CONCORD, NC – There seems to be a debate about how close to reality is simulated racing. The tracks really do change as the night goes on. The setups on the cars are really specific to each competitor. And the ability for something to go wrong at the worst time is always a possibility.
For three drivers competing in Monday night’s World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model iRacing Invitational from virtual Williams Grove Speedway, behind-the-scenes scrambles were all too real at the worst possible moments. Tune into DIRTVision presented by Drydene tonight at 7 p.m. ET to catch all the simulated action from the birthplace of the Outlaws.
The most recent episode of technical issues before a World of Outlaws iRacing Invitational event struck the three-time DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion, Bobby Pierce, two weeks ago as he prepared to lead the field to the green from the pole at virtual Knoxville Raceway.
Pierce was sitting in complete darkness, roughly 30 minutes before having to join the iRacing lobby for a race which was being broadcasted live on FOX Sports 1. A real-life rainstorm had swept over his hometown of Oakwood, IL, just minutes before and caused an area-wide power outage.
Pierce was using his friend’s sim setup, located about 10 minutes away from his own house. After a mad dash from the friend’s house to his own and back, in a failed attempt to try and get his own computer running, the area’s power was restored in the nick of time. Pierce sat back down in the seat, put on his headset and joined the sim lobby about 30 seconds before the race went live on national television.
He made it, but just barely. Pierce went on to place eighth in the event aboard his virtual NOS Energy Drink #32.
“I never knew weather could mess up a virtual race, but here we are,” Pierce said. “Of course, you’re worried about it all the time in real-life with it being too cold or a rainout. I just didn’t even think about that, and here we are. And surely, I was on the pole at Knoxville.”
In the first Late Model Invitational, shown on DIRTVision at The (virtual) Dirt Track at Charlotte, South Carolinian Super Late Model pilot Trent Ivey also had issues right before Feature time.
Ivey has been a casual sim competitor since iRacing rolled out their dirt track mode in 2017 and had previously been using the same steering wheel, pedals and computer through all of his time in the game. That was, until a computer failure hit him at the worst possible moment.
“I had experienced some issues with it the night before, but I thought it was just an overheating issue because I had some books stacked up on top of my computer. I got them off and hadn’t had any issues in a couple nights,” Ivey said.
Ivey was scheduled to start on the outside pole of the 50-lap Feature and had progressed through his qualifying events without any issues, until it was time to take the track for Feature warmups. He hit the track and immediately noticed several other cars lagging and blinking in-and-out of the game, usually signifying connectivity issues.
“I thought ‘there’s no way 10 people are all having internet issues here all at once.’ So, I knew I was probably the one that was going to be doomed,” Ivey said.
He soon rolled onto the track to take the green flag and immediately had his concerns validated when each of the opponents’ cars on his screen disappeared, and his steering wheel movements failed to show-up in the simulation. Ivey had lost connection completely and was left with an unresponsive computer.
The very next day, Ivey went out and bought a much higher-quality and more modern gaming computer to suit the various needs of the iRacing software. The old computer, which Ivey said was one of the cheapest gaming computers available, now sits unused under his gaming table. He’s also taken a few lessons in internet connectivity since getting started with sim racing.
“That wired connection’s the biggest key to not having any internet issues. WiFi is just so unpredictable,” Ivey said.
DIRTcar UMP Modified star Mike McKinney is a veteran of the sim racing ranks and has been doing it competitively in the years since iRacing’s upstart in 2008. Over that time, he’s had issues as well with power and internet outages every so often and said in these ways, it can be comparable to real-life racing.
“I guess it’s kinda like going to a real race and your motor’s not firing right before Hot Laps,” McKinney said.
As far as sim equipment goes, he said the fancy, high-dollar equipment is nice, but not necessary for every player. He’s been using the same Logitech G27 wheel and pedals set for years, right on a desktop table.
“It’s just whatever you’re comfortable with. I’ve tested the fancy wheels that everybody has nowadays, and I still come back to what I’ve been using since 2009. It’s just what I’m comfortable with.”
McKinney said the essentials for success in sim racing are good internet speed and a good computer with a capable graphics card. It’s tough when issues with these components malfunction right at the worst possible moment, but when it all comes together, it’s a thrill performing live for an entire television audience.
“I think we all agree. For whatever reason, we all get way more nervous on here compared to real-life. I don’t know what it is. Especially because you know you’re on TV and you’ve got Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon saying your name and thousands of people watching you,” McKinney said.