RPW Column: Stafford Speedway’s iRacing Event Garners Praise From Competitors

RPW Column By: BRITTANY NUTILE / RPW – Despite having no sports on and everything in the world being very off kilter because of the COVID-19 pandemic. iRacing has done an excellent job putting together races like last Sunday’s NASCAR iRacing event that aired on FS1.

The inaugural race at Stafford Motor Speedway that streamed live on Stafford Speedway’s YouTube channel. The race at the virtual Stafford Speedway was no exception.

To get a little better perspective of what iRacing is and the similarities and differences to the real thing, I interviewed multiple drivers with different ages and different levels of racing to see what their views are on competing with different racers that drive at Stafford. Drivers interviewed included Jacob Perry, Travis Hydar, Tyler Leary, Tony Membrino Jr, Matt Vassar, Max Zachem, George Bessette Jr, Cory Casagrande, Dylan Kopec, Glen Reen, and Marcello Rufrano.

They all had different views on the similarities and differences of iRacing and real racing, and what they can learn from doing an iRace that you can use at the real track. Also how their practices went before the racing started.

The drivers interviewed are all different ages ranging from 17 to 50 and with different years of experience on iRacing. The general consensus on how long all of them have had iRacing is a few years or so. Some haven’t used iRacing in a long time but still know the ins and outs and just had to get the cobwebs out. They are using iRacing to get to know tracks better if they are new to a certain track.

Tonight’s event started with Time Trials, Heat races, and consi races. The heats were good. A lot of craziness, beating and banging and even a few flips, which makes it more exciting than regular racing. There were 12 cautions total and a lot of the guys who are good racers on the track, didn’t do very well in iRacing. One of the main reasons for this is that this younger generation are always iRacing. They drive 24/7 to learn tracks during the off season. Some of the other guys don’t use iRacing that much because they have jobs and aren’t able to do it all the time.

The drivers interviewed gave some good feedback before and after the race and talked about what is similar and different to iracing and the actual racetrack. Each driver had a good to take away from their full interview. Here is what they said:

Cory Casagrande- “Obviously there’s no real “feel” because you’re not actually in the car”.

After the race- “It was fun, something to do with all the stuff going on. Had internet issues during qualifying which put us in a bad spot. But, would definitely try again.”

Bryan Narducci- “it’s as close as you can get to actually being in the car.”

After the race he said (making a joke) that next time he wouldn’t “be so nice to the 55 next time”.

Teddy Hodgdon (Winner)- “iRacing is the pinnacle of simulations, it’s the best thing to real life. You can get very close to the cars in real life if you haven’t been to the track before, but you test it before hand on iRacing. Very important tool to use in the off season.”

After the race he said “Definitely a lot of cautions, which changed up the strategy. The format was good.”

Jacob Perry- “Some similar traits of iRacing and real life would be how realistic it really it is. From fine tuning a set-up to having the track change during the race. But, it’s not real racing, no thrill of speed and no consequences for wrecking and having to fix the car.”

After race- “I very much enjoyed the race, I’m very happy Stafford Speedway put this event on. I definitely learned a lot about racing at Stafford Speedway.

Max Zachem- “The iRacing crew does an amazing job on scanning these racetracks and racecars because other than the “feeling of speed” it’s all there. Quality of cars action and design is unreal.”

After race-“It was a blast. Thankful for Paul Arute and company for putting on the event. I wish I started dead last and rode around for half the race. Bummed I got wrecked out early and taken out of contention for the win. Can’t wait to do it again.”

George Bessette Jr.- “iRacing uses special tools and scans each and every track which allows for the most possible resemblance to each track. The difference is the amount of force you feel in the corner and feeling you get in the seat while driving, that what makes the racing that much more intense.”

After the race- “I really liked the racing, a little crazy with cautions but everything gets better with time.”

Sal Accardi Jr- “The actual layout of the track is spot in. It gets you familiar with the turn entries, lift points and braking. Practice race was a little crazy, it’s going to be a survival race, got to stay out of trouble and settle in.”

After the race- “The race was cool to be apart of, was a little hectic getting everything set up like the chat room and getting the mic headset setup but overall was good. Not much I would have done different other than qualify more towards the front. I was kind of okay picking up spots but kept getting driven into and pushed into wrecks. By the time I noticed I had to pit for damage it was too late, and I got dq’d.”

Dylan Kopec- “iRacing helps break bad habits for some racers. As much as it can teach you new bad habits, I’ve been focusing on keeping a consistent line, learning how to time trial better and how to set a pace for a long green run. I can take all those factors and bring what I learned on the sim to real life and work on being a better driver.”

Tyler Leary- “I think iRacing’s platform is pretty realistic when it comes to learning a track and getting practice laps. I don’t believe iRacing can make or break a driver. Being a good racer in real life is a completely different aspect.”

After the race – “It was a blast, so cool for Stafford to do something like that and keep everyone entertained in a tough time like this. I learned that even in a virtual world racing is TOUGH, guys are really good.”

Travis Hydar- “You can definitely learn things such as car setups and how to drive the tracks. To help in real life. I know when I started racing street stocks at Stafford, I was turning a ton of laps on iRacing to try and learn the track and be prepared.”

After the race- “I thought the event was really cool and overall was a great experience. I think the only thing I would’ve done differently would’ve been to push harder earlier in the race, to put myself in good position at the end.”

Tony Membrino Jr.- “When I first tried it (iRacing) out, driving a modified was really nothing like the real thing in my opinion. The boys and girls at iRacing have done a lot and have come a long way to getting it close to the real thing. I haven’t driven this updated modified before, I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like.

“After the race- “I didn’t make the feature, but I learned what the view is like from the cockpit of a modified on its lid. I would spend less time in the wrong server, so I get more than 7 minutes of practice in the right one. I would try harder not to ruin my fast-qualifying lap by kissing the wall and getting it discounted. And I would try not to flip over in the heat race.”

Glen Reen- “The hardest difference from iRacing to real life is you don’t have the feel of the car to relate to so when you get loose it’s a lot harder to catch it. If you are going to a new track you can learn shift points, lift points, turning points and that sort of stuff. “

I made the point to interview many drivers and get their point of view because as you can see by the different quotes that every driver had a different view on what helps them and what they see is similar and different from the real thing to iRacing.

In the end, fun was had by all, fans were entertained and the competitive juices flowed. With the state of things currently, that’s real enough.