A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE Since July of 2004, Team VLR has been synonymous with excellence in dirt track sim racing. Whether it is late models, sprint cars, modifieds or even street stocks, VLR is involved in putting on the biggest dirt sim races in the world.
THE BIGGEST NAME ON E-SPORTS DIRT RACING Victory Lane Racing has been at the forefront of dirt sim racing for many years. Beginning with the game Dirt Track Racing 2 and transitioning to the more simulation focused platform iRacing in 2017, Team VLR has hosted some of the biggest races in prestigious dirt track e-sport events. From the upcoming 12th Annual Spring Fling, a Super Late Model race, to the 2018 Sim Race for Hope 74, the largest single night dirt e-sport event in history, VLR will be there. From gathering top real world driving and on air talent, to promoting the great sim racers already on iRacing, VLR has worked dilligently to bring sim racing to a broader audience.
Veteran real world dirt track announcer Ben Shelton wrote about his experience broadcasting the 11th Annual VLR Spring Fling with almost $4,000 at stake.
While I once loved spending every waking hour playing video games, I just don’t have much free time anymore. As a result, until just a few weeks ago, my only exposure to iRacing were the screenshots and preview videos that I saw on social media. It looked cool, but I don’t know if I really appreciated just how cool it truly was. That all changed in an instant with
an announcing request from a popular league.
I’ve also worked as on-air personality for events on CBS Sports and MAV TV. It’s something I’m very lucky to get to do on a regular basis. However, never in a million years did I ever dream that I might one day announce a video game.
As iRacing has caught fire in the dirt-track world, multiple online leagues have been created. Pretty much anytime of the day you can find an online race featuring your division of choice. One such league – Team VLR – contacted me a month or so ago about possibly announcing a couple of their online endeavors. Howard Weaver – who does promotions for the league – reached out to me and said that they had their biggest ever race scheduled, and they wanted to add a real world announcer into the fold. I’ll be 110-percent honest. I wasn’t sure what to think when the proposition came my way. Over the past decade, I’ve announced hundreds of racing events across North America.
I’ve also worked as on-air personality for events on CBS Sports and MAV TV. It’s something I’m very lucky to get to do on a regular basis. However, never in a million years did I ever dream that I might one day announce a video game. At first, I was definitely reluctant. Then, I ultimately thought to myself, “Hey, what the hell. You love trying new and different stuff, so give it a shot.” Weaver told me in advance, “You’re going to be blown away by this, because the realism is through the roof, and we have some really, really good drivers that take part in these races.” I’m not going to say that I doubted him, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit apprehensive to buy into the concept. As it would turn out, he would be spot on.
So with me booked to announce the 11th annual X.Celerated Spring Fling on April 5, I requested to announce a warm-up event the week prior to get a feel for things. I didn’t want to look like a total idiot at the big event. During my warm-up event, I quickly found my groove, but even more quickly I realized how freaking cool the dirt racing expansion of iRacing truly is. The graphics are through the roof. The behavior of the cars is shockingly real. The track’s appearances and characteristics are mind-bogglingly accurate. And last, but definitely not least, the competition level is spectacular. These drivers not only know how to drive, but they also know how to set up their cars. I had a blast, and couldn’t wait for the following week’s big show to arrive.
My anticipation would be very-well rewarded. With roughly $4,000 in prize money on the line and nearly 100 racers entered, the 11th annual X.Celerated Spring Fling came to life on April 5. Not only were there virtual racers entered, but there were also some real-world ringers like Ricky Thornton Jr. and Mike McKinney in action. These guys contested a complete show of qualifying heat races, consolation events, preliminary features, and ultimately, the 100-lap, $1,000-to-win finale. Never in a million years would I have dreamed there would be such a following. Most real-world tracks would kill to have these kind of numbers
While I worked hand-in-hand on the play-by-play with virtual-racing announcing veteran Randy Chenowth, literally thousands of people from around the world watched along on Facebook Live and YouTube. And let’s talk viewing numbers. During the course of the broadcast, there were times when over 2,000 people were viewing at once. One week later, the replay has received over 27,000 views. Never in a million years would I have dreamed there would be such a following. Most real-world tracks would kill to have these kind of numbers for their special events. When the checkered flag dropped, it was New Hampshire resident, Tyler Hudson, who emerged victorious over the star-studded field. I took away several things from that night. Most notably is that iRacing is the real deal. It gives anyone and everyone the chance to experience what it’s like to race different types of racecars at famous dirt tracks. Sure, nothing can fully replace actually being in the driver’s seat, but this is pretty damn close. Next, I learned that these top-tier competitors in iRacing are true wheelmen. They tirelessly practice their driving skills, they do hours-and hours of testing, and they are there to win. It’s quite an entertaining show to watch.
There are no rainouts. There’s no overhead. There are no long drives home. Throw it all together, and iRacing’s dirt-track expansion is definitely changing the game.
Last but not least, I learned that dirt-track racing is evolving. Whether you are a racer or a fan, you can now get a racing fix online, anytime you want. I think these events will start to receive more media attention, as well as more support from sponsors. It’s only a matter of time. As a professional broadcaster, I find it especially intriguing because I can make money announcing races from the comfort of my home. There are no rainouts. There’s no overhead. There are no long drives home. Throw it all together, and iRacing’s dirt-track expansion is definitely changing the game.