For teenagers like Sam Heskew, video games are a part of life.
It was through video games such as Gran Turismo that Heskew, a junior at Martinsville High, developed an interest in racing.
“I’ve always been quite interested in motorsports,” Heskew said. “My parents don’t really care about cars or motorsports, so I’ve had to create my own interest.”
Heskew was among 30 or so technology-based students on hand at Martinsville Speedway to hear from William Byron about the motorsports simulator iRacing and how the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver is able to apply things he learns iRacing to racing on Sundays for Hendrick Motorsports.
“It was a lot of fun to see the things that these kids got to experience for the first time, whether that was iRacing or just understanding racing in general,” Byron said. “It was really fun for me to experience that with them and I got to race too, so that’s always good.”
After Byron, iRacing Sales and Marketing Director Otto Szebeni and the iRacing Ignite Series champion Zack Novak talked about what iRacing is and the technology used to develop the simulation, the students got to experience iRacing first hand.
“It was quite nerve racking to attempt to drive in these, because there’s no forgiveness,” Heskew said after climbing out of the SimSeats simulator. “They’re not 100-percent realistic, but the seats that they are using have force feedback both in the wheel and in the seat so you feel some of the bumps and the bruises that you would get from driving on the actual track.”
Elizabeth Russell, a STEM-based teacher at Magna Vista High School, said seeing the applications they talk about in class used in real life was a great takeaway for the students.
“The technology part of this is pretty awesome,” Russell said. “How they can take what it’s like, actually simulate, what it’s like to be in a car - that’s application of technology in real life skills. This is all an interface. It’s all technology and looking at a screen. Of course there’s a lot that goes into creating it, but these kids can do this at home.
“If they get the program, they’ve got the basics so they can get into iRacing. So this gives an opportunity to think about doing something else, just like William Byron did.”
While Byron may have been one of the first drivers to make it to the Cup level after getting his first taste of racing through iRacing, Heskew doesn’t think he will be the last.
“I feel like iRacing is a very good tool to use,” he said. “In motorsports, I think there has been a decline in karting. Karting used to be the way to start and move up in motorsports, but as karting goes away, I think iRacing is moving in perfectly to replace that need.
“I’d like to build my own simulator. Not nearly as complex in these, but to be able to move up the ranks in motorsports. I’d like to, at some point in life, not necessarily drive in NASCAR, but be able to drive in some motorsports series.”
While iRacing is a great tool, that Byron still uses to hone his skills, he said it can’t account for everything it will take to win the First Data 500 on October 28.
“I feel like on iRacing you are kind of getting used to the track and you’re in a different environment,” Byron said. “There’s not as much pressure. When you get out here and the race is on Sunday it will be a lot of pressure and a lot of eyes on you to perform. So, I think that’s probably the biggest difference.”
William Byron will return to Martinsville Speedway on October 28 for the First Data 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
The race is the seventh race of the NASCAR Playoffs and the winning driver could be the first to claim a spot in the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
Martinsville Speedway PR