NASCAR's Pro Invitational Series continues on Sunday afternoon as drivers head to the virtual Talladega Superspeedway. There will be a stacked field of competitors, many of which are still learning the intricacies of the "iRacing" platform. Driver Garrett Smithley, on the other hand, has considerable experience with the simulation video game and has registered a third-place finish and two other top-10s over the first four weeks.
Speaking with PopCulture.comin an exclusive interview, Smithley revealed that he has been using "iRacing" since roughly 2009. His sim experience with other platforms dates back to 2007. Denny Hamlin and a few other drivers may have 20-plus years of their own experience, but Smithley has still been able to use his time behind the wheel to find consistency amid the postponed Cup Series season. Even when faced with tracks that aren't "ideal" for him, he has still been in contention for a top spot.
"I think it's just been the experience and the time that I've put into running these laps. It's funny, all these tracks that we've run, with the exception of Texas, aren't necessarily good tracks for me in 'iRacing' so I really had to work hard," Smithley said. "Even though we've been successful I've had to work hard behind the scenes just to try to maintain that level of competitiveness. I'm proud that I was able to run top five at least at some point in all four of these races that we've run.
"I, unfortunately, didn't get the finish that we wanted or felt like that we deserved at Richmond," Smithley continued. "[We] just had a little bit of an incident at the end, but that's racing and we move on from it, it happens in real life. But all in all, it's been pretty cool to do that, it's just the experience that I've had in the past with 'iRacing' and the work that I've put into it all come together to form some successful races."
With FOX fully embracing the virtual events and airing them across multiple channels, the drivers have been tasked with performing in front of massive audiences. Traditional racing fans are tuning in weekly, as are those that enjoy the simulation video game. This increase in attention has resulted in new experiences for Smithley and his fellow drivers, including additional media appearances.
"It was cool to see everything post all the media stuff that we did Sunday night after the first race and then throughout the week," Smithley said. "I did more media for that race when we won the pole, we ran up front, led some laps. I think we led the second-most laps and then finished fifth. I did more media doing that than pretty much ever.
"And I think it's just the fact that one, it was kind of a shock that we ran upfront like that because we don't get to have that opportunity in real life, but also I think it's just everybody wants to jump on board because there's nothing else going on," he continued. "Everybody wants to write about it, everyone wants to talk about it, everybody wants to get back to normal. It was definitely a cool opportunity."0comments
The NASCAR season could potentially return in May, but the racing organization is still examining all of the various factors in play. Real events are possible in the near future, but they are not guaranteed. For now, the NASCAR drivers will continue to participate in the Pro Invitational Series.
The Geico 70 will take place on Sunday afternoon on the virtual Talladega Superspeedway. The broadcast will begin at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app. When the green flag waves, Smithley will attempt to secure his first victory of the Pro Invitational Series.