By Cara Cooper
Bulletin Sports Editor
Drivers are all itching to get back on the real track and resume normal racing, but some are still taking advantage of getting to try something new in the virtual realm.
NASCAR Cup Series veteran Landon Cassill was part of the iRacing family from the simulator’s beginnings, and while he stepped away for some time, he’s getting a new chance to return to virtual racing and interact with his fans in new ways.
Cassill spoke with the Bulletin last week about returning to iRacing and the opportunities the virtual platform has given him.
(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and space.)
Martinsville Bulletin: How much have you been enjoying iRacing right now with no real races going on?
Landon Cassill: I’ve really enjoyed it. I feel like it’s actually, believe it or not, it’s presented opportunities for me to work with people I haven’t worked with before like Blue Emu. I think it’s an overall positive.
During normal times in the race season how much would you be on iRacing? Are you on it more now?
Oh yea, I’m on it way more now. I have so much time on my hands I’ve been able to dive into it. I think it’s maybe opened my eyes to the benefits of it and makes me want to now spend more time on iRacing while in conjunction with physical racing just to see what kind of training it really does for me on a week to week basis.
How much are you practicing on it each week?
I’m on it a couple hours a day right now. Mainly because I’m not really practicing but trying to make content. I’m streaming a lot on Twitch, trying to deliver value for my sponsor who would much rather be on the race track right now, but I’m able to do it in the digital world. And just kind of interacting with my fans. There’s definitely a thirst for content right now when it comes to especially motorsports. Everything from training for the pro-invitational races to making sure I can run up front to making all kinds of content.
Did it take you a while to get back into sim racing or is it sort of like riding a bike where once you learn you don’t really forget?
It was kind of like riding a bike. I think that once you know how to drive a car in a simulator you can pick up on it pretty quickly and if you’re a real race car driver you can probably pick up on certain things in the simulator that aren’t there just because you don’t have that full immersion. Once you kind of learn how to drive the car or drive the simulator the way it’s meant to be driven you realize it’s more similar to a real car than you may have given it credit for.
Making content and having that time to interact with fans, do you think that’s going to help make more people interested in racing, especially virtual racing, even once we go back to normal?
It’s so hard to tell where this can go. I think that there’s a lot of potential for this to stuff. iRacing has always been a valuable tool and I think that there’s nothing new that comes out of it other than people realize what a quality platform it is. So I do think that a lot of the energy will definitely stick.
Having this time to interact with fans, how different is that for you? Is it something you’re enjoying having them see a different side of you?
Absolutely. If nothing else it’s filling a gap because the fans don’t really have any access to the drivers right now because there aren’t any races going on. And it’s building a community. My Twitch fans, they can see me on Twitch but if they’re a subscriber they can join my Discord channel, which is like an online app to communicate. It’s something I’m active in. it’s almost like sending me a text message at any time during the day. They can ask me questions and I’ll respond and be a part of the conversation.
iRacing is pretty similar in the way you drive, but what are some of the difference in driving at Martinsville Speedway versus iRacing there?
Just that immersion of the G-forces that when you hit the brake pedal so hard and the car slows down it throws your body forward. You don’t get that in the simulator quite like you do in real life because it’s not moving. But the visuals of iRacing are really, really good. They’re really accurate. The way the track is modeled is very accurate.
Are you more comfortable at Martinsville in a real car or a sim? Is it a place where you have a feel for it pretty well?
I’ve actually felt like I run very well there in real life. It’s always been a good track for me. I feel like I learn something new there and I think the sim actually provided some perspective for me to work on things that I tend to struggle with there in real life as well.
For someone who hasn’t been watching and is watching the iRaces on TV for the first time, what can you tell them? Is there anything they should watch out for or follow to get the most out of understanding and watching the experience?
Put the broadcast on TV, put on the Fox broadcast, and then get out your computer or your smartphone and check out some of the drivers’ streams and see the behind the scenes because that’s one cool thing that we’ve kind of been able to deliver to the fans is the ability to stream while we’re racing, and communicate with fans while we’re racing. I’m live on my Twitch channel pretty much every day of the week but especially during the races so my fans are able to watch my races and communicate with me at the same time.