For most drivers, a successful career ends in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For Garrett Lowe, it’s the place his racing career started.
At just 17 years old, Garrett Lowe is turning heads as a rookie in the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series, but it wasn’t long ago he didn’t even have a computer of his own. Instead, he got his racing fix spending hours on the iRacing simulators at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In the short time since, he’s managed to reach the pinnacle of iRacing and also find success in real-world racing.
A birthday present from his father Rodney — a year’s membership to the NASCAR Hall of Fame — sparked the start to Lowe’s racing career. For the duration of an entire NASCAR season, the then-13-year-old started visiting the Hall’s simulators on a weekly basis with his dad with the goal of racing every single track on the NASCAR circuit.
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It didn’t take long for Lowe’s hobby to grow into his passion, catching the eye of Hall of Fame staff, notably Jeff Addison, who oversees the Hall’s iRacing simulators.
“For his age, I could tell he was picking it up really quick,” said Addison. “It wasn’t long — it was like, good grief, I can hardly race the guy.”
Lowe’s skills also drew attention from NASCAR stars who regularly visited the iRacing simulators and competed against the teenager.
“I raced against Ty Dillon, and then I beat him,” Lowe said. “So, he asked for my autograph. That was pretty cool.”
Addison, an iRacing enthusiast himself, rose beyond his job duties as the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s AV Systems Manager to help the Lowes build Garrett’s computer.
“I went to their house and got it all set up and said, ‘OK, you’re on your own now.’ ”
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At home on his own, much like at the Hall of Fame, Lowe took to iRacing quickly, rising meteorically through the ranks, winning multiple series championships and setting records.
The 2018 iRacing season was unquestionably Garrett Lowe’s breakout year. He won iRacing’s Road to Pro championship, securing him a spot in the iRacing Pro Series — the elite series that promotes drivers to the best-of-the-best eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series field. Lowe placed an impressive fifth in the Pro Series standings, guaranteeing he’d graduate to the – ahem — peak of iRacing for the coming year.
Lowe also participated in the inaugural season of the eNASCAR Ignite Series, NASCAR’s iRacing-based esports series showcasing young talent. Lowe dominated much of the season and found himself the top-seeded driver heading into the championship race, but came up short of the title in the end.
“The experience was definitely cool. For me, my goal was to gain exposure in terms of the NASCAR community,” he said.
The 2019 season marked the culmination of all Lowe’s iRacing efforts, where he was selected in the second round of the PEAK iRacing Series draft by Team Renegades, a professional esports organization making its first foray into iRacing.
Drafting Lowe, a rookie, has paid dividends to Team Renegades so far in 2019. He opened the season with a top-10 finish at Daytona, then continued his solid run throughout the spring with three top fives in the last four races. He came just inches shy of winning at Talladega in a thriller of a finish.
Heading into the PEAK iRacing Series race Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway — Lowe’s home track — he’s marched up to fifth in series points, exceeding even his own expectations.
“I personally didn’t expect to run this well, really, for the majority of the season,” Lowe said. “My expectations at the beginning of the year were just to make top 20. Now, at the point we’re at, it’s more like, ‘Let’s make it to Homestead.'”
Lowe said working with teammates and building car setups was the biggest adjustment from transitioning racing the NASCAR Hall of Fame simulators to, ultimately, the PEAK iRacing Series.
“I think that’s become the main thing people tend to miss when it comes to just watching the series each week — they don’t really get a chance to see all the work that goes into it.”
Lowe’s time on iRacing has paid off in more than just success at the top level of esports; he’s used his skills to start racing in the real world, too, competing — and winning — in Bandolero cars and U.S. Legend cars. In fact, with no prior experience in any real car, Lowe won two of his first four races in Bandolero cars.
“It was kind of unfair,” he joked. “I showed up to the race track and I was the same speed as the kids who were racing for maybe a year or two and I was on my second and third week and I was beating them.
“People were like, ‘What do you come from?’ and I’m like, ‘Nothing, this is where I started.’ ”
In 2018, he claimed a championship at Charlotte Motor Speedway, winning the Winter Heat Championship in the Outlaw division.
His mission is to continue building his real-world racing resume and climb the ranks, the same way he did in just a few years of iRacing.
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“I’d like to make it all the way to the top in NASCAR — both virtually and real — that’s kind of my goal. Even just Xfinity Series, that’s enough for me.”
Addison agrees Lowe has what it takes to succeed as a driver outside the virtual world. His advice to the 17-year-old? Keep doing what you’re doing.
“From what I’ve seen in the Bandolero and legend car, I think he’s got the talent,” he said. “Even right now with iRacing — with esports — keep running up front and your name’s gonna get known.
“I keep telling people here about him all the time, especially Winston (Kelley, Hall of Fame executive director). I certainly hope he wins the championship; you never know. He’s on his way.”