NASCAR to trial Chicago street circuit on iRacing with view to real-life race


NASCAR will trial a Chicago street circuit in iRacing with a potential real-life race following in the future

NASCAR Chicago Circuit

The virtual Chicago circuit could become reality for NASCAR

NASCAR is set to take to the virtual streets of Chicago in a move that could eventually bring a real race to the city.

In a collaboration with sim racing platform iRacing, a downtown loop street circuit is being developed and will host an official round in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series on June 2.

It will be the first circuit developed for iRacing that is based on a non-existent circuit, with the city streets set to be laser-scanned into the game to capture the road surface and surroundings as accurately as possible

The 2.2-mile circuit could then become a venue for the official NASCAR Cup schedule in the future, with promoters eager to collaborate with NASCAR and iRacing to produce a “launching pad” for a real-life event.

“Today’s announcement marks a huge milestone for Chicago and the Chicago Sports Commission. CSC and its partners, such as TSMGI who has been integral in securing this event, have long awaited the opportunity to collaborate with NASCAR,” executive director of the Chicago Sports Commission Kara Bachman said.

“The iRacing Pro Invitational Series is the perfect virtual launching pad and a testament to NASCAR’s innovation.”

NASCAR’s schedule has undergone a sizeable change already for the 2021 season, with several road courses and special events replacing well-visited ovals in a move welcomed by many fans.

Bristol Motor Speedway is set to host the first premier series dirt race in 70 years this weekend, while the Circuit of the Americas, Daytona Road Course and Road America have been added to the ’21 calendar. A future Chicago street race could join as part of further shake-ups.

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“As we look at future schedules, certainly have everything on the table,” said NASCAR vice president of strategic initiatives Ben Kennedy

“I think you look at 2021, we’ve talked about it a lot. It’s the most bold and dynamic schedule we’ve seen in over 50 years, and a testament to the industry for being able to pull that off and come together.

“A lot of exciting things in ’21. I think as we look toward 2022, really our goals and expectations are the same. We want to continue to innovate, we want to continue to protect those prestigious events like the Daytona 500 and the Coke 600, but also be able to go to new markets and shake things up. So I think a really unique opportunity to work with iRacing on this, to be able to test something out.”

The Chicago venture isn’t the first time iRacing has helped NASCAR form part of its schedule either. Last year, changes to Auto Club Speedway in California were first tested on the sim platform, with the 2-mile oval set to be renovated into a half-mile short track with high banked turns for the 2023 season.

Formula 1 has also been using technology in the research and development of its future concepts and circuits, with a simulator being purpose-built to test alternative race formats.

It has also developed a virtual testing environment that is iterated based on AI simulation and fan reaction. Those simulations have already led to F1 altering the layout of the Australian Grand Prix circuit in Albert Park, as well as aid the development of the new Saudi Arabia street circuit in Jeddah.