EGGERT: iRacing is NOT ‘just a video game’

Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN' THE TIRES / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

In recent weeks, competitors from both NASCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series, race fans, and even other members of the media have said that iRacing is simply ‘just a video game.’

iRacing, which has helped bridge the gap during the COVID-19 Pandemic, providing a form of entertainment and competition on live TV, Twitch, and YouTube, is not simply ‘just a video game.’

Fox Sports and NBC Sports, along with NASCAR, IndyCar, and the World of Outlaws, have all invested in iRacing’s potential. The motorsports simulation has kept these three series, along with Late Model series, Modifieds, Australia’s SuperCars Series, among others relevant.

The NTT IndyCar Series had the iRacing IndyCar Challenge. NASCAR had their eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series, along with eNASCAR Saturday Night Thunder. Drivers and crew members also stepped up to create their own leagues.

NASCAR spotters TJ Majors and Kevin Hamlin created the LeafFilter Replacements Series. Ryan Vargas led the eTruck Series Night in America effort. More recently, Jordan Anderson and Austin Wayne Self teamed to create the IceBox Truck Series on iRacing.

The competition in each of these series has been, for the most part, stellar. The only black eyes come from the final two laps of IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge, and the early laps of NASCAR’s Pro Invitational at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Other media outlets such as Autosport, The Race, and WTF1 have already broken down the events of the First Responder 175 at the virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway. First off, the retaliation on Lando Norris by Simon Pagenaud and the blatant wreck of Oliver Askew by Santino Ferrucci would not be likely to happen in the real-world for safety reasons, let alone ethical reasons.

In open wheel racing, retaliation is few and far between. Pagenaud claimed, after he wrecked Lando Norris, that “he just wanted to slow him down, not to wreck him.” If he truly wanted to slow Norris down, he would have simply made it difficult to pass, not slow from 210 mph down to 160 mph in the racing line. Meanwhile on his stream, Pagenaud blatantly told his engineer, Ben Bretzman, that he was going to take Norris out. 

For Ferrucci, coming to the checkered flag, he turned left into Askew. Ferrucci had the momentum to pass his competitor. However, he decided that causing a wreck would be a ‘better show for the fans.’ In official racing sessions on iRacing, that decision intentionally wrecking a competitor would result in a protest and quite possibly a multi-week suspension.

That being said, those actions still broke the rules of etiquette on iRacing. Neither driver is at risk of penalties from the motorsports simulation as the event was part of a private league. Those actions, to quote iRacing’s Vice President Steve Myers, “made a mockery of the event and the sim.”

It is a shame that after everything drivers, sponsors, teams, and even tracks have put into this venture with iRacing that those actions by a champion of the sport and a talented up-and-coming driver happened. Drivers have sold sponsorships for their cars in iRacing events.

Most notable examples include Michael McDowell, who was almost excluded from the event at the virtual Richmond Raceway, and Bubba Wallace whose rage quit at Bristol Motor Speedway prompted Blue Emu to sever ties with the NASCAR Cup Series driver. Blue Emu then embraced Landon Cassill, the other driver they were sponsoring in the event. The company continues to sponsor him today.

Many drivers have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their own sim rig, wheel and pedal sets, and computer hardware. Logitech’s G29 and G290 wheels are out of stock. iRacing’s membership has exploded to over 500 thousand members.

Richmond Raceway built up a hype around their iRacing events, from the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series to the Pro Invitational. Dover International Speedway sent the winner of their Coca-Cola Series event a replica of the Miles the Monster trophy.

The motorsports simulation, which is entering its 13th year, has also produced drivers in NASCAR, IMSA, and Rallycross disciplines. While William Byron is possibly the most well-known of these drivers, he is not alone. Rajah Caruth is another who can point to iRacing as a stepping-off point.

In addition to producing drivers, iRacing has also produced journalists. Their defunct iRacingNews outlet was where several journalists, including myself got their journalism career started.

Several drivers have also made partnerships with eSports organizations, or even created their own to compete on iRacing’s platform. Will Rodgers partnered with Spacestation Gaming less than a month ago. Last year, Landon Huffman created Total Advantage which is now making its way into iRacing.

Richard Childress Racing’s Anthony Alfredo is a big advocate of iRacing. He founded the eSports Racing League and is a regular on the service. Alfredo also uses iRacing because of its realism and accuracy to stay sharp for when racing returns in the real world.

Finally, iRacing is, ‘not just a game,’ for another reason. It has brought race fans together. Fans from across the globe have become friends thanks to their use of iRacing. Some have traveled to NASCAR races, IndyCar races, or other events. iRacing is not just a tool that allows drivers to keep their skills sharp but adds another method for them to interact with the fan base.

3 Comments

  1. Bill H

    May 8, 2020 at 1:03 am

    “iRacing is not just a video game.”
    Yes, actually, is is just a video game, and not as good a game as Jeff Gordon and company think it is.

  2. rick

    May 8, 2020 at 5:06 am

    Impartial reporting ? Stop trying to victimnize a driver with the words rage quit, he was bowyered, But no… Bubba disconnected as he had run out of resets in 12 laps… just like a lot of other drivers disconnected nothing happened to them, quite rightly but Bubba lost a sponsor over this and everyone lumps on… disgraceful

  3. Early

    May 10, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    Sounds like someone couldn’t get up to speed Bill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *