Craig Anderson is a veteran goaltender in the National Hockey League, with 289 wins during his career dating back to 2002. While Anderson, currently with the Ottawa Senators, is best known for his work in net, he is also an avid fan of motorsports.
On Wednesday night, Anderson will be competing in the RichMarFlorist.com 200 on Speed51, an open-wheel iRacing event at Daytona International Speedway featuring stars from several forms of motorsportsincluding NASCAR and IndyCar.
While hockey is his livelihood, racing has been a passion of Anderson’s since his childhood, watching his father compete in sports car racing.
“It started back when I was a real little kid,” Anderson told Speed51. “My dad raced IMSA and Trans-Am in the late 70s and early 80s. I was born in ’81, so I missed the tail-end of that.
“My dad got back into club racing in the late 90s, early 2000s, so that piqued my interest as I was just turning pro then. I was home for the summers and tagging along.”
The passion carried down to Craig and his brother, who have also fielded Corvettes in club racing circuits over the years and spent as much time at the track as possible.
Now, with both the racing world and the NHL season on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, Craig has been competing frequently on iRacing to fill the competitive and social void.
“There’s a lot of eSeries that have popped up and whatnot. The SCCA has their own that they’ve put together to get people to come together and still have that socialization.
“It’s a different time that we’re in, but to be able to have something to do and socialize digitally and still have that compete level and that feeling of being in a car, it’s pretty well replicated in iRacing.”
While muscling a race car around the speedway differs physically from making a critical save late in the third period, both require the same mental focus. It’s an aspect of both real and sim racing that Anderson has found productive for during his hockey career.
“It’s more of a mental battle, being in the car. When you’re in the real car, you have the temperature and the heat. You still have to have that focus. I like the mental training. When you show up at the rink, you change out of your street clothes into your hockey clothes and, all of a sudden, you have to put away everything that’s bothering you off the ice and focus on your job.
“It’s the same thing in a real car. You jump in a real car with your mind on something else, chances are you’re not going to do very well and you put your life at risk. It’s the same thing with iRacing. If you jump in the sim and someone calls you or texts you and you change your focus, bam, you crash. Albeit, it’s a digital car. It doesn’t cost you any money or damage to your body, but there’s still that effect of, ‘Hey, I really have to focus and put my mind to something.’”
Anderson previously competed with Elite Racing League’s Open Wheel Championship Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His goal for Wednesday’s race will be similar to his aspirations at Homestead – stay out of trouble and learn from professionals about the nuances of oval racing.
“My goal last week when I ran with the guys was to not be the guy who takes everybody out. Run safe, be respectful, that’s where I’m at. The last race I did, at Homestead, I was near the back of the pack and I tagged along with Tony Kanaan and we passed seven or eight cars pretty cleanly.
“It was pretty neat, not just the name you are following but watching his racecraft. Ovals are a new thing to me; I’ve always done road courses. The theory behind it and trying to stay with a pack and run with a guy is a new thing to me, so watching him do it was really cool.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Ottawa Senators