eNASCAR competition does involve some risks. There was one instance that Lowe nearly missed competing in an eNASCAR event after running in the Summer Shootout during the 2020 season. In 2021 he alternated weeks between the two series. Lowe didn’t return to his unique style of double duty until this season.
“Two years ago, I was two minutes away from missing qualifying at Michigan,” reflected Lowe. “That’s the closest we’ve ever come to missing an eNASCAR race. After that we decided not to do it again. 2021 we focused on just running the Coca-Cola series on the nights it was running, and the Shootout on nights that it wasn’t. We were able to pick up a couple wins. But this year we were leading points three races in and decided that it was going to be worth it to at least try to make all the races here Shootout again.”
Benefits of Sim to Reality
Like others in in NASCAR and local competition, such as Ryan Vargas, Blake McCandless, Lowe has used iRacing as a tool. Though there are some differences between the motorsports simulation and the real-life feel, the virtual Ford Performance driver has benefitted from iRacing.
Lowe used the sim to get up to speed faster at Hickory Motor Speedway in the Legends Car. The same goes for the ¼-Mile that the Summer Shootout uses at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as the infield road course.
“iRacing definitely has helped me get prepared,” stated Lowe. “Going to tracks like Hickory for the first time with the Legends Car. I didn’t have any experience on that track before we went there back in May. Had a good run and then the quarter mile is one of the bigger tracks. You get a lot of laps there in Legend Cars being able to run sets that something really cool. The Road Course around Charlotte is another one as well.”
Looking to the Future
Moving forward, Lowe already has his eyes set on the future. He plans to graduate from Legends Cars to Late Model competition, competing at various tracks. Though what tracks Lowe will compete at are still TBD.
Until then, you can watch Lowe compete in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. His next scheduled race is at the virtual Watkins Glen International. The race can be streamed on enascar.com/live as well as iRacing’s Twitch, YouTube, and social media channels.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Seth Eggert / Kickin’ the Tires.