Earnhardt hopes to avoid trouble in IndyCar Esports debut

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is planning to "stay out of trouble" on his virtual IndyCar series debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Michigan International Speedway

Earnhardt hopes to avoid trouble in IndyCar Esports debut

The 45-year-old retired NASCAR Cup series driver has won twice at the two-mile Michigan superspeedway - which was last on the real life IndyCar schedule in 2007 - but has little to no experience of competing in virtual open-wheel racing.

Earnhardt, an avid sim racer, has been competing in several Esports events as of late including the popular Pro Invitational NASCAR Series, finishing as high as second at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

He joins a 31-car field for the third round of the virtual IndyCar championship, established during the coronavirus-induced hiatus to real world racing.

The opening two rounds at Watkins Glen and Barber Motorsports Park were won by Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) and Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske).

"I haven't put much time on the IndyCar, and obviously have no real-world experience, so there's a lot of learning and trying to understand why the car reacts the way it does and what creates those issues, because some of them are realistic and some of them may be because of the sim or the tire model of the sim," Earnhardt said.

"I'm just trying to understand how to stay out of trouble. Keep yourself out of trouble was what practice was about, and I'm looking forward to practicing some more with these guys."

IndyCar races at Michigan commonly produce prolonged three-wide pack racing, with the 2007 event overshadowed by a multi-car pileup involving Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon.

Earnhardt said he was wary of getting "boxed in" during the 85-lap event and anxious to avoid getting involved in any incidents.

"Not only are you worried about the guy beside you, whichever side he's on, and the run you're trying to create off the car in front of him, the run the guys have behind you, but most of the time you might have two guys beside you, you get boxed in real easy.

"I definitely don't want to be the one to start any crashes. I'm the new guy.

"Just being able to shift gears and have gear selection while you're drafting and trying to understand how to produce opportunities using that is really foreign to me.

"So, I'm learning on the fly. All these guys have been really helpful, the ones I've reached out to have been very supportive, and it's a good group."

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