By Bryan Blackford member & NASCAR iRacing World Championship Driver

Earlier this year on July 29, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travelled to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to compete in their 20th race of the season.  Every team brings their “latest and greatest” equipment to this event in hopes of capturing a Brickyard 400 victory.  The 2012 season was no exception.

Hendrick Motorsports – specifically the 48 and 88 teams of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.   brought something truly unique to this race.  It showed up on Sunday as Johnson went on to claim his 4th victory at the famed 2.5 mile track.  Earnhardt was able to earn yet another top 5 finish in his incredibly impressive 2012 campaign.

It takes a great driver to get around Indy, but the competition noticed something was different about the 48 and 88.  Their cars were in a constant state of yaw around the entire track – even on the straightaway.  This yaw increased the side force generated by the right side of their cars which allowed them to carry more speed through the turns.  In layman’s terms – a clear advantage, but it didn’t take long for the competition to catch on to what the “48/88” shop had discovered.

At Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday night this past weekend, we saw just how much the competition has caught up to Hendrick Motorsports.  Denny Hamlin scored his 4th win of the season after leading the most laps.  It’s clear that the top-tier Sprint Cup teams are once again very evenly matched.

Let’s switch gears to the other NASCAR-sanctioned series – the NASCAR Series World Championship.  On the night of July 10th earlier this season, the NiSWC drivers tackled the demanding Dover International Speedway for their 11th race of the season.  Kevin King ended up scoring his first win of the season by dominating the 2nd half of the race.  His teammate, Patrick Baldwin led the most laps and dominated the first portion of the race.

What is so special about this race, you ask?  King’s team, Sim Chassis, was able to find a setup advantage as well.  They found their advantage on the ever-evolving Motorsports Simulator just by finding the right combination of spring, trackbar, and sway bar settings.  In fact, they found the same advantage that Hendrick Motorsports would employ later that month at Indianapolis.  While there are a couple of different techniques used in the real world to optimize this advantage, the basic concept both teams used are eerily similar. Did Sim Chassis beat the mighty Hendrick Motorsports to the punch in their virtual world?  While this is up for debate, the long-term implications of these events aren’t.  This is one of iRacing’s crowning achievements thus far.  The similarity between the virtual world and real world in motorsport is nothing short of remarkable.

Is on their way to becoming an essential tool for the Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams?  No doubt, it has proven to be an enormous benefit to real world drivers who are learning a new car or track.  However, up to this point, the gear heads in iRacing and the Sprint Cup crew chiefs have had their differences.  But, they’ve also had their similarities in many instances and this recently discovered trickery is just further proof that iRacing’s future is bright.

Only time will tell us how realistic can become.  Will Sprint Cup crew chiefs of the future be tinkering in the virtual garage?  Who knows.  Let’s be honest, there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made in order for that dream to become reality.  Nevertheless, with the innovations of computer processing speed still growing at exponential rates, it is tough to bet against the humble staff in Bedford, Mass.

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Enjoyed the article, very interesting Bryan.

Robert G
September 6th, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Interesting Read. Pretty remarkable!

Tracy C
September 6th, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Yep. good article..Very interesting!

Michael Keeton
September 6th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Awesome job Bryan!

Kevin K
September 6th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

” The similarity between the virtual world and real world in motorsport is nothing short of remarkable.”
I’m sorry, but this can’t be taken seriously. Motorsport isn’t only ovals. Actually, for the rest of the world, is everything BUT ovals. And well, the “similarity” between real and virtual world, when it comes to iRacing, just doesn’t exist. Tyre temperatures, tyre wear, setup tweaks… All this things are completely flawed right now.

September 6th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I respect your opinion Luciano, but whether you’re willing to admit it, there is progress being made. Look at how far racing simulators have come in the past 20 years. Can you imagine what the next 20 years will be like? Maybe we should invent a time machine and take iRacing into the past. What would people say about it? Sure, we all want the physics model to be perfected in the next build, but development takes time.

Don’t worry, I’m the first one to criticize iRacing when they screw up. Most DWC drivers are great at that, but I’m also going to stick up for them when they get something right. Things are only going to get better from here.

Bryan Blackford
September 6th, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Kinda intresting that the advantage is gone now in NASCAR. Wonder if iRacing will implement a similar package.

Brennan Mercer
September 7th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Would there not be simulating software that is dedicated to professional race car team engineers, for a specific model? I would think that would be the likely future, if it doesnt already exist.

September 11th, 2012 at 7:51 am

Gaining yes. Will it ever rival the real thing? NO. There is no simulating your but in the seat of real car.

October 26th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Those who say it’s not even close must be playing on one small monitor with tiny little speakers. With all the hardware available you can create a very close facsimile,using triple, or even better 5 screens,a quality 7.1 surround sound amp,with purpose orientated speaker positioning,a lumbar rumble pack,combined with a quality wheel & pedal set & cockpit,can create such a realistic sensation,that good hard driving/racing,cures my need for an adrenaline hit,which i normally only got from skydiving! If that’s not realistic,i’ll be a monkeys uncle!

February 11th, 2013 at 4:33 am

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