Kraus uses virtual racing to stay sharp during hiatus

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STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW)- Two weeks ago, Derek Kraus showed up to Atlanta Motor Speedway the morning of the third NASCAR truck series race of the season. The plan was for the show to go on without fans.

NASCAR Truck Series driver Derek Kraus on IRacing at his home in Stratford, Wisconsin, on March 26, 2020. (WSAW)

That quickly changed.

“We waited, waited, waited,” Kraus said. “Then we got there, they opened the gates. They had everyone stopped there, and NASCAR officials were like ‘we're not having the event.’"

NASCAR was one of the last pro sports to be suspended due to the coronavirus, it was also one of the first to feature some sort of live event since the outbreak.

Last Sunday, 35 drivers went at it on a virtual Homestead Miami speedway, through an online simulation called IRacing.

"Like I'll be racing a street stock race at nine o'clock at night here at home,” Kraus said. “And I'll be racing against Dale (Earnhardt) Jr.”

The Stratford native has used IRacing since he was 12.

Kraus explains, "It's just one of the tools that can keep me sharp and keep me motivated for the racing season, and just make sure I hit my lines, hit my marks right every single time I go onto the racetrack."

While IRacing is technically a video game, driver after driver say it's as close to the real thing as you'll ever get.

"There's tire wear and damage,” Kraus said. “And like the drafting at Daytona and Talladega, you can draft up with people. It just helps a driver like me that's growing."

With more than 80 tracks laser scanned down to the bumps, IRacing is an invaluable tool at a time like this.

"Just through IRacing everything's just so accurate,” said Kraus. “Everything's right on point to where you can just hop in a car and then go to the racetrack, and you'll feel like you're in the ballpark or you're really close on time."

If you've ever wanted to race against Kraus, now's your chance.
He along with other drivers and members of his truck series team will be racing weekly on Iracing starting Saturday night.

Anyone can register for a minimum five dollar donation, with all proceeds going towards a food pantry in North Carolina.