By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
A dominant season for teams typically means a winning record or a championship at season’s end. In auto racing that could mean multiple titles if a team competes across several series, such as Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing. Likewise, on iRacing, teams, and drivers, can sweep multiple titles. RYCO Performance notched six championships and currently lead another two series with few races left.
In addition to the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, the motorsports simulation platform has other official racing throughout the year. That includes a season-long NASCAR iRacing Series (NiS) that matches the real-life schedule, ‘Class A’ that utilizes a laser-scanned Next Gen Cup cars, ‘Class B’ that uses the Xfinity Series cars, and ‘Class C’ that features replicas of the Craftsman Truck Series vehicles. ‘Class A’ has four 12-week seasons each year while the others that RYCO competes in are year-long championships.
RYCO has drivers in each of those series including Coca-Cola Series driver Garrett Manes. The former Legends Car racer, as well as iRacer didn’t make the ‘Coke Playoffs,’ but dominated other series throughout the year. Manes swept the season-long NiS title (the team’s second in a row in the Next Gen car) along with titles in Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3 of Class A. He currently sits second in points in Season 4, with a chance to potentially sweep all four of 2023’s Class A titles.
Besides the dominance of Manes, RYCO’s drivers swept the top-14 points positions in the year-long NiS championship. Nicholas Vroman, Chris Wilhite, Joseph Joseph, and Joshua Watson completed the top-five with Alex Murray, Just Levine, Ryan Carwile, Shawn M Conklin, and Maurice Glaser rounding out the top-10. Matt Hollibaugh, Daniel Nanney, Deryk Heitman, and Drew Blaze filled out RYCO’s dominating season.
“(I) joined the RYCO family when the Next Gen came out,” Wilhite recalled. “After some careful testing with the other shops it was obvious that RYCO was far ahead of the curve on this car. The fact that after two years we have maintained that edge and not let the others catch up is a testament to Ken and his team.
“That competitive drive to always be the best every week even if it means continuing to work and tweak and test through the week keeps RYCO on top. But it’s way more than about the sets. Having access to the community and the team and being able to compare telemetry to the top oval I racers on the service is priceless!”
The 14 drivers combined to score a staggering 87 victories in NiS as there’s four race sessions each week and multiple ‘splits’ with a max field of 40 per ‘split,’ like the real-life Cup Series. They also had a combined 319 top-five finishes and 96 poles. Each victory and top-five finish increased the driver’s iRating (iRacing’s skill rating system).
That iRating (iR) increase is evident with Heitman. In six months he skyrocketed from a rating of 5,600 to 7,100. The iR increase for drivers can range from a handful of points to well over 100 depending on the ‘Strength of Field,’ which is the average rating of all drivers in a given session.
“RYCO Performance is easily the supreme setup shop on iRacing for all of your eNASCAR needs,” Heitman said. “I joined RYCO a little over six months back in April of 2023. And since then I’ve watched my on-track performance increase as RYCO and Ken Biron have done an amazing job to elevate me to the next level. When I first joined I was sitting at a cool 5,600 iR.
“In six months I’ve climbed my way up to 7,100 iR and with RYCO under the hood, the journey has felt almost effortless. The countless hours of setup prep doesn’t just stop once the setup is released. RYCO does an amazing job of taking an already great, race winning car, and making it even better throughout the week. If you’re struggling with something, RYCO has all of the premier resources for you to look at your telemetry, wheel inputs, acceleration as well as braking to compare yourself with the best and find out where you’re leaving speed on the table. RYCO Performance provides you with the tools to be the best version of you that you can be.”
While Manes domination is evident with the titles, RYCO’s control of the series goes deeper. The setup shop and team swept the top-four in points in Class A’s first season in 2023, the top-two in the second season, and top-five in the third season. The team currently holds the top-six in points in the final 2023 season.
Jimmy Norman took the championship in the year-long ‘Class B’ (Xfinity) championship. Former eNASCAR driver Briar LaPradd likewise took the ‘Class C’ (Truck) title.
While RYCO has been dominant in championships throughout the year, the team, similar to Team Conti Sim Performance, Maconi Setup Shop, and other groups, offers setups and data packs. The data packs include instructional videos, ghost laps, telemetry, and their exclusive setup verification system.
Unique to RYCO, their setup verification system takes the telemetry from one of their in-house drivers when they win and uploads it for their customers to study. That ensures that the exact setup the team sells is the same one the customers are competing with. As a ‘Performance Provider,’ RYCO works to enhance their customer’s virtual track prowess through one-on-one sessions and setups built by Ken Biron, Joey Brown, Brandon Hauck, and Brad Wright.
“Coming from a racing background as a fourth generation driver my passion spills over onto the sim,” RYCO owner and builder Ken Biron explained. “My dad is a huge influence behind my drive to ensure our customers and team are the best week in and week out. We lost my dad in 2017 to cancer, and my racing career ended.
“In 2020 when I founded RYCO I built it on the last few words my dad ever (said) to me: ‘Anything you do, do it 110% and the value of a man is only worth the words he stands by.’ Every week as we work together as a team prepping our data packs the work doesn’t stop until the next week begins. Our customers’ success, and happiness are my No. 1 priority, everything else is just the details.”
Setup shops, overall, have had mixed reviews within the sim racing community. Opinions range from concerns about whether the setup suits a competitor’s driving style, how accurate the setup is, or if iRacers should even rely on setup shops have been brought up in recent years. RYCO, similar to the recently announced Team Conti organization, aims to dispel the concerns and doubters with concrete results.
“Been with RYCO for quite a while now,” Watson said. “When I first started sim racing I was trying all kinds of different shops but couldn’t find what I was looking for in the setup and one day I got my butt kicked by a guy running RYCO so I decided to give them a try and have been hooked ever since.
“Although I did struggle at first it was Ken who actually helped me learn how to drive the cars better and get the most out of them. Thanks to RYCO and Ken I am running way better and more consistent than ever. Their setups are consistently fast and handle great and their customer support is definitely unmatched! Thank you RYCO for all you do for the community!”
RYCO includes former eNASCAR champion Ryan Luza, Manes, current eNASCAR Contender iRacing Series driver and former Coca-Cola drivers LaPradd and Brown. Luza has clinched a berth to return to the pinnacle of eNASCAR competition while both LaPradd and Brown have one race left to attempt to return to iRacing’s top level.