The NASCAR iRacing Series stopped this week in Darlington South Carolina for the Southern 250. The NASCAR iRacing Series follows the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup schedule with most races being 50% distance.
The Southern 500 week is a throwback to NASCAR tradition. Many teams sport liveries that hearkens back to rides of the past. This year Team Oppo showed up to the track in a throwback to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2000 Cup Ride.
Darlington is a very challenging track. Each end is different with Turns 1 and 2 being a wider radius than 3 and 4. 1 and 2 can be run nearly flat out and 3 and 4 needs braking. The line is really close to the wall so getting yourself a “Dalington Stripe” is really easy.
I was uneasy during practice. I just could not get into a rhythm with the setup. The car was snappy. Dive in too hard and understeer was bad; get on the gas too early and it would oversteer around. A busy work week only gave me an hour to practice before the race, that didn’t help.
By the time the race started, I was settling into my strategy. Ride around and not do anything. Getting on the grid everything seemed fine until my paint program refreshed (it is a 3rd part program that allows custom schemes). I noticed 3 #21 cars. This certainly is not right. The sim began to bog down and I knew I was in trouble. Throughout the race I had multiples of the same car and several instances of cars switching schemes and numbers randomly. This was incredibly distracting. After disabling the painting program, I noticed a massive graphics tear in the track. This did not help.
Outside of the hardware issues, my biggest struggle was getting lost. No, not as bad as James May on a racetrack. I kept forgetting what part of the track I was at. Focusing so much on mitigating the graphics issues, keeping the car off the wall, and keeping the car off others caused me to constantly forget if I was entering Turn 1 or 3. This resulted in dribing through 1 &2 very slowly or slamming on the brakes in the middle of 3 & 4. This was very annoying to me and everyone around me. I eventually worked a solution to the issue. Darlington has grandstand entering Turn 1, it does no entering Turn 3. That and a visual check for a flag stand midway down a straight really helped me figure out where I was.
About 2/3's distance I managed to mitigate the graphics problem enough for it not to be a distraction. The racing had not been too good. The longest green flag run we had was about 25 laps. Many people struggled with snap oversteer out of the corners, and others had issues just keeping it off each other. I had been playing patty cake with the wall and it appeared neither of us were winning. Unfortunately at lap 146 of 184, I tried to make my way through a crash when the 18 car (above) had an unpredictable wall bounce. This combined with the poor decision of being down there in the first place killed the LF suspension.
After working to 11 minutes, the car was duct taped well enough to go back out on track and finish. The engine was sour and was many seconds off pace. I managed to gain 3 positions, but still came home in 22nd (of 37). Not the best effort, but at least the car could be repaired after the crash.
For those interested in the bigger picture of the NASCAR iRacing Series, it is a 36 week long competition. At the moment I am sitting 81st of 954 in my division and 247th out of 5,005. I have only been able to compete 16 of the 25 weeks so far. I haven’t been able to compete in all the races due to ‘real life’ but for a part time effort, that is not bad at all.