iRacing drafted in to help real world track conversion

iRacing has been drafted in to help the conversion of the Auto Club Speedway which plans to downsize to a quarter of its current size.

Earlier this week, the NASCAR world received the surprising news that Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile oval, would soon be converted into a new, half-mile short track, located in place of the existing frontstretch and pit road. What they didn’t know yet, however, was that the challenging new layout has already seen some virtual laps.

Starting in April, iRacing and NASCAR collaborated directly on the redesign of the California-based speedway, which hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series event in 1997. Currently one of the fastest tracks on the schedule, the new layout features 11-degree banking on the frontstretch, 18-degree banking in the turns, and 9.5-degree banking on the backstretch—turning the track from a cathedral of speed into a coliseum of door-to-door action.

“(It’ll be) an interesting track,” iRacing executive producer Steve Myers told The Athletic earlier this week. “It’s going to be kind of like a Martinsville on steroids where it’s got very tight radius corners, but it’s got a lot of banking and then pretty decently long straightaways.”

Only a handful of iRacing staff members were a part of the project, including Myers and iRacing senior vice president of product development Greg Hill. Myers and NASCAR vice president of racing development Ben Kennedy, who first approached iRacing with the project, have served as test drivers in single-car runs thus far. The track continues to receive tweaks within the sim, including to the pit road entrance and exit, in preparation for multi-car runs before construction begins in the coming year.

The Auto Club Speedway reconfiguration joins a number of other collaborations between iRacing and NASCAR to test and configure tracks in the virtual world before bringing them to the real one. Last year, minor tweaks to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval were reflected in iRacing before the real-world NASCAR Cup Series hit the track, and the two parties worked together extensively to ensure that the DAYTONA Road Course would be suitable for the high speeds of NASCAR racing. In both cases, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, NASCAR’s premier sim racing championship on iRacing, staged races on the new layouts first.

“It’s such incredible work that Steve’s and his entire team at iRacing have done in creating a platform that can produce racing that’s similar to what we see on Sundays at a lot of our tracks,” Kennedy added. “I think that was kind of a testament actually to, ‘Hey, let’s use this as we think about tracks in the future — if it’s Auto Club, if there’s somewhere else that we want to look at.’ That’s what ultimately led to this project and having those conversations.

“They’re very meticulous and measured when they go to these tracks. They come in and laser scan them, take a bunch of photos and videos and try to replicate the real racing surface and track and signs and everything that goes along with it as close to the real-life as they can.”

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