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North Wilkesboro Speedway gets makeover for ‘date’ with iRacing

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North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina hasn’t hosted a NASCAR national series event since September 1996 and it’s not about to anytime soon.

But, thanks to the efforts of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the historic short track may soon have a second digital-based life on the iRacing simulator.

Earnhardt posted images on social media Monday showing the track’s aging surface cleared of debris that had grown up on it over the years.

With the images, Earnhardt said the track is “getting a trim for an important date with @iRacing.”

This comes a few months after Earnhardt discussed the subject of cleaning the racing surface and scanning it for use on iRacing with Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith on an episode of “The Dale Jr. Download.”

Podcast: How sim racing might take a driver from 0 to 200 in real life

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Simulation racing might have saved Parker Kligerman’s career, and he believes it will jump-start someone else’s.

During the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast, Kligerman explained his role in the push behind bringing iRacing and eSports in NASCAR to a broader audience.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst began racing simulation racing at 13, the same year that he entered go-kart racing. When his family lacked the money to keep him in a go kart, Kligerman used sim racing as his path to fulfilling the “10,000 Hour Theory” of practicing enough to become an accomplished driver who has won in ARCA and also driven in NASCAR’s top three national series.

With iRacing’s Peak Series expanding into teams and a driver draft this season, Kligerman said the infrastructure has been built for someone to follow his path but without ever beginning in the real world as he did.

“Now there’s a formal way,” Kligerman said. “You’ll see someone with zero experience in real life find their way to a real car because of what we’re doing here.

“That’s the dream of it all. The biggest problem in motorsports is a massive barrier of entry for people. If you had this great linear feeder to the top (in sim racing), it’s a great thing and would get more people involved.”

He could play a role in that having formed Burton Kligerman ESports with fellow NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton. The team scored its first victory Tuesday at Darlington Raceway with driver Ashton Crowder, who also will be competing in the iRacing All-Star Race on NASCAR America today at 5 p.m. ET (NBCSN).

Kligerman also will be competing in the event, which will be held at Rockingham Speedway, through the iRacing simulator in the NASCAR America’s Stamford, Connecticut, studio.

“I fought so hard to be a part of this sport,” Kligerman said on the podcast. “(Sim racing) was the sole connection when I couldn’t drive anything real. I don’t care what walk of life or age, you can potentially be involved in a very high level of motorsports in the future and eventually become a career, a path, a destination. To bring motorsports to the masses, eSports has that ability. The growth been insane for iRacing this year, and the sky’s the limit on what we can achieve, and if we do it right, we can do something that helps the sport in the future.”

Steve Letarte also was a guest on the podcast to discuss the Peak Series team that he formed this season. Letarte’s interest was spurred in part because he was disappointed his daughter was required to know the rules of basketball, baseball and soccer to pass a seventh-grade course – but not racing.

“The best way to grow racing fans is to have them experience racing,” Letarte said. “Both console games and simulation racing have a place to spread that ability much like at a local go-kart track. As a racing community, we all have the obligation to get racing in front of as many young men and women as possible.”

Letarte also talked about being part of the first iRacing broadcast on NASCAR America last month with Burton, Kligerman, Krista Voda and A.J. Allmendinger. The presentation mirrored a NASCAR on NBC broadcast, and Letarte said it also felt like broadcasting a real-world event because of its realism.

“If you took live races and put them in standard definition, you couldn’t tell the difference” from sim racing, he said.

You can listen to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify or by clicking on the embed above.

The second iRacing NASCAR America broadcast from Rockingham Speedway will take place today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream. Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chase Briscoe’s big week: Iowa, Eldora, Watkins Glen

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Chase Briscoe is feeling a tad nostalgic this week.

That’s due to the 24-year-old Xfinity Series driver being in the midst of a rather busy three-races-in-eight-days schedule of racing, or at least busy for someone who competes full-time in a national NASCAR series.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is four days removed from winning the Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway for his first victory of the year.

Thursday, he will set out with ThorSport Racing to defend last year’s victory in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series’ Eldora Dirt Derby in Rossburg, Ohio.

He’ll then journey to New York for his first career race on the Watkins Glen International road course Saturday in the Xfinity Series (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“It kind of takes me back to the dirt days where I’d run three or sometimes even four races in a week,” Briscoe told NBC Sports. “That’s the hard part, I think, about the NASCAR schedule is you don’t get to race a lot. At least compared to the dirt stuff. … They’re all definitely three different styles of race tracks. As a driver I love it. It’s kind of what it’s all about, getting to jump around in different disciplines and different types of tracks and just try to figure it out.”

Here’s how Briscoe learned or is learning to race on all three tracks:

Iowa Speedway

If you were aware of Briscoe’s history, you may not have been surprised at how Saturday’s Xfinity race played out between him and Christopher Bell, with Briscoe coming out on top after a 17-lap battle.

It wasn’t the first time the two drivers have fought it out on the .875-mile short track.

While they’ve competed on the track together in real life four times in the Xfinity and Truck Series, their battles there date back a decade in the virtual world.

“It started out we would race ‘rFactor’ together,” Briscoe recalled. “It was a dirt game on the computer. It transitioned to iRacing. Our favorite thing to do on iRacing is we always ran Iowa. It was always the best track on there. It was the only pavement track you could throw slide jobs on. So we would always run it. It’s funny how tendencies and how guys race on there correlates over to real life. I feel like there’s some things I know, not every time Bell does what I think he’s going to do, but there’s a lot of times I feel like I kind of choose the right scenario of what he’s going to do and it works out.”

Those years of throwing virtual slide jobs paid off for Briscoe when he successfully pulled one off on Bell in Turns 1 and 2 with six laps to go.

Briscoe admits Bell is one of, if not the hardest, drivers to execute the maneuver on in the Xfinity Series.

“Him and Tyler Reddick,” Briscoe says. “Just because they both grew up dirt racing and understand the principle of it.”

Of their virtual racing day, Briscoe says “it was kind of cool to kind of live that back and a couple of years later go from racing online at the place to it working in real life and getting a win.”

Eldora Speedway

Briscoe has plenty of experience racing on dirt tracks across the country in sprint cars and midgets. He’s still a relative newcomer to pavement racing, having only committed to it in 2013 at the age of 18.

“It’s hard to put in perspective that (teammate) Cole (Custer) has more Xfinity starts than I have pavement starts (in stock cars),” Briscoe says.

Chase Briscoe celebrates his win in the 2018 Eldora Dirt Derby. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

But in 2017, his lone full-time season in the Truck Series, Briscoe first experienced the NASCAR race where those two worlds collide: the Eldora Dirt Derby.

Driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, Briscoe entered the race thinking he “was going to set the world on fire.”

He very quickly discovered he was in over his head.

Twice in the first five laps of practice he spun his No. 29 truck.

“I was just on the gas, wide-open trying to drive like a sprint car,” Briscoe says.

Off the track, Briscoe sat in his truck when track owner and his future team owner, Tony Stewart, approached.

“Oh, this is cool, Tony’s going to come say something,” Briscoe thought.

“He just leaned down and kind of got onto me about how I got to quit driving so hard, how it’s not a sprint car,” Briscoe says. “Not that I looked like an idiot, but pretty much was saying I got to calm down. That kind of opened up my eyes.”

It took one more mistake for Briscoe to heed Stewart’s warning.

“I almost flipped the thing,” Briscoe says. “I was trying to throw a slide job and did it like a sprint car again and it carried way too much speed.”

Briscoe got things together enough to finish third that night. A year later, he would lead 53 of 154 laps to claim the win.

What has he learned about what it takes to handle a truck and win on dirt?

“You’ve got to kind of drive them like a pavement car with really, really old tires,” Briscoe says. “There’s a little bit of dirt stuff that kind of goes in, like reading the race track and trying to find extra grip. It’s like trying to drive on corded tires all the way around on pavement would be the easiest way to put it.”

Briscoe’s attempted defense of his 2018 win will come under different circumstances than last year. While he was competing part-time in the Xfinity Series, he took part in 25-30 sprint races throughout the year.

But Thursday’s race will be his first on dirt since he competed in the Chili Bowl in January. He’s not permitted to run a sprint car until the season is over.

“I’m going to be pretty rusty if I had to guess the first couple of laps,” Briscoe says. “But it’s going to be like riding a bike I would think. … I think the guys that run a truck every week have a little bit of an advantage, but at the same time I’ve been running a heavy stock car all year long. I feel like that will help a little bit too.”

Should he knock off enough rust and win, he’ll be the first driver to capture the Derby twice. It would be a significant accomplishment for the Indiana native who grew up attending races at Eldora.

“I don’t think it’s a big record by any means, but it means a lot to me.”

Watkins Glen International

Like a handful of tracks this year, Briscoe has never traversed the road course in New York.

But Briscoe, who has competed in IMSA for Ford and won the Xfinity race on the Charlotte Roval last year, says it should have similar characteristics to other road courses he’s experienced.

“Pretty much every other road course I’ve ever ran you kind of have to get up on the wheel and you’re slipping and sliding around,” Briscoe says.

But he won’t show up in the garage Friday unprepared. He’s already spent extensive time in Ford’s simulator making laps around the Glen and watching on-board camera footage.

While in Eldora Briscoe plans to ask for advice on the track from Stewart, a five-time winner there. He’ll also lean on his teammate, Custer.

But like those tracks he’s visited for the first time this year, such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he’ll seek out the guidance of one of the most accomplished active Cup drivers: Kevin Harvick.

“That’s the nice thing about Stewart-Haas, we have a lot of really good race car drivers, a lot of guys have a ton of experience and they’re all open books,” Briscoe says.

But Harvick is the SHR Cup driver he turns to the most for guidance.

“He’s always been super good to me and always been willing to help,” Briscoe says. “The biggest thing is like braking points and things to look for. … I don’t really even know where the proper place to lift is or whatever. He’s really good at doing visual markers and using those. … He’s really good at being able to tell you what you need to try to work on for practice … so (the car will) race really good.”

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Nick Ottinger wins NASCAR America’s iRacing All-Star race

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Nick Ottinger won the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series All-Star race held Thursday on NASCAR America.

He claimed the win on a virtual Iowa Speedway after a last-lap pass and side-by-side finish with Ryan Luza, the 2017 series champion.

Ottinger, a 24-year-old from Claremont, North Carolina, competes in the No. 47 car for JTG Daugherty Racing.

The race, which was the first iRacing event broadcast on national television, included NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kilgerman and teams owned by real NASCAR organizations, tracks and drivers, including Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer.

Ottinger and Luza swapped the lead multiple times over the last three laps after Luza led most of the 70-lap race.

“I just had to bide my time for a straight exit and really research which line to run to get a better run on him,” Ottinger told NASCAR America after the race. “He set up the door for a crossover so I just had to keep my foot to the floor.”

Ottinger, who is currently eighth in the PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series, has won more than 350 iRacing races including 13 at the pro level.

Following this week’s event, iRacing will return to NASCAR America on NBCSN on the last Thursday of every month for a four-race series. More information on the three future iRacing events on NBCSN will be revealed in the coming weeks. Need more video? Check out our YouTube page here.

 

NASCAR America to air iRacing All-Star event at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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NBC Sports, iRacing and NASCAR have come together to present the first-ever eNASCAR live-event on television. The world’s best NASCAR iRacers will compete in the first live event on TV as part of Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, airing at 5 p.m. ET.

NASCAR America’s Krista Voda, Parker Kligerman, and AJ Allmendinger will host along with iRacing team owners Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton, who will join for pre-and post-race commentary from the NBC Sports Charlotte studio.

Kligerman, also an iRacing team owner, will be racing from the NBC Sports simulator in Stamford, Conn., in the eNASCAR iRacing All-Star event.

“The trio of NBC Sports, iRacing and NASCAR has been terrific in wanting to work together to find new ways to bring current and new fans into the NASCAR scene,” says Jeff Behnke, Vice President of NASCAR Production at NBC Sports Group “For five years, the simulator has been used on NASCAR America to showcase tracks and racers around the USA and this new four-race venture will be a natural extension of that teamwork.”

“This is a landmark moment for iRacing, and all racing esports,” said Tony Gardner, president, iRacing. “We’re incredibly excited to work with NASCAR and NBC Sports to bring our world-class simracers to a live national television audience for the first time on NBCSN. We expect the action to be intense, and we can’t wait for the green flag to drop this Thursday.”

“Our eNASCAR platforms bridge the gap from one race weekend to the next, delivering NASCAR-style racing to our fans through the rapidly growing esports space,” said Tim Clark, senior VP and chief digital officer, NASCAR. “This new collaboration with our partners at iRacing and NBC Sports is an example of how esports is allowing us to evolve the way we engage our fans.”

“It’s going to be really cool to take part in live iRacing action on NASCAR America,” said Kligerman. “I’ve seen firsthand just how exciting these races can get, and I can’t wait to give our viewers an inside look at what it’s like to face off against the best in the world. It’ll serve as a great preview of what it’s like to compete for the fans tuning in to watch our real-world coverage on NBCSN this weekend!”

iRacing is the leading online simulation racing game where competitors race head-to-head from around the world. Following this week’s event, iRacing will return to NASCAR America on NBCSN on the last Thursday of every month for a four-race series. More information on the three future iRacing events on NBCSN will be revealed in the coming weeks.

In addition to the eNASCAR iRacing All-Star events being broadcast on NBCSN, iRacing and NASCAR also have a professional esports series known as the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series, where drivers from around the world compete for over $100,000 in prize money in a year-long championship. Other notable team owners in the series include NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR stars Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon. NBCSN provides weekly coverage of the series on NASCAR America.

Tune in to NASCAR America on NBCSN this Thursday at 5PM ET to watch iRacing NASCAR action. Be sure to follow @iRacing and @NASCARonNBC on Twitter for live updates during the race. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iRacing.com.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.