Last Sunday, 20-year-old rookie Trevor Bayne became the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 in Nascar history. His first experience with the track? Driving the iRacing video simulator at Daytona a year earlier, with Michael Waltrip giving him pointers.
iRacing, the fantastically detailed racing simulator that uses laser scans of race tracks to recreate the actual driving experience, has a rabid following among race drivers. Many already use the software to familiarize themselves with new courses; last year, Top Gear flew out iRacing champ Greger Huttu to Road Atlanta, where he drove nearly as well in real life as his iRacing times — except for vomiting in his helmet a few times.
During last year's Daytona 500, Bayne was able to score seat time on iRacing at the track itself with Michael Waltrip looking on.
But this wasn't Bayne's first exposure to iRacing; in 2009 a friend bought the then aspiring NASCAR Nationwide driver a gift subscription to the iRacing service. According to Rocky Bayne, Trevor's dad, his son even has a full racing setup in his house.
While Bayne doesn't compete in the official iRacing versions of Nascar races, other up-and-coming drivers do. Timmy Hill, who will make his first start this Saturday in a Nationwide Series car, has won more than 60 races on iRacing, most recently last Saturday when he won his 40-car split during the World Tour of iRacing virtual Daytona 500. It won't be long before gamers become commonplace in the winner's circle.