Which sim game is best for oval racing?
Image credit: 704 Games

Ovals in Sim Racing: Best Titles and Content

Oval racing may not be the most popular form of motorsport in Europe, but in America it is the go-to. For those looking to get dizzy in sim racing, there are many titles to choose from.

If you listen to audience numbers, NASCAR is by far and away not only one of the most popular motorsport disciplines in the world. It is also one of the biggest sports around.

This is a series that focuses so much on the art of going left, yet sim racing gets very little oval racing content. In fact, rarely in recent years has any oval racing series received a good official game. The IndyCar franchise has been lacking a title for decades. Meanwhile, NASCAR has seen some controversy surrounding its recent games.

Not to fear however. Across the market there are a number of games that excellently recreate left-turn-only series with first party content. Some even manage to introduce the correct features for both online and offline oval racing.

Oval Racing: Unique in Sim Racing

Before jumping into the best sim racing games for oval competition, it is worth pointing out why left-turn racing is not a wide-spread discipline in gaming. In fact, finding an accurate representation of the sport is far harder than road course racing.

Whilst popularity among gamers is an obvious explanation, another would be the features a title must include to be a capable oval racing sim. Firstly, simple race format features like rolling starts and full course yellow cautions are not always present in racing games. As a result, simpler titles like Assetto Corsa will never reach the top of the list.

Elsewhere, oval racing requires a totally different approach to driving style than circuits. As a result, AI built for traditional tracks will never be competitive on high banking with long apexes where drafting is key. Watch our own Elz Indriani’s guide on getting started in oval racing below.

iRacing: King of Oval Sim Racing?

Without a doubt, among the best oval racing games must sit iRacing. Ever since its early days, the game has featured a healthy mix of circuit and oval racing series. Today, it hosts the official NASCAR Esports competition, eNASCAR and is the series’ technical partner. In addition, the service recently rebuilt bridges with the other major oval racing series, IndyCar.

Many will dub iRacing the oval racing king thanks to its amazing features, content and AI. In fact, one can just as easily race online as offline in this title.

iRacing Oval Features

Not only does the game include rolling starts, it also gets the ‘Restart Zones’ recently brought to NASCAR competition. With perhaps the best oval racing AI in sim racing, iRacing also gets a massive thumbs up for the race craft and strategic scenarios possible offline.

Finally, as many will know, caution periods are critical oval racing strategy. Due to the speeds involved, safety cars are very frequent, even for spins in NASCAR in particular. iRacing is one of the few games to accurately replicate these periods, with their strategic implications.

iRacing Oval Content

It is also thanks to its content that iRacing will surely stand on top of the oval sim racing world. Thanks to its partnerships with both major series, iRacing features cars from many eras in the sport. The previous three generations of IndyCar chassis all feature whilst NASCAR gets modern and historic Cup cars as well as Xfinity and Trucks.

As for circuits, the game is always the quickest to react upon the announcement of new NASCAR venues. In fact, one can perfectly recreate every NASCAR Cup Series championship in recent memory.

Meanwhile, IndyCar’s brief break with iRacing means the current calendar is not quite available in the game. Missing from the 2024 in-game schedule is St Petersburg, Thermal Raceway, Toronto Street Course, Portland and the Nashville Street Circuit.

Automobilista 2 Oval Racing

In recent weeks, Automobilista 2 has grown its player base significantly. In fact, its most recent update introduced the ever-popular LMDh class along with a stunning recreation of the Circuit de la Sarthe. But OverTake Editor Yannik realised that ever since recent AI updates, it is a brilliant game for oval racing. Make sure to check that article out here.

AMS2 Oval Features

In his article, Yannik details just how much fun one can have racing the AI on ovals in Automobilista 2. Computer opponents manage to follow the draft when one would expect creating believable racing scenarios. But better yet, they will put together impressively competitive strategies. It is not until the end of a race that one will truly work out the running order.

Automobilista 2 has some of the best oval racing features in sim racing
Automobilista 2 has some of the best oval racing features in sim racing. Image credit: Reiza Studios

Elsewhere, AMS2 features a solid full course yellow mechanic. Not only does this provide the respite needed after a few dozen laps at over 200mph. It also throughs an additional spanner into the strategic works. A safety car requires a total rethink. But be quick, the green will arrive soon.

As one would expect from a modern simulator, Automobilista 2 is not unfamiliar with rolling starts, even implementing the three-wide format at Indy.

AMS2 Oval Content

Unfortunately, whilst Automobilista 2 is a fantastic base for oval racing, its content is somewhat lacking. In fact, just five oval layouts exist in the game, including one that many may well deem a road course without right turns. Here is the full AMS2 oval track list.

  • Daytona
  • Fontana
  • Gateway
  • Indianapolis
  • Jacarepagua

The story does improve somewhat when it comes to cars, depending on one’s preferred series. For IndyCar and open wheel fans, there is a full list of historical and modern cars waiting to be tested.

A recreation of the modern Dallara chassis joins a trio of CART replica generations, with RaceDepartment livery packs recreating the 1995, 1998 and 2000 seasons. However, there are no NASCAR or oval stock cars in sight. You can however find a plethora of NASCAR livery packs for non-oval cars in this article.

rFactor 2: Ovals in Sim Racing

In many cases, Assetto Corsa is the best racing game for simulating a variety of racing series thanks to its ability to welcome third party content. However, when it comes to ovals as we have mentioned, it does not have the features to host an accurate representation of the sport.

One game that comes close to its modability, but retains the features needed is rFactor 2. Better yet, it has a strong list of official oval content too.

rFactor 2 Oval Racing Content

Take a stroll through the rFactor 2 Steam Workshop and Store and you will notice that Studio 397 has created a lot of oval content. First and foremost, for free one can pick up a pair of so-called Stockcars. Available on the Workshop, but published by S397, these are unofficial recreations of the contemporary Cup cars of the time.

In addition, for much of last year, IndyCar held a strong relationship with the title. As a result, the Dallara IR-18 features in the sim. Furthermore, the previous IndyCar model, the DW12 is also present in rFactor 2, in free form. Here is the full list of oval racing cars in rF2.

  • Stockcar 2018
  • Stockcar 2018X
  • Stockcar 2015
  • Dallara DW12
  • Dallara IR-18
How long will Indycar remain in rFactor 2?
How long will IndyCar remain in rFactor 2? Image credit: Studio 397

When it comes to circuits, rF2 certainly loses its strength to simulate oval racing. Just three oval tracks feature as first party content, two Speedways and one Short Oval. In fact, the entire track list is equally covered by Automobilista 2, which perhaps presents better features for the discipline.

  • Indianapolis
  • World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)
  • Daytona International Speedway

Official NASCAR Games: Oval Proficient?

As aforementioned, recent years have seen NASCAR lack a well-received official game. In fact, the NASCAR Heat series culminated with its fifth entry in 2020. A fun arcade racer, those looking for a simulation will struggle with this title. But since then, promises by its new licence holder, Motorsport Games, led to the release of the buggy, poorly optimised NASCAR 21: Ignition.

Both titles feature full content lists for the 2020 and 2021 season respectively including cars and tracks. In addition, Ignition received a major content update in 2022 to include the new-for that year Next Gen cars.

NASCAR 2003: Oval Sim OG

All this talk of official NASCAR games has us looking in the rear view mirror. Even today, many oval racing fans will return to a title now reaching 21 years old. NASCAR 2003 Season is often thought of as the best single player oval experience.

With proficient AI, plenty of features to rival modern simulators and the ability to install a wide variety of mods, this is surely still the best official NASCAR title.

iRacing-Developed Titles

Admittedly, iRacing does trump most titles on this list. However, for those with limited budgets, or racing on console, it simply is not an option. However, there are games by the same team available for consoles with an oval focus.

In fact, a pair of titles with specific championship focus have come from studios under the iRacing company in recent years.

SRX: The Game – An Oval Console Alternative?

The first release was SRX: The Game. Today, the Superstar Racing Experience may be going through a disappointing and premature end. But in its first few seasons, it showed plenty of promise, earning its own game.

SRX: The Game is a good solution to oval racing games.
SRX: The Game is a good solution to oval racing games. Image credit: Monster Games

As a title focusing on quite a small series, the content list is far from immense. However, a discount price is sure to be worth the few hours of fun this title can provide for oval racing. In total, three cars and six official tracks, plus countless dirt ovals feature in the game. But AI and features make for an immersive grassroots oval racing game.

World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing

Whilst admittedly another title celebrating the grassroots of oval competition, World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing is critically acclaimed as one of the best single-series racing games around. Its popularity is dampened by focusing on a series unknown outside of the US. However, offering the simulation of a unique form of racing, it is sure to entertain even the most die-hard oval haters.

A wide array of cars and tracks are available to choose in this game. But the most impressive of all is the implementation of iRacing‘s character-based AI system. Using this intricate feature, no two races are the same as you work your way up the ranks of dirt oval racing.

What is your go-to oval sim racing game? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

A petrol head and motorsports fan since the early days, sim racing has been a passion of mine for a number of years. The perfect way to immerse myself in my true dream job; racing driver. With lots of experience jotting down words about the car industry, I am happy to share my passion for pretend race cars here on Overtake!