Q: Your column of May 27 was absolutely, dead nuts, center-of-the-bullseye, spot on. Sim ‘racing’ is 110% pure BS. And the consequences for things that happen during these ‘events’ would be hilarious if they weren’t so pathetic. Abt and Larson losing their jobs because of their behavior during this game playing is just pitiful. When I watched my first (and last) sim ‘race’ about two months ago I thought, ‘I would turn my car around 180 degrees and go like hell.’ Now that would be entertainment! Forget about the ‘big one’ at Talladega. What’s to lose? Everyone gets a ‘do-over’.” But I suppose the pretending, ‘oh so serious,’ no-brain gamers would be so upset they’d probably drop their bag of potato chips.
Demographics suggest the average racing fan is 48 and getting older. You, Miller, and I, are dinosaurs, and will soon enough, be extinct. The few young real racing fans (like my son, age 33) of today will never experience the halcyon, raucous, ‘days of real thunder’ of the past. And that’s a shame. By the way, I have become a Kyle Larson fan. And I’m working on Daniel Abt! Is Larson done with stock cars?
RM: Look, there’s no denying Larson crossed the line, and the fallout was swift and expected in today’s world, but like Willy T. Ribbs said: “He didn’t kill anybody like O.J.”, and I think Kyle is truly remorseful for becoming such a lightning rod. And using a racial slur in the public forum. He’s just a quiet kid who loves going fast in midgets and sprinters, and I think Tony Stewart will bring him back to Cup if he chooses. But Ganassi had no options in the face of losing all his sponsors.
Q: I rarely have disagreement with your opinions, but I think your take on Daniel Abt is way off. Abt was being paid by Audi and their backers to represent their brands and race team. It may not have been a motor race, but it was a public event in which they wanted him to compete in a racing simulation. But he sent a surrogate to cheat for him.
Put another way, if U.S. Concrete hosted an online event featuring Marco Andretti, but instead Marco sent someone from the race shop in his place, would U.S. Concrete think it was OK because it was just an online event? TV isn’t real life either (particularly NBC Sports Gold), but I’m pretty sure NBC wouldn’t be happy if you or Diffey took it upon yourselves to outsource the job. You’re perfectly right to shake your head at a computer game being nonsense and opine on whether race car drivers do or should take it seriously. Abt tried to excuse it as just a game. If it’s a silly game that doesn’t matter to him, why did he go through the effort to cheat to improve his results? He failed to represent Audi and their partners as they pay him to do. The consequences are on him.
Aron Meyer, Tucson, AZ
RM: I can’t imagine any IndyCar driver losing his job for bringing in a ringer for a video game, and I think Audi was simply looking for a reason to get rid of Abt because he wasn’t running up front. But I did have a few “sim experts” tell me that Pagenaud should be fired by Roger Penske for crashing into Lando Norris in fake racing. I just shake my head.
Q: First off, I’d take being called an old half-assed midget driver stuck in the 1960s and 1970s as a compliment. As it is, I’m one of those much-reviled Millennial types. You nailed this pro sim-racing experiment on every point. There are some positives to it, between the increased exposure for the sport, certain drivers like Conor Daly and Sage Karam have raised their profile in a good way. Robert Wickens might be the best story out of all of this, as he’s used this time as another step in his rehab. That’s all good, but it’s not everything.
As one of the younger generation, I watch some sim racers on occasion, and most are entertaining in one way or another. The idea is to put on a show, after all. But I have little interest in watching a virtual race the way I would a real race. There’s little exclusivity to sim racing –, I can go and buy a sim game myself and run a virtual car around a virtual track. I won’t be as good as the regulars, but it’s attainable. Add to that the complete lack of risk and you have people making wild, unrealistic moves all over the place (not dissimilar from a NASCAR plate race).
I watch racing for one main reason: the people who drive race cars do something I cannot do, and do it well. Yes, fast cars are cool, competition is exciting and traditions are inspiring, but race drivers are a different breed. How else do you explain how a person can crash a car at 180, 190+ mph, then turn around, hop in another car and try it again? Even if I could drive one of those cars, I’d never run near the limit like the pros can.
The risk is part of the appeal, always has been and always will be. No one wants to see a driver crash, but the risk is always there and you know they are always dancing on the edge of control for the sake of speed and the chance to win. It’s something no other sport has. Sims have a place in modern racing: teams and drivers use them for testing and learning new tracks, and the exposure that sim racers bring to the sport can only help, but it will always be complimentary to the real deal. I’m glad real racing is back, and I can’t wait to see IndyCar in action at Texas.
RM: Thanks Kyle, for delivering one of the most rational and best-written letters in The Mailbag’s 30-year history. You nailed it.