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How Start Zones add further immersion to iRacing’s NASCAR ovals

Start Zones add further immersion for NASCAR Ovals on iRacing

Since iRacing implemented cautions and restarts in its early years, it has been a common practice for leaders to restart as they please as soon as the pace car pulled into the pits. Makes sense for most forms of motorsport, but not NASCAR which utilises a ‘GEICO Restart Zone’.

Us NASCAR folk just kind of dealt with it, with most tracks not even having a restart zone even graphically present.

It became extremely obnoxious in the latest version of Phoenix Raceway, however, when the track was updated and the start-finish line moved half of a track around to the other side.

The pace car would pull into the pits off of Turn 2, and for the entirety of the backstretch, Turn 3, Turn 4 or just before the line, the leader could go as early as they wanted.

iRacing now has a new system in play. Released in the latest build for 2022 Season 3, Start Zones are now a thing on select iRacing ovals and it’s mostly those that are currently on or have recently been on the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, or Truck Series schedules.

LIMITED RELEASE… FOR NOW

The Start Zone is only available in Hosted race sessions or in AI races, although the AI seems to be bugged at this moment. You can turn it on, but the computerized opponents will go as they please, and if you’re the leader, you won’t get the prompt.

The tracks on iRacing that have the option to Enable Start Zone:

  • Atlanta Motor Speedway – Oval
  • Auto Club Speedway – Oval
  • Bristol Motor Speedway – Single or Dual Pit Road
  • Charlotte Motor Speedway – Oval (2018)
  • Chicagoland Speedway
  • Darlington Raceway
  • Daytona International Speedway – Oval
  • Dover Motor Speedway
  • Homestead Miami Speedway – Oval
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Oval
  • Iowa Speedway – Oval
  • Kansas Speedway – Oval
  • Kentucky Speedway – Oval
  • Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Oval
  • Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
  • Martinsville Speedway
  • Michigan International Speedway
  • Nashville Superspeedway
  • New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Oval
  • Phoenix Raceway – Oval or Oval w/ open Dogleg
  • Pocono Raceway
  • Richmond Raceway
  • Talladega Superspeedway
  • Texas Motor Speedway – Oval
  • World Wide Technology Raceway – Oval

HOW TO RESTART WHEN ENABLED

It is fairly straightforward if it works correctly. When coming to take the restart, the leader will get a notification pop-up very similar to a pit speed box. In the box, it will tell you what to do in that particular circumstances.

  • For the initial start of the race, the leader can not go until Barney the Flagman issues the green command.
  • For every subsequent start, the leader must maintain the proper pace until the GEICO Restart Zone on the track. Once the leader accelerates over the Pace Speed Limit, the green flag will wave for the rest of the field.
  • Drivers starting on the alongside of the front row of a double-file restart that aren’t the control car must make sure that they do not find themselves ahead of the leader when the flag waves.
  • Penalties for disobeying the Start Zone policy varies from as little as a drivethrough to as much as a Stop-and-Go hold in the pits.
In my defense, the lights went out at Pocono while I was testing this and I couldn’t see the Start Zone even if I wanted to!

WHY IS iRACING DOING THIS TO US?

Like I said in the title, it’s all about immersion. This is a pretty accurate representation of the rules of the real-world NASCAR action in their Top 3 series. Drivers in the real world would also get penalties for not restarting in the properly-marked area on the track.

While the Senior Vice President and Executive Producer at iRacing Greg Hill tweeted that for now, this is a “soft launch”, there will be some hosted races and leagues that will venture and give this a go. I’ll raise my hand for that, we’ll definitely be giving it a go at FTF.GG.

In my limited experience with the system so far, when it would properly implement, and the drivers maintained the speed properly, the system was working to perfection.

All of the tracks listed above have that GEICO-sponsored area added now, so even if you didn’t want to use the built-in system, at least drivers have some sort of marker to utilize going forward.

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