Race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others gave the North Wilkesboro Speedway track surface a major cleanup Monday in preparation for making a virtual version for an online racing game.
Earnhardt and others spent hours cleaning the long-closed track’s aging surface of weeds and debris in preparation for its second life on the online iRacing simulator, which allows participants to virtually compete on painstakingly-detailed digital speedways.
Personnel from Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway helped clean the track, working under the supervision of Steve Myers, president of Bedford, Mass.-based iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations. Earnhardt’s JRM Motorsports and NASCAR are co-owners of iRacing.
Myers tweeted Monday, “Having spent the day walking this track I am excited to get this in iRacing. The elevation change from each end of the track is so unique. (The backstretch runs uphill, while the frontstretch goes downhill.) I have to thank Marcus Smith and all the guys from Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway for all the heavy lifting they did on this. It was a big job.”
Earnhardt tweeted Monday that the track is “getting a trim for an important date with iRacing. The end result was a super race-ready surface and a giant pile of weeds and muck. We froze through the rain to get the job finished.”
Kevin Iannarelli, iRacing associate producer and weekend asphalt modified racer who flew to the area with Myers, tweeted Tuesday that the “actual race surface is in good shape after some cleaning took place. I’d venture to say the pavement is in better shape than some short tracks I’ve raced on.”
Greg Hill, senior vice president of product development at iRacing, said in an interview that the objective is recreating an online simulation of the North Wilkesboro Speedway as it appeared in 1987.
iRacing employed digital scanning equipment to map the speedway this week, which included using a rotating scanner on a tripod to send out millions of laser beams in a 360-degree pattern. The lasers bounce back to the scanner, generating data to form three-dimensional modeling.
The scanner takes about 35 minutes to collect data within a 300-foot radius of where it is set on a tripod. After the scanning is complete, Hill said, “the hard part begins—digitally recreating this great track in iRacing.”
The North Wilkesboro Speedway should be digitally cloned and drivable online at iRacing.com by the summer or fall of 2020, according to Hill. “I am so excited to see this track delivered to the iRacing community,” tweeted Earnhardt on Monday.
iRacing, previously iRacing.com, is a subscription-based racing simulation online video game developed and published by iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations in 2008. All races and practice sessions are hosted on the service’s servers.
Currently with 80 tracks and 230 configurations, iRacing claims to be the most realistic driving simulator on the market today. It also states it has 95,000 subscribers, who pay a monthly fee of $13 or annual fee of $110 to compete in online events.
North Wilkesboro Speedway has also been featured in several NASCAR video games on the Xbox and PlayStation platforms: NASCAR Racing, NASCAR Racing 2, NASCAR Racing 3, NASCAR Racing 4, NASCAR 2003 Season and NASCAR Heat.
The track is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., the racing empire run by Bruton Smith, and has been largely abandoned since lower-level racing was last staged there in 2011. Marcus Smith is Bruton Smith’s son.
Earnhardt has won 26 races on the main NASCAR stock-car series, but having started competing in 1999 never raced at North Wilkesboro Speedway. His father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., won five times at North Wilkesboro.
Jeff Gordon video
The North Wilkesboro Speedway was also used as the backdrop for a promotional video released in November about former NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon auctioning off his personal Camaro ZL1 for charity.
Gordon’s sports car is being sold at camaroforacure.org for the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation. Up to 10,000 tickets are being sold for $100 apiece, and the raffle sale continues until Jan. 31, 2020.
The 2013 Camaro convertible is valued at $65,330, and the contest states that the winner does not have to pay taxes on the car.
Gordon won the last sanctioned NASCAR race at the speedway, on Sept. 29, 1996.