By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Once again both Ian Plasch and Keenan Kusan competed solo in iRacing’s 24 Hours of Daytona to raise money for charity.
For Plash, it was his seventh consecutive year in which he raised money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals via Extra Life by running the virtual twice around the clock race. 2021 marked Kusan’s third consecutive year running the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona for charity. The ‘lovable knuckleheads’ as they’ve been nicknamed, raised a combined $5,556 for Extra Life.
Both drivers chose specifically which hospital they would be donating to, selecting nearby hospitals. Kusan, a Canadian, donated to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). Plasch, who lives near Chicago, Ill., donated to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
The Team RICK drivers had a goal to raise $1,000 each prior to the race on the virtual Daytona International Speedway Road Course. However, a technical glitch for iRacing delayed the start of the Jan. 23 race by over four hours. That delay forced Kusan and Plasch to get creative. The duo played various games, including UNO, to pass the time during the delay. To their surprise, they both had already reached half of their goal prior to the green flag.
“We like to raise money through the entirety of our stream, that’s what it’s supposed to be” Plasch stated. “We just wanted to do it as long as we were live and raise money for the kids. The funny thing is, we had almost reached three quarters of our goal before the race even started at one point. It was pretty insane the support we were getting so early on. It really does blow my mind every year.
“To me at least, this is my Super Bowl, my Daytona 500. This is the thing I look forward to every year. I know so many friends and family that have gone through treatments and similar programs to these are we raise money for. To continue to see people come back almost every single year to support this thing, that really makes me happy about this community.”
Kusan agreed and pointed out that it is multiple groups of people donating to the charity stream.
“(The support from the community is) due to the kindness of groups of people,” Kusan points out. “We do have regulars from both our streams that will come in and they know, because we do weeks and weeks of ‘make sure you’re there for Daytona.’ Those guys will drop a lot of small amounts and it will add up to something big. Or someone drops something big.
“Then you’ll have these guys that are just clicking around on the iRacing tab. They’re like ‘Holy crap this is unreal,’ donate $60, and we never see them again. That is wild to me.
“This year we had a lot of help from Jimmy Broadbent’s community. Just before he jumped in the car for the last stint in his race, he had a couple thousand viewers. He sent them over to us and we raised about $700 within three minutes. It’s wild to see how open and ready people are.”
Both iRacers competed with the virtual Dallara P217 Prototype. The duo were in the same race split. Kusan was in the No. 03 and Plasch in the No. 924. The increased speed of one of the newest additions to iRacing’s sports car arsenal led to quicker lap times and more laps completed. Plasch completed a staggering 850 laps, putting him second in the iRacing record book. Not far behind was Kusan with 837 laps completed, unofficially fourth in the record book. Manuel Toro set the record, completing 868 laps.
Both drivers completed more laps that the current record for most laps completed in a real-life Rolex 24. Wayne Taylor Racing’s four-driver team ran 833 laps in the 2020 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Neither Kusan nor Plasch expected to surpass the real-life record.
“Adding that new car was really helpful,” Kusan explained. “I think we were pushing the limits of what was possible in the Corvette DP. That car doesn’t have the speed that a modern LMP2 does. In the middle six hours I was one of the fastest guys on track, almost ran the fastest lap. Ian was kind of the opposite, coasted in the middle, and was really fast at the end.”
While both drivers completed more laps than the real-life pros, some pros earned their own victories in the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona. Anthony Alfredo, Jeff Green, Colby Howard, and Ryan Vargas each won in their respective races. Both Kusan and Plasch stated that they’d love to see a professional driver join in on the challenge of a 24-hour solo stream for charity.
“I’d love to see that because then we would have someone who could sympathize with our plight,” joked Kusan. “It doesn’t happen often, to see someone like Alfredo, Vargas, Fernando Alonso run this race. We only take 40-minute breaks and still run at a half-decent pace for the whole race. It would be really cool to see them kind of live what we live through and see how Extra Life works, and you can raise money as a team.”
Vargas, for his part, stated on the Kickin’ the Tires Podcast, The Kickin’ Show, that he likely would not stream for 24 hours. Currently, he doesn’t have the capability to stream.
Completing so many laps solo in previous years would be cause for a much more stressful race. However, the new Dallara had a huge speed advantage taking the weight off of the shoulders of both Kusan and Plasch. The two drivers were able to sweep by the slower classes with ease.
Although the racing wasn’t boring, both drivers opted to keep themselves entertained as they live-streamed their 24-hour solo race on Twitch. The duo answered questions and played various music playlists to entertain themselves and their Twitch audience. Eurobeat was the most requested music genre.
That entertainment was an added distraction in the grueling solo effort. The delay due to iRacing’s glitch meant that milestones that Kusan and Plasch used to designate four hours were left in the race actually meant that eight hours were left in the race. From start to finish, both drivers were up for well over 30 hours from the scheduled start time to beyond the checkered flag.
“That was the hardest part about it,” admitted Plasch. “We woke up at about 4:00 a.m., anticipating that we were going to start at 7:40 a.m. and be done by 7:40 a.m., 8:00 a.m. the next day. Keenan and I discussed with about six more hours to go in the race. That’s when we realized, ‘Oh God, we have six more hours to go.’ We were both absolutely drained because we were supposed to be coming up to the end of the race. It was the hardest final third of the race I’ve done in the seven years of doing this.”
While most Extra Life and other charity streams often have stretch goals, Kusan was not looking forward to stretching the race out for several more hours. Like Plasch, he admitted that was likely the least fun part of the charity run.
“That was the least amount of fun that I think I’ve ever had in the last eight hours of a race,” Kusan agreed. “I was constantly looking at the clock going ‘Oh my God, there’s still so much race to go.’”
Plasch recovered well after being awake for over 30 hours for his 24-hour stream. However, it took Kusan a little over two days to recover from his charity race.
Both drivers had similar goals for the next iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona in 2022. They both want to reach $5,000 in donations for Extra Life. The duo also want to break the 850 laps completed benchmark.
Feature Photo Credit: Ian Plasch / Team RICK