Ray Alfalla is the most successful eNASCAR driver of all time, winning four iRacing world championships. We talked with him about the evolution of eNASCAR and its current state.
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Ray Alfalla has been dominating virtual NASCAR for years. He won more iRacing World Championships than any other driver and has been a part of the scene from its beginning. Today, Alfalla is still racing in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series boasting a prize pool of $300,000. Besides competing, he also uses his broad experience to teach esports racing. OverTake asked him about the development of eNASCAR and its current state in times of the virtual racing boom.
Overtake: Hey Ray! Thank you so much for taking the time. Can you give our readers a quick overview on your esports racing career?
Thanks for having me. I’ve been sim racing for over 20 years now, and it’s been a wild ride! I started with the NASCAR Racing games made by Papyrus in the late 90s, which then turned into NASCAR Racing 2003, where I began my online career. I raced in several high caliber leagues, including Dale Jr’s DMP Pro Series, where I was able to win two championships.
In 2008, I joined iRacing, and quickly progressed through the ranks and into the inaugural Drivers World Championship, now known as the eNASCAR Coca-Cola Series. I’ve been able to win four championships with the help of many awesome people around me.
You started online racing in 2003. What did the virtual NASCAR scene look like back then?
We were all on the NASCAR Racing 2003 platform, which was made by Papyrus; the same core group that made iRacing. There were several different leagues, but nothing centralized like what we have now. Dale Jr’s DMP Pro Series was considered the top of the ladder. I remember as a teenager racing Dale Jr, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Martin Truex Jr way back then. Seems like it’s all come full circle in 2020.
You won your first iRacing eNASCAR world championship in 2011. In 2018, you claimed the title for the fourth time. How did the competition change over the years?
The field continues to tighten in speed, as more and more quality drivers enter. A bad day now means running in the back, where in 2011 it may have been still a top 10.
The 2019 season was quite a tough one for you. After all your successes, you suddenly found yourself out of the top 20 in the eNASCAR iRacing Series. How did you prepare for a comeback in the 2020 series?
Lots of changes happened last year with the aero and engine package, which took a while to get used to. By the time I felt competitive, my season was in shambles. Many crashes relegated me to P21 in the final points. For 2020, we have a new tire and the car continues to evolve. It’s an ongoing process of trying to adjust your driving to the car, as well as find speed in the garage.
There is a lot happening around esports racing and eNASCAR at the moment. With real racing events being canceled and postponed, there has been a massive push for virtual racing. How do you personally experience the impact of the coronavirus right now?
My daily life has not changed much as a mailman for the United States Postal Service. We have to be more careful with personal interactions and wear masks, but nothing else has changed otherwise. The sim racing scene has blown up, though. iRacing has been thrust into the mainstream, and it’s so gratifying to see the sim racing community’s hard work now on television for all to see.
NASCAR has established the iRacing Pro Invitational Series with real-world NASCAR drivers which is even being aired live on TV. Many new people are starting to discover virtual racing. How much do you think will eNASCAR profit from this situation?
It’s an unfortunate circumstance with the pandemic causing all of this, but the boom we are seeing on the virtual side has been something many in this industry have been hoping for. Without the crisis, it would have taken much longer, but at least there is something positive coming out from these hard times.
I think it’s only the beginning for eNASCAR. It’s only a matter of time before several big sponsors come in and further elevate the series. We got a big one, Coca-Cola, as the title sponsor this year, and who knows what else is coming!
Ten years ago, the eNASCAR iRacing Series went into its first season. Today, it is one of the biggest esports racing competitions with a prize pool of $300,000. Where do you think eNASCAR will be in another ten years?
I hope that the drivers at the top level are making a living from it in ten years. That could happen sooner at the rate it’s been going. I have no idea where this is all going to be in a decade, but I’m very excited to be a part of it.
2020 seems like the biggest year for esports racing in history yet. What are your goals for 2020?
To win the whole thing! That’s $100,000 dollars waiting at Phoenix for the champion, and the competition is fierce. Racing in this series and being successful in it is why we all compete. It’s the most gratifying feeling, knowing that you’ve beat all of these great drivers. Losing hurts just as much, if not more. I’m trying to get back to 2018 form!
Photo Credit: Ray Alfalla