As racing technology has advanced, more drivers are using race simulators to prepare for actual races.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been among those using the simulators, and he thinks it is a helpful tool that will become more popular in the future.
The racing simulator has big screens with a seat in the middle of a dark room where drivers can race on tracks designed just like the ones they drive on for NASCAR races. A group of engineers collect data in the next room.
Earnhardt Jr. told ESPN that racing in the iRacing simulator has become a part of his weekly routine.
“When engineers first came into NASCAR, all the racer crew chiefs didn’t want to listen to no engineer on their pit box — and the sim is now the new engineer,” Earnhardt said. “It’s just a tool some of these guys might not be familiar with. They might look at it as a video game and not real and not realistic.
“But with what iRacing has done over the years, I saw this coming a mile away. … It’s definitely going to be a useful tool and it’s here to stay.”
The race simulator isn’t for everyone, though.
Al Allmendinger gave the simulator a try, but didn’t last long. He said he started sweating and nearly threw up after only five laps.
The seat moves when racing the simulator to give drivers a feel for how it would be in the actual car. Earnhardt Jr. said he uses the simulator to help assess what adjustments he and his team need to make at the track.
Younger drivers have begun using the simulators more often. Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon and Bubba Wallace have all prepped with the simulator before actual races.
Earnhardt Jr. said it’s a “free chance to practice,” so he will continue to take advantage of it as long as he can. With several young drivers also giving it a chance, it appears as if the racing simulators will be more prevalent in the future.