On Tuesday, June 29, NASCAR unveiled a landmark agreement that further strengthens its relationship with iRacing, the simulation racing platform. The Massachusetts-based company will become the “official simulation partner of NASCAR” after originally working together starting in 2010.
According to a press release, the new agreement opens the door for further collaboration between the two organizations. The list of upcoming innovations includes the design of new and proposed NASCAR race tracks and “collaboration and technical support on the NASCAR NextGen race car project.” Additionally, the two organizations will create sim racing content for NASCAR Digital Media.
“NASCAR fans know and love iRacing for their accomplishments in the development of virtual racing series, but what many may not realize is that the company is so much more than just an esports partner,” said Tim Clark, senior vice president and chief digital officer of NASCAR. “iRacing is a full-on technology partner in every sense of the word, and their best-in-class simulation and engineering capabilities are helping us innovate across multiple layers of our business — whether that be in designing new race tracks, developing new race cars, creating compelling digital content, or providing a virtual training ground for the next generation of NASCAR stars.”
The iRacing Partnership Will Further Benefit the Next Generation
One of the biggest updates from the press release is that NASCAR and iRacing will work together to help groom the next generation of racecar drivers. Racing’s sanctioning body and iRacing will make the simulation platform an official training tool for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity, a developmental program providing training and opportunities for minorities and women in NASCAR.
While Drive for Diversity provides its members with opportunities to compete in the ARCA Menards Series, INEX Legends Cars, and the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, they don’t regularly suit up to test out the vehicles from the top three series. The iRacing platform serves as an avenue for the Drive for Diversity members to climb into a Chevrolet, Toyota, or Ford from the Cup Series and learn the intricacies of the vehicles and the turns at tracks where they may not regularly compete.
Several drivers regularly use iRacing to train for new tracks on the NASCAR circuit regardless of how long they have competed at the professional level, which should only continue with more Drive for Diversity members training on iRacing. For example, the Cup Series drivers took part in a virtual race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas road course prior to heading to Texas for a points-paying race. This outing provided them with the opportunity to test out the numerous turns and see how the stock cars would react.
The Working Relationship Grew During the COVID Shutdown
When COVID-19 shut down sports for a portion of 2020, NASCAR officials responded by putting their drivers on display in a very different manner. The sanctioning body and iRacing partnered together to create the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
This new creation put real Cup drivers in virtual stock cars and sent them out onto tracks from the circuit. Stars such as Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski among others faced off for bragging rights while FS1 provided coverage. Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon even headed to the virtual booth to call the action.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series continued into the 2021 season despite the return of the regular NASCAR schedule. However, the sanctioning body used the virtual events to highlight new tracks on the circuit, such as COTA and the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track. NASCAR also teased a potential street course race in the future by sending the drivers to virtual Chicago.