In the days preceding the actual Daytona 500, sim racers gear up for the most anticipated NASCAR sim race in all of video gaming. The iRacing Daytona 500 is one of the marquee events hosted on the iRacing service. Around 750 racers signed up to go 500 miles around the Daytona International Speedway. Here is my account for my race.
With real life being in the way, preparation and practice were seldom for me. I ran a few practice sessions, but since there was no organization amongst the participants, I really didn't know what my setup entailed (as far as pack racing goes). I did attempt to qualify before the race, but all I did was slap a bunch of tape on the grille which was a pathetic attempt at speed when compared to the dedicated qualifying sets.
Cars were sitting on pit road and it was time to roll off for the start of the race. Nothing too fancy here. The race start was very smooth and people got into line and began riding.
That is when we found out the biggest challenge about this type of racing. Much like you experience on the freeway, people stack up and play follow the leader. However, in order to effectively do that one can only go as fast as the car in front of them. This resulted in a problem where the 2nd place car would come up on the leader and let off the gas a bit, this would in turn cause the person behind them to let off, and so on until someone actually needs to stab the brakes. This usually resulted in someone getting run over and turned. Unfortunately, there isn't too much of a way around this with the way the draft is modeled couple with the limitations of internet racing (i.e. positioning cars).
This was the first moment that nearly cost me my race. iRacing has become notorious for server issues when it comes to big races like these (it is a lot better than it use to be). There were a few cases of people getting dropped simply due to the load on the servers of the multitudes of people trying to race. In-game we are given a stat box with graphs showing our connection quality, service quality, and ping. The ping had been fluctuating throughout the race and really had not been a big deal, but then the quality bar started filling up. That is bad, if that bar reaches 100%, you will be dropped from the race. You can log back in and resume, but your car will be reset to pit road and you would be a number of laps down. I personally did not want to deal with this. Thankfully a timely caution slowed everything down and gave the data stream a break which allowed it to recompile itself.
By now there have been a couple of cautions, but for the most part everyone was still in the race. This is the second moment where my race nearly ended. This is the reason you use the bathroom before the race starts.
As you can see the leader gets spun and as I slow down to avoid, the brakes lockup and the car goes right. I don't know how it kept off the wall or that last car, but I was pretty much screaming "No, don't hit anything!" throughout.
Green flag pit stops began here. This is probably the second biggest pain about this type of racing. Mess this up and you are toast. Even though I didn't mess it up, I still struggled trying to get back out on track and would end up many seconds behind the lead pack. It was very annoying and something that has plagued me for a long time. I ended up joining a group of 4 or 5 other drivers and we could hold constant 7 seconds behind the lead pack, but couldn't make any ground.
The second round of green flag pit stops had begun; however, when the second batch of lead cars came in, they piled up. Yellow flag and I was saved from the misery of green flag pit stops, or so I thought.
One more stop, only one, and the car could make it the rest of the way on gas. This was it. Car got slowed down (picked up 1 spot coming into the pits) and entry was fine, service was decently quick and exit was great. However, once back out on track the lead group overtook us and kept going. I got stuck behind a couple of off-pace cars and that was it. Managed to find a partner to keep us from going a lap down but we were just riding until the end.
I was a little over 4 seconds behind the lead pack and the 2 of us were gaining slightly. A small blip of smoke appeared in the pack ahead and the yellow came out. Unfortunately the yellow came out a bit too late and I had gone high to avoid the spinner to which he drifted up the track and I clobbered him - Race over...
I was stupid. I could think of many things to blame such as the in-game FOV I had to run is narrow and I couldn't see him, he didn't hold the brakes and that would have stopped in drifting, the yellow came out too late and I didn't have the ability to slow down, it didn't matter, it all comes down to me making a dumb choice. I had plenty of room on the bottom of the track and chose to attempt to get around on the high side. Then I saw him drift up track, I tried to slow down, but due to me have too much rear brake, they locked and the back of the car wiggled left.
It sucks, 450 miles in and I wreck the car like an idiot. Getting turned is one thing, but wrecking yourself is another. Not only that, to wreck yourself with 20 laps left of 200 is disheartening. I would much rather have wrecked on lap 1 or 199 rather than lap 180. Of course, I would rather not wreck the car at all. Alas, that is racing, their are 35 more weeks in the NASCAR iRacing Series so there is plenty of time to have some good runs. Not every race is going to go well, but it still sucks when they don't.
As of Saturday 2/21/15, iRacing cancelled all remaining Daytona 500 events and is wiping the results of previous sessions due to server issues. This really irks me as I and many others raced successfully. To find out that those 3 hours are all for naught is really disappointing (even though I crashed). I am not angry, I am just disappointed.