Most of the fans in the stands at a NASCAR race dream of being like their heroes, running around the track at 200 mph. They fantasize about running wheel to wheel with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Coming in 2010, the governing body of stock car racing in the United States will be sanctioning races that will allow the fans just that opportunity: NASCAR will be working with iRacing.com to offer sanctioned races and a national championship for online racing enthusiasts.
Prior to the All-Star Race this past Saturday, an announcement was made in the media center about a partnership between iRacing and NASCAR. The sanctioning body is going to have a set of rules and multiple divisions to allow all different levels of online racers the chance to compete for local and national recognition on the track without ever leaving their homes.
iRacing was founded by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry in 2004. While many fans won’t know his name, Kaemmer was the driving force behind Papyrus software. Online racing enthusiasts will know that name because it is the company who developed NASCAR Racing 2003, a program that has been considered the best simulation available for online racing since it was introduced. John Henry is probably a little more familiar to sports fans; he’s the owner of the Boston Red Sox.
The iRacing software incorporates data for every track on the NASCAR schedule and most other major racing series in the United States today. Every track was laser scanned and every bump and dip is recreated by the software. Cars and tracks are continuously being added to the available options on the site.
NASCAR-sanctioned online racing was Bill France Jr.’s vision 10 years ago. He wanted to take advantage of the growing power of the Internet and felt it would be a great way to pull in more fans and enhance their experience with the sport and the sanctioning body. Unfortunately, the hardware at that time was not able to properly host software that needed to be as robust as what Mr. France wanted. Now that broadband is so commonly available, it makes realistic, online racing simulation practical and available to most anyone who is interested in it.
The rules and schedules are yet to be worked out, but they will be in place before 2010 when the sanctioned races begin. The national championship will most likely be reserved for the drivers who are proven to be the best of the best in the online world, but there will be championships on multiple levels for all skill levels of drivers. Who knows, the driver who consistently beats Dale Earnhardt Jr. just might get a phone call from Mr. Hendrick to sign a development driver contract.
Get your steering wheels and pedals tuned up before the green flag drops online next year.