eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series races on Tuesday nights tend to serve as a preview for the NASCAR race that follows on the weekend. This week’s race from the virtual Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was perhaps the most important preview race for NASCAR and iRacing in the history of their partnership.
For the first time, fans got to see Next Gen cars race around the minuscule oval tucked into the confines of the legendary stadium that has hosted the Trojans of Southern California and the Olympic torch. There were moments of orderly racing blended with no shortage of dives, bumps, and spins.
The racing in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series already tends to skew towards the hectic. With no risk of injury and no money needing to be dolled out for repairs, drivers are more willing to take risks and try moves with lower chances of success. Slight inconsistencies with internet connections can also lead to more dramatic crashes, with cars more likely to move around when small levels of contact may not warrant it.
Tuesday’s race winner, Casey Kirwan, predicts a real-world race that will surprise those who are skeptical of the idea.
“I think honestly, it can be really good,” Kirwan said of the racing at the track. “It’s narrow. I think the biggest concern, which you saw at times, is if there is a wreck, there’s pretty much nowhere to escape. It can kind of cause a big pile-up. That’s still a somewhat of a concern of mine.
“Obviously with how tight it is, double-file restarts, it’s going to be packed up, there’s going to be contact, but when it gets strung out, it’s like Martinsville but tighter. You’ve got to use the bumper a little bit to pass sometimes, but you can set up normal passes if your a little bit better. I think the people that aren’t optimistic about it will be pleasantly surprised.”
Due to the nature of simulators that rely on internet connections, a small tap from one car to another can lead to a complete spin for the car on the receiving end. According to Kirwin, that was the cause of many of the spins and wrecks during Tuesday night’s race. When those kinds of wrecks are eliminated – as they will be in this weekend’s NASCAR event – the racing will be cleaner.
“I feel like in iRacing, we get moved a little bit harder from contact if that makes sense,” he said. “I think that’s some of the reason why there are some spins, but I don’t think those would be spins in real life.”
The night of racing was likely summed up best by Michael Conti during his mid-race interview.
“It’s just a total cluster, but that’s great, it’s fun to watch,” the JR Motorsports driver said. “I don’t know how much fun I’m going to be having when I’m a pinball here in about twenty minutes, but hey, good for the fans so we’re happy to see it.”
The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series begins on February 15 from Daytona International Speedway. The race will serve as a prelude for the Daytona 500 the following weekend.