iRacing taking off

For The Tribune auto racing/column

It’s likely racing people didn’t see the real competitor looming in basements, home workout rooms or garages. It’s the virtual racing world, where gamers can compete against each other all over the world in highly realistic competitive battles.

One of those competing in recent weeks is Devin Gilpin of Columbus, the 3-time and defending Brownstown Speedway late model track champion.

With no racing happening locally or nationwide, Gilpin, and other cohorts, have found a way to keep their skills sharp with virtual racing on the new Lucas Oil eSports which debuted from Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa on April 10.

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Gilpin made a good showing in his iRacing debut with the Lucas Oil eSports among 28 other competitors who participated in a 100-lap race.

“I am very happy and pleased with the Lucas eSports race at Knoxville,” Gilpin said. “I’m very new at iRacing and still have a lot to learn. I was just hoping to finish all 100 laps at Knoxville. So, to rally from the tail on lap 30 to finish 8th, but not to just finish 8th to pass the caliber of drivers we passed, that was pretty cool. So, I am very happy with the first Lucas eSports race.”

Gilpin offered some advice on how to get started to those interested in obtaining a simulator to participate in these virtual racing events.

“Well, iRacing is like anything else,” he said. “It just all depends on how much money you want to spend. My deal is not anything special compared to some other Iracers. I purchased an Alienware Computer for $1500, but that was brand new. I bought a Logitech G29 steering wheel on Black Friday for $200.

“Then you have to purchase the Iracing membership. But In all reality you can get on the Iracing website and look up the computer specs it takes to run the game properly and find computers reasonably priced. But when you have racing in the title, “the sky’s the limit on the amount of money spent.”

It is a new ballgame, though.

“I feel I need to work on a lot of things to get better,” Gilpin said. “Running 100 laps at Knoxville really helped me. I need to focus on consistency and hitting my marks on the racetrack more repetitively. I need to be smoother, I struggle with being “darty” up the straightaways, I seem to oversteer too much in the corners.”

Even if he is already a champion racer, Gilipin is studying how to adapt.

Just so many things I need to work on to consider myself a top contender,” he said. “It’s hard for me because I can’t feel the car. I am just going off sight and sound. So, it’s really difficult, but during this crazy pandemic it’s definitely something to do to have some fun.”

Kevin Bobbit, director of marketing at iRacing, noted one way this differs from going out to the track.

“Our sport is self-isolating by nature,” Bobbitt said. “You log on from home and I log on from home, and we race together. That’s the way it has always worked on iRacing. It just fits the world order right now.”

It especially fits the racing world as Lucas Oil, World of Outlaws, IndyCar, NASCAR, and IMSA have all recently organized online events with real-world drivers.

All forms of racing have been brought to a screeching halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual racing world jumped in quickly to fill the void.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rd Indianapolis 500 in 2019. The popular driver from France believes real-world racing and simulation world racing can complement each other in the future.

“I think obviously iRacing and any other platform is really going to take off after this,” Pagenaud said. “A lot of people just didn’t know that there are teams out there, professional teams, actually racing in championships. They come from all over the world. It’s really exciting to see that. It’s the big thing of a new era.”

Bobbitt has been with IRacing for 13 years. He has seen the company’s business explode over the past month, now with 120,000 members

“We are extremely busy right now,” Bobbitt said. “There are various levels of quarantines going on around the world and they have more time to do some racing online.

“For the first time, some of (the real-world drivers) are getting set up. It’s interesting to see them embrace it and realize how competitive it is.”

Bobbit said experienced drivings say they are as nervous for IRacing as they are on the starting line for their own races.

“A lot of that has to do with comfort level,” Bobbitt said. “They are used to being on the real grid. It shows how competitive it is. They are sending us text messages asking us for tips on how to get an extra 10th of a second (per lap).”

Non-race drivers come at IRacing from a different perspective, seeking entertainment and learning about the real racing world.

“I think that will translate to fans to see the real thing,” Bobbitt said. “There is also the opportunity for people to start their career on the virtual world and then move over to the real thing. But it’s more about people who are fans and want to engage. There are only so many real-world racers, anyway.”

Salem postpones opener

Due to the ongoing unprecedented situation regarding COVID-19 — to include its ‘stay-at-home’ policy, the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200, originally scheduled for today and tomorrow at the Salem Speedway has been postponed. Salem Speedway, fueled by the Hoosier Lottery track officials and ARCA Menards Series officials are currently in talks to reschedule the event for early fall 2020. For more info

This week in racing history

From 40 years ago in 1980 at Brownstown Speedway, Ray Godsey won the late model feature over Jim Curry, Paul Crockett, Ira Bastin and Dusty Chapman. Ernie Barrow took the hobby stock feature over Daryl Herbert, Lee Fleetwood, Don Duncan and Gary Barrow.

The opening race for the 1980 season at Twin Cities saw Carl Collins win the late model feature over Dee Kramer, Tom Wieck, Bud Seymour and Mike Fowler. Buddy Franks took the street stock feature.

Also, from this weekend in 1980 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Larry Goad won the sprint car feature over Kenny Schrader, Cliff Cockrum, Rickey Hood and Randy Kinser.

From 30 years ago in 1990 at Brownstown, the late model feature was taken by Kevin Weaver over Kevin Claycomb, Gary Barrow, Lee Fleetwood and Jim Curry. Mark Barber grabbed the street stock feature over Joe Lucas, Scott Patman, Denny Campbell and Tom Seadler. Dennis Barber won the bomber feature over Darin George, Mason Fleetwood, Roger Bense and Bret Ezzo.

Also, from this weekend in 1990 Terry Eaglin won the late model feature at Twin Cities over Gary Herbert, John Rhoades, Ray Godsey and Mike Gibbs.