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Cup driver Cassill a big proponent of iRacing | Sports

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – Landon Cassill is a huge proponent of iRacing.

So much so, youths who want to make it on their own in motor racing would ask him for advice.

Flash back to 2011 when Cassill hosted an iRacing event that he posted on YouTube. One driver in particular was so impressed that he asked Cassill for advice: “Dude, how do you get so much grip. My best qualifying lap is a 29.1. and my race setup runs a 29.5 at best. Can you help me improve?”

The person who asked that question at the time was a 13-year-old named William Byron, who eight years later started from the pole Sunday night in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

iRacing has become a tool for not only NASCAR drivers but also those in IndyCar and Formula One.

So much for the days of “Pong,” “Space Invaders” and “Pac-Man” giving us mindless entertainments like video games did in the 1970s and ’80s. But these days, iRacing is just as valuable as week-long tune-ups and wind tunnels.

iRacing simulates realistic cars, tracks and events. So if a driver entering the Southern 500 for the first time wanted to see what it i like, iRacing would give him or her a preview.

iRacing is also a form of esports, which has taken off with a life of its own. So much so that the Florence County Parks and Recreation is launching an esports league on Sept. 20.

And Coker University even offers esports scholarships (in “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone”).

Cassill, of course, is most fond of iRacing.

“I’m a big fan of it,” he said last week. “I think there’s a lot of energy around it. I think it’s a low barrier of entry for esports athletes to hone their skills. I mean, really, you’ve got kids that can learn a game, learn a sport and rise through the ranks of a sport without having to make a big investment in travel and equipment and not have to leave the confines of their own home or their office.

“When it comes to iRacing, you can spend some money on a computer and membership and steering wheel and pedals, which is an investment in itself. But it’s really a cheap way to learn to race and get behind the wheel and learn the race craft and learn strategy. And like I said, right there in your own bedroom you can rise through the ranks from being a beginner to earning a living and getting paid to do it. So definitely it’s a pretty neat deal.”

For Cassill, this was a natural progression.

“I played NASCAR racing games on a computer as a kid,” he said. “It became a huge part of how I learned these tracks, and it was something I had played since I was like 8 or 9 years old. I started doing that, and as I become a race-car driver, I used iRacing to learn the tracks before I drove on them in person in real life. For me it transitioned from a game to something I was using as a simulation.”

Cassill, who dedicated his No. 00 Chevy throwback scheme to two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin’s early 2000s Coors Light Dodge, had raced Darlington eight previous times before Sunday with a best finish of 20th in 2015, said he doesn’t use iRacing much anymore to get ready for Darlington, because he’s raced there so many times.

“I have gotten to the point where at some of these race tracks I have enough experience to where the simulator for me in the past few years has been more of an engineering tool for the teams that I have driven for when I worked with Chevy and worked their simulator and worked for Ford and their simulator.

“But I feel like for a rookie driver who has yet to make their initial lap at these race tracks, iRacing is a great foundation for that.”

Cassill said he was surprised that colleges give esports scholarships, but one thing that doesn’t surprise him is the effect iRacing has on youths learning this sport.

“I think it’s extremely important,” Cassill said. “The biggest thing, I think, is there is a potential to have a career in esports or eMotorsports in the future. But getting yourself into a real race car is still a really special and unique thing. And that people should always have an open mind to use esports to help hone their craft as a potential real physical race-car driver.

“It doesn’t matter if you drive a street stock on a local race track or use a simulator tool. It’s extremely helpful.”

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