During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many racing enthusiasts have turned to iRacing as an outlet and escape. From competing in the sim racing service to watching their favorite racers compete in online and televised broadcasts, iRacing has become a way for those in the sport to scratch that racing itch while real-world racing has been put on the shelf.
Short track fans as well as students of racing history will have a couple of big reasons to be excited about iRacing in the coming months. A pair of historic short tracks, North Wilkesboro Speedway and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, are on track to join the service in the next six months.
Steve Myers, Executive Vice President and Executive Producer at iRacing, joined Speed51’s “The Bullring” on Monday evening to discuss those upcoming additions as well as the service’s rise to the public forefront during the pandemic.
When tracks are added to the iRacing platform, they are painstakingly laser-scanned to precisely model and recreate them. Myers has not been directly a part of that process often during his time at iRacing, but he made an exception when it was time to clean off the surface at North Wilkesboro Speedway to scan it.
“I had never been to North Wilkesboro,” Myers said. “I didn’t know what to expect. To drive in there, the first thing I got to do was drive on the track to get to the infield. It was a unique and cool experience.
“Even though it was pouring rain the entire day, it was fun to walk around and imagine what it was like in the glory days and help clean up the track. It might actually be the first time I’ve been at the track when we were laser-scanning it, so that was a cool experience.”
That track is currently on track to be added to iRacing in June. Myers is excited to see the community’s reaction, especially after seeing the venue in person and knowing some of its unique traits that will catch some people by surprise.
“I think people are going to be surprised by how different this track is from anything else being raced. Just the elevation change, from one side of the track to the other, is completely wild. You can’t really appreciate it until you’re standing there, looking back up at turns three and four and seeing how high it is compared to turns one and two.
“I’m excited that a lot of people in the community are excited getting a chance to see it, feel it and drive it in our platform.”
Another famed short track coming soon to iRacing is the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Home to the historic All American 400, the fan-favorite track is on track to be released in September.
“The Fairgrounds have been scanned,” Myers said. “We are in the process of building it. I think that should come out by September. If not September, maybe a month or so before that, but it’s tracking to be September.”
Myers also expects several other additions in the coming months to the service, mentioning the additions would be “exciting for NASCAR.” However, he was careful not to share all his secrets, noting that schedules are very fluid right now due to the pandemic.
“As for other content, we have some surprises in store. We don’t want to talk too much in advance because this lockdown has made it difficult for us to complete the process. It has made it difficult for us to collect data on cars and tracks we need.
“We are leaning on resources who have access to these vehicles in particular to collect the data we need to finish them. It’s going to be difficult for us to go on the road and collect data at this point. We have a lot of content coming in the June build. A lot of it I can’t talk about right now, but it will be exciting for NASCAR.”
During a time when real-world sports have come to a standstill, fans have flocked to iRacing to watch a facsimile of their favorite sport. While the circumstances are unfortunate, Myers is pleased to see nearly 20 years of work getting more attention than ever before.
“What’s been gratifying the most is seeing the community and racing world appreciating what we’re doing. It has motivated us and energized us to keep racing and find new ways to make these races better because we don’t have that support system we normally have. It’s an odd feeling, but we’re very proud and we’ve worked for this moment for 16 years."
Fans who missed Monday’s interview with Steve Myers can watch a replay of “The Bullring” by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Steve Myers' Twitter