With success stories like Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron and Xfinity Series up-and-comer Ty Majeski, the racing community might consider iRacing a worthy tool for developing talented, young drivers, complementing the traditional and time-tested progression of developing prospects through local and regional short-track ranks.
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Here are some of our favorite components of iRacing:
If you’re launching your racing career on iRacing, you don’t initially need to buy a car, an engine, tires, a trailer, race fuel, safety equipment and a fire suit (unless you’re a real fanatic who wears one in an office chair). That means there’s not much of a monetary barrier to race if you’ve got a desire to go fast — or, at the very least, see if you’ve got some semblance of natural talent before starting a race team in your backyard, or moving on to the real deal.
You have a reset button
When you crash out of a race on a real track, you can’t undo it. It’s not cheap to repair a race car, and it doesn’t seem fun to tow some bent metal back to the garage. On iRacing, however, you’ve got the luxury of what every racer of the past century wish they’d had: The reset button. Put your car in the fence during practice? No problem — reset the car and get a new one. Nothing lost. Crash out of a race? Bummer, but there’s always the next one, where you’ll have a brand-spanking-new virtual car.
It takes little time to travel to new tracks
If you want to check out New Hampshire Motor Speedway and then Sonoma Raceway, you’ll only spend a few minutes switching between the two, rather than days or weeks of transporting across the country. Plus, you can learn every track layout and nuance before racing in an actual race car.
There are more people racing
There are tens of thousands of active iRacers. If that many cars showed up at a local short track, it would be too crowded and the bathrooms would have a long line. It’s more enjoyable to race in the comfort of your home where you can race with no pants if you really wanted.
You never know who will show up to race
Maybe you’ll race against Byron, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Preece, Matt DiBenedetto, Timmy Hill (who’s probably the fastest on iRacing out of these drivers), or another real NASCAR star. You never know.
You can race at your convenience
iRacing offers a 24/7 rolling racing schedule. If you work or go to school, you can race around your schedule. If you’ve got a spare hour, you can hop in a quick race. That’s considerably more difficult in real life. If you can’t sleep at night because you’re thinking about becoming the next big racing star, you can hop on iRacing at 3 a.m. and you won’t violate local noise ordinances, hopefully.
You can talk to the other drivers while you race
Even if you’re not the next Byron or Majeski, maybe the real victory is the friends you make along the way. Unlike real racing, you can use iRacing’s in-sim text- or voice-chat system to communicate with other drivers. You’d have to shout awfully loud to talk to the other drivers in a race at your local short track.
It’s easier to try different types of racing
Want to try dirt racing? Short tracks? Road racing? It’s easier to fine-tune your multidisciplinary skills on iRacing than it is to try a bunch of different real-life race cars, or convince somebody to give you a shot.
It’s technically an electric series
Are you into green racing? Well, unless you have some really weird sort of gasoline-powered computer, you’re running your iRacing car with electricity. NASCAR Green, baby.
There are no unexpected mechanical failures
One of the most frustrating parts about racing is when you blow an engine or break something in your car. On iRacing, your car doesn’t break down randomly like in real life; rather, something needs to go wrong on your end — like the power going out, breaking your steering wheel controller or spilling water on your keyboard. (Don’t ask why I mentioned that one specifically.)
Drivers are ranked objectively
In iRacing, you carry around two numbers: Your Safety Rating, and your iRating. Your Safety Rating indicates to other drivers how many corners you have per incident — the higher your Safety Rating, the safer you probably race. Your iRating tells people how fast you should be, based on your performance in your previous races. In the developmental ranks of real stock car racing, there’s no such thing. You can’t evaluate your competitors and see if they’re safe or fast. Sure, iRacing’s system isn’t perfect — your ratings take a hit when something happens outside your control — but having these ratings in place is helpful when you don’t know everybody else in the field.
It’s super accessible
On a more serious note, there’s one really cool distinct feature of iRacing. Drivers with physical challenges can more comfortably compete in iRacing. An iRacer-founded company called SimAbility offers adaptive hand control solutions for iRacing members — and iRacing’s developers work with SimAbility and others to actively work to make sim racing more accessible.
So, is iRacing a tool to better develop skills if you’re a young driver? That depends — if you like competing at your convenience, trying diverse disciplines of racing and racing in your pajamas in your living room, maybe. You can simulate a racing career on iRacing — but, please, promise you won’t simulate how real racers use the bathroom when you’re sitting in your office chair.