William Byron has won two eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series races since real-life racing went away. Still, thanks to some extra time during quarantine, asphalt is no longer Byron’s only love.
In the last few weeks, Byron has competed on dirt almost more than he has on asphalt. When dirt was first added to the iRacing program a few years ago, Byron dabbled in it, but real-world commitments kept him from doing much. Now, however, Byron has not only run some practices but has also been in the field for three World of Outlaws events.
“I love it, it’s a blast,” Byron told RACER. “What I like the most is the track changes. You can really move around, and I feel like that takes a lot different skill set.”
Byron is considered an iRacing pro when it comes to asphalt, and whenever the program is discussed as a tool for racers, his name is mentioned. But his skills and instincts don’t necessarily translate to running on dirt and turning both left and right.
“Oh, it’s so different,” admitted Byron. “The hardest thing is when the track gets slick, and you have to ease the car into the corner; but, at the same time, you have to attack because if you are too easy with it, then you just don’t go fast enough. It’s a really hard thing. Plus, I’m using my left hand more than my right hand, where with asphalt it’s the opposite — I always use my right hand and push on the wheel.
“On dirt, my right hand kind of sits there because I’m turning back to the right most of the time. I turn to the left a little bit, but most of the time, you’re back to the right. It’s almost a different side of your brain.”
Just recently has Byron felt it all click to where he believes he knows what the car needs to feel like and how to make time. In the beginning, he felt out of control, and although he was completing laps, he wasn’t fast.
“Now, I kind of understand what it takes to be fast, and I find myself closer to the top five, I guess, and the leaderboards in most practice sessions. That’s been good. I’d say I’m good, not great at it yet. But I’ve definitely made a lot of improvement.”
At Lernersville, the first WoO event Byron ran, he transferred into the feature from his heat race. Contact with Logan Seavey, though, left Byron with a 16th-place finish. Byron then won his last chance qualifying race at Williams Grove to transfer into the feature where he finished seventh. And most recently, at Eldora, Byron won his heat race and finished 17th in the feature. However, he was running inside the top five when he spun and felt it was the first race that he was really in contention.
“I think I’m top 10 right now,” said Byron. “The hardest thing for me is I haven’t watched a lot of dirt racing, and I haven’t really paid attention to what the cars look like and what makes them go fast. I’ve watched NASCAR my whole life, and I know exactly what a good car looks like going around the track and what looks fast and all that. (But) for dirt, I don’t know that.
“I’m out in left field in terms of little tricks and things to go fast, but I’m starting to pick up on it more and more. And I just enjoy racing against Christopher Bell and all those guys because there are things I learn from them.”
All of this has also led to Byron wondering what other racing disciplines he might want to try.
“It gives me an open mind to try different things on iRacing and learn things about my driving style,” he said. “I feel like the more things I try on there, the better of a driver I can be. I’ve even considered doing some road racing and doing some IndyCar and stuff like that; but I just don’t have the time right now because of the NASCAR and the dirt stuff.
“But, it definitely has opened my eyes to what else I’d want to do just to help me learn some different driving characteristics. There are so many things on there that you can learn from.”