As the world of eSports and sim racing continues to grow, the effects the product can have on real life racing are beginning to shine through. In February, a relationship established through sim racing resulted in a successful pairing between a sim racer and one of Super Late Model racing’s biggest stars.
Brandon Wilkinson, a native of Rhode Island, first became acquainted with Wisconsin driver Ty Majeski through sim racing. While Majeski is widely-regarded as one of the top sim racers in the world, Wilkinson has proven to be quite successful in his own right.
This past fall and winter, after a 12-race battle for supremacy on the Speed51 Elite Modified Tour sim racing league, it was Wilkinson who took the championship over a mix of drivers which included many real-world racers, such as Modified drivers Michael Christopher Jr. and Bryan Narducci, as well as some from outside the Modified world who joined the fun on occasion like Carson Hocevar and Ty Majeski.
As a real-world spotter in both Modifieds and Late Models in the Northeast, Wilkinson has built a respected reputation the past couple of years on the spotter’s stand, while also chalking up wins online as a driver and spotter. Now, his time online is also taking him beyond his normal circle in the Northeast.
During Florida Speedweeks, Wilkinson had the opportunity to spot for one of his sim racing teammates for the first time in a real situation. That teammate was Ty Majeski.
“It was cool, it’s easy to come and work here with a new driver when you race with him all the time on the computer. So, that was cool to get here and put a face to the voice, and it was just easy. We came here, we had our communication, it was already down, and it’s easy to spot for somebody like Ty anyways because he’s always competitive,” Wilkinson told Speed51.
In Majeski’s last minute commitment to run two of the Super Late Model races during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway, he was going to need to find an available spotter. With Wilkinson in town spotting for one of his usual Modified drivers Tommy Catalano, as well as Pro Late Model pilot Jerrick Johnson, Majeski felt the time was right to try their combination out for real.
“Brandon and I are teammates on iRacing. I’ve known him, but I’ve never really talked to him until the last year and a half or so,” Majeski said. “Mike Herman Jr., my normal spotter, committed to (Justin) Mondeik before we committed to coming down. [Wilkinson] said he was going to be down with his Modifieds from the Northeast and thought it would be a good opportunity for him and I to work together. He can handle it well, he’s a good mature kid, handles his composure well, everything that makes a good spotter.”
The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing was the second time that Majeski had brought Wilkinson onboard to work together, with the first time coming through sim racing.
“Just through the ringer three or four years ago when I was on a team with the Frontstretch Mafia. We ended up splitting because my crew chief went over to The Posse, and then I ended up leaving. As soon as that happened, he gave me a call and said that we got a spot for you over here, and it was just easy going from there for sure,” Wilkinson recalled.
It proved to be a triumphant pair of races for the No. 91 Super Late Model camp, with Majeski finishing second in his first night out, then winning the Orange Blossom 100 on the last night of competition. Majeski has proved himself as one of the great success stories from the eSports community. Now, he’s happy to see the same happening for other people he has gotten to work with and know.
“It’s fun to bring the eSports world to life, you can get a lot from it as far as in the seat, but you can get a lot from it in other ways. You can do a lot of networking, you never know who you’re racing against, or how you’re going to connect with that person in real life. It’s cool situation to bring things from online to real life and make new friends.”
For Wilkinson, the start of 2020 has been the continuation of a high point in his sim racing and spotting career. In 2019, two of the drivers he spots for on a regular basis each won their first touring titles in their careers; Mike Willis Jr. on the Modified Racing Series and Mike Hopkins on the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National trail.
It is a culmination for the Rhode Island native who realized that driving racecars in the real world was most likely not in the cards for him.
“I was in a racecar about two days into being on the Earth. My dad raced SK Modifieds in 2007 at Thompson Speedway and I ended up just throwing a radio on,” Wilkinson explained. “He just went out on old tires for fun because it was something he always wanted to do. I never had the money to race, we talked about doing some Legend Car stuff, and it just never worked out. There’s no reason to put your bank account into despair just to race once a week.
“I never got out there and raced, but I always wanted to be a part of it. I never found a click with working on racecars, but spotting is more involved. It’s something I love to do and it’s something I’ve always knew as I got older that was going to progress into something pretty good.”
While eSports has been great fun and valuable for building relationships for the future, Wilkinson also gives the platforms credit for making him a better spotter for all his drivers.
“The first kid I spotted for is Paul Buzel, but before we got to the race track, I must’ve spotted for him on iRacing about 50 times. You can hop into about 12 races a day and get everything down. So, that kind of got the ball rolling. I met my first driver on racing, and that’s what got me into it. There’s that, but the main thing is I get on there and drive and have people spot for me. Now I know from a driver’s perspective what they want to hear and don’t want to hear from me. Its brought it to a whole new level and its worked out for sure.”
Brandon Wilkinson will look to defend his Speed51 Elite Modified Tour crown starting on March 17, when the new season kicks off. Watch it live each week on Speed51.com.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51