iRacing Profile: Learn about eNASCAR’s Dylan Duval

Photo courtesy of Dylan Duval / Stewart-Haas eSports

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Much like his real-life counterparts, determination drives Stewart-Haas eSports’ eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver Dylan Duval.

First NASCAR Interest

Unlike most race fans or drivers, Duval’s discovery of NASCAR was not seeing a race on TV or going to a local racetrack. Instead, the Halifax, Nova Scotia native first became interested in NASCAR after playing EA Sports’ NASCAR 07. That spark of interest ultimately led to Duval joining iRacing and competing in the Coca-Cola Series.

Duval explained that prior to playing the NASCAR console games that he had little interest in the world of motorsports:

“Ironically, I became interested in motorsports through playing the old EA Sports NASCAR games on some of the older game consoles. Before playing NASCAR video games, I never really had a huge interest in motorsports. It was through playing the games where I fell in love with the sport, and NASCAR specifically.”

Since playing the older NASCAR games, Duval has slowly increased his interest in motorsports. After starting with NASCAR, his horizons now include multiple forms of racing.

“Throughout the years I’ve expanded my interests to not only NASCAR, but to other forms of motorsports including F1, IndyCar, and IMSA,” admitted Duval.

Outside Interests

When Duval is not competing on iRacing, he is a graphic designer. His freelance work through Duval Creative has grown into a passion. Duval Creative started as a way for the iRacer to make his own custom paint schemes on the sim while expressing his own creativity.

Duval’s graphic design work slowly expanded from simply making his own paint schemes. Duval Creative was responsible for over one-quarter of the paint schemes on the Coca-Cola iRacing grid in 2016.

Today, Duval Creative focuses less on custom paint schemes for iRacing. Duval’s venture has turned to focus on opportunities in the digital media world.

  

(Photo courtesy of Dylan Duval)

Transition to iRacing 

Initially, Duval did not see iRacing as something on his radar. In 2010, he did not have a PC capable of running the motorsports simulation. However, a friend he competed regularly with on EA Sports’ NASCAR 09eventually convinced him to sign up for the subscription service late that year.

The sim rig that Duval utilizes is relatively similar to that of real-life NASCAR Cup Series driver Timmy Hill. Unlike some of the highly realistic rigs that real-life pros and other hardcore iRacing drivers use, his is simply a Logitech G29 Gaming Wheel and pedal set clamped to a desk. Duval’s sim-rig includes an unmodified triple-monitor setup.

Duval explained that he continues to update and upgrade his sim rig to this day:

“I have a pretty basic sim rig compared to what some of these guys on iRacing have. Currently I race at a desk, with a gaming chair. My wheel and pedal setup is not anything crazy either I run on a Logitech G29, with zero modifications.

“The best part of my setup is actually something that I just upgraded to part of the way through the current Coca-Cola Series season, which was going to a triple monitor setup.”

The rig that the Stewart-Haas eSports driver started with was basic. Like other iRacers, Duval started with a Logitech Driving Force GT Gaming Wheel. The Driving Force GT wheel is a basic, entry-level wheel. For Duval, it didn’t last long as his desk broke mid-race after a few weeks.

Duval recalled how he first upgraded to a sim-rig comparable to those of the real-life pros before opting for modest setup:

“After that I upgraded to an Obutto Ozone cockpit which I ran on up until 2018, but eventually just invested into a sturdy desk because it was more practical for activities outside of iRacing. Since then I’ve upgraded my PC, so it runs the game smoother.”

Journey to the Coca-Cola Series

Although Duval joined iRacing in late 2010, he primarily competed in league events. His competitiveness left him wanting more. In the latter half of 2011, Duval made his first attempt at making the iRacing Pro Series. The attempt was successful as he qualified for the Pro Series in the first season of 2012.

“I eventually wanted more, so I decided I would attempt to learn the Cup Series cars and make a run at the Pro level,” Duval explained. “I achieved that in 2012 Season 1 where I qualified for the Pro Series, which allowed me to actually make a handful of starts. In 2013 I also made a handful of starts under the same circumstances.”

The early iteration of the Coca-Cola Series saw 50 independent drivers like Duval attempt to qualify for 43 starting spots. Unlike Duval, some of the drivers had guaranteed starting spots. The future Stewart-Haas driver made sporadic starts in 2012 and 2013. Duval even earned a fifth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2012.

It wasn’t until 2016 when Duval earned his Pro/WC (World Championship) License on Ovals that he finally earned the coveted guaranteed starting spot. That season, he earned his first Coca-Cola Series victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished fifth in the final championship standings. Duval considers that among the best races of his iRacing career to date.

Having a different experience than some of his competitors, Duval admitted he has a deep appreciation for where he is:

“My story is a little bit different than most, because I experienced the series before being a full-time driver in the series. I made my first start about a year and a half after joining iRacing but wasn’t a full time in it to 2016 which would’ve been 5 years after joining the sim.

“It was definitely a difficult journey for sure. There’s so many competitive drivers who are all wanting to achieve the exact same thing. For me personally, I found the difficulty of making it to the series not to be the most difficult part of my journey. Once I was there, trying to be competitive was much more challenging for me.

“When I made my first starts in 2012, both mentally and experience-wise I wasn’t really ready to be there. It took me from 2012 all the way to 2015 to really find my stride and figure out where I needed to be to perform at the level it takes to be good in a series this competitive.”

Recognition

In the first year that many major NASCAR teams: Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, and Roush Fenway Racing, along with eSports teams such as G2 eSports and Jim Beaver eSports joined the Coca-Cola Series, there was a draft. However, Duval was one of several iRacers that remained undrafted.

The stats that the iRacing version of a journeyman driver has are modest. With 1,197 oval starts, 228 victories, 619 top-five finishes, and 197 poles, Duval was understandably frustrated. His iRating (skill rating) is among the highest on ovals at 7,562.

“We had a draft, but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough teams for everyone to be selected,” explained Duval. “That year I was overlooked, which was definitely a huge blow for me personally. It really almost made me feel a bit disconnected from the series for that season.

“Not being selected in that draft is something that really stuck with me throughout the entire season. It made me really want to go out and show why I felt like I should’ve been selected. Honestly, I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to, but I did end up finishing 17th in points, 10-positions ahead of the next undrafted driver.”

(Photo courtesy of Stewart-Haas eSports)

That determination paid off for Duval. When the signing day for the 2020 Coca-Cola Series arrived, a new endemic NASCAR team came calling-Stewart-Haas Racing. Rebranding their Stewart-Haas Gaming division to Stewart-Haas eSports, the defending eNASCAR Heat Pro League Championship-winning team sought to expand into NASCAR’s officially sanctioned eSports series.

Duval considers his opportunity with Stewart-Haas eSports an honor:

“Coming into this year I wasn’t sure where I would end up. When I got the call from Stewart-Haas eSports and they said they wanted me to drive for them, it was an amazing feeling. To go from unselected to being picked by what I considered the coolest team to drive for, it really was redeeming. Stewart-Haas Racing is one of the biggest names in not only racing but in motorsports. It truly is an honor to be able to represent them.”

Teamwork

While Duval competes for Stewart-Haas eSports in the Coca-Cola Series, both he and his eSHR teammate, Justin Bolton, are on the iRacing team, The TEAM. Several of their teammates are alumni of past Coca-Cola Series seasons, including Cody Byus, Kevin King, and Kenny Humpe.

Over the past year, The TEAM has been working in an alliance with Five Star Racing. FSR’s team includes two Coca-Cola Series drivers as well, Garrett Lowe, and three-time winner this season, Ryan Luza.

The amount of time Duval and his myriad of teammates spend working on setups each week is an elusive number. As others have experienced, one hour of practice can easily turn into three or four hours. For Duval, it’s easier to quantify the number of laps he puts in from race to race.

As Duval admitted, that number varies depending on where he and his teammates feel they are compared to their competition:

“A lot of it sometimes depends on where we think we are speed-wise for that week. I’d say if I had to give estimates, at Dover International Speedway this past week, I personally probably turned 1,200 laps or so. But, that can vary from race to race. For example, last year’s season finale at Homestead, when I was a top-20 bubble driver, I turned well over 2,000 laps.”

(Photo courtesy of Stewart-Haas eSports)

Duval currently sits 28th in the Coca-Cola Series points standings, 107-points behind point leader Luza. Crucially, he is also just 28-points behind 20th-place Chris Shearburn. Shearburn currently holds the final guaranteed spot to be a part of the series in 2021.

Follow Duval’s Journey

In addition to following Duval’s work outside of iRacing, his journey can be followed on Twitter, Twitch, and Stewart-Haas eSports’ Twitch.

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