Though Tuesday’s NASCAR iRacing PEAK Anti-Freeze Series was a roaring success for our very own Dustin Lengert and his driver Ryan Luza – capturing their virtual team’s second victory of the season in as many races with a dominant drive which saw Luza pull away by several seconds – iRacing’s most prominent eSport series was far from a celebration of sim racing for all involved. An honest mistake behind the scenes, followed by poor execution in rectifying the error by a pair of stewards already notorious for less than stellar decision making skills, saw one of the participants in the race accidentally booted from the event. This comes only a few weeks after the first round of the 2017 PEAK Anti-Freeze season was attempted a second time, due to the original running of the event falling prey to internal technical issues and forced to continue as a full length non-points exhibition event.
With the organization funded in part by the owner of the Boston Red Sox, as well as NASCAR themselves and a major automotive brand in Peak Anti-Freeze signing on as the title sponsor, you’d think the $10,000 championship would suffer from significantly less hiccups than a private rFactor league run by part-time hobbyists. Unfortunately, for all of the money being pumped into this venture, the first two events of the 2017 have both been marred by amateur mistakes and a lack of foresight, and you start to wonder when PEAK will pull the plug, or at the very least, when a new crop of individuals will be brought in to try and turn this sinking ship around.
The Vegas controversy stems from Peak Anti-Freeze Series competitor Brian Schoenburg, though the problems began with what appears to be an honest mistake instead of any sort of meaningful on-track violation. iRacing allows for live spotting and crew chief functionality, which in basic terms lets you jump in a friend’s session while they’re racing, and make on-the-fly setup adjustments for them or call out the action around them – a co-op campaign mode of sorts, one which is greatly appreciated and one of the objectively cool things about iRacing.
Schoenburg’s spotter password spontaneously reset itself – an issue that has reportedly been known by the staff and not yet received a fix – meaning individuals affiliated with rival teams could enter the spotter’s box for Schoenburg at will and both steal his setup, as well as make pitstop adjustments that would fuck with his race strategy, obviously taking him out of contention for the win. iRacing stewards Shannon Whitmore, Tyler Hudson, and Nim Cross Jr. were promptly made aware of the issue, and in the scramble to rectify the situation, booted Brian Schoenburg from the event altogether instead of setting a temporary password on his virtual crew chief capabilities so his actual teammates could access iRacing’s co-op mode and continue on as normal.
Schoenburg was listed as disqualified due to the ineptitude of the head stewards clicking the wrong button, and now the Peak Anti-Freeze Series has been forced to insert a drop week in the points championship to compensate – though seventeen events are listed on the schedule, only a driver’s best sixteen will count in the standings. This will obviously be further complicated by iRacing opting to use NASCAR’s controversial post-season elimination process for the final portion of the season, so we won’t actually see how this affects the hunt for $10,000 until later this year.
Schoenburg made an announcement about the incident on his personal Facebook page, leading many iRacers to openly blast the officiating duo for years upon years of ineptitude, favoritism, and a total lack of qualifications for the position – all of which are points we’ve brought up in the past, but have been attacked for talking about by rabid iRacers convinced we have some kind of irrational vendetta against the simulator. Individuals vocalizing their frustration with iRacing are not random sim racers, but in some cases prominent sim racing personalities who once sponsored iRacing, and whose decals can be applied to your car in the default livery editing program on the website itself – indicating a lot of people are becoming fed up with the Massachusetts developer once responsible for phenomenal simulators such as Grand Prix Legends and NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.
The laughs don’t stop there, as it turns out Schoenburg’s removal wasn’t the only developing story of the night; Taylor Hurst’s car was parked in a competitor’s pit stall for over thirty minutes before he was removed from the session, with iRacer Brian Day outright stating he believes the pair of stewards have only retained their position with iRacing thanks to being acquaintances with upper management outside of the simulator.
Lastly, it turns out iRacing have been aware of this spotter access glitch dating back to 2014, and it has popped up in both iRacing Peak Anti-Freeze Series events this season, but the team are yet to rectify it – instead distracting people by pushing out multiple pieces of content rather than fixing bugs that drastically tilt the playing field and compromise the integrity of an online championship sponsored by both NASCAR and a major automotive brand.
Peak Anti-Freeze recently became the title sponsor of NASCAR’s Mexico series – you know, real life stock cars – so it’s hard to believe the brand would be willing to tolerate funding this level of ineptitude in a virtual environment much longer with comments such as “we have one official who thinks right is left and another who can’t spell his own name” popping up across social media.
Now will iRacing fix the glitch itself, or at least find a new crop of stewards to call the action? “Probably not” is a reasonable answer to either of those questions – they’ve known about the problem since 2014, and we’re now three months into 2017, with an entire new discipline of race cars set to be released next week. What’s that? Bug fixes? Incompetent stewards? Sorry, can’t hear you, dirt ovals are coming.