Nostalgia trip: Hands-on with iRacing’s 2023 Season 2 oval updates

Justin Melillo
The 2023 iRacing Season 2 build had loads of great additions and content updates for their oval community… some which may not have even been intended.
Hands on with iRacing's 2023 Season 2 oval updates Dallara IR-01 texas cockpit

It was a big day for iRacing‘s oval contingent on Tuesday (7th March) when the 2023 Season 2 build dropped for all members to kick off Week 13.

A fresh iRacing UI interface was just the start for what wound up as a fun day checking out all the new goodies.

Within the update, there were some new pieces of paid content, mostly geared towards the road racing side as usual, but short track oval racers were gifted with the addition of the Late Model Stock, the same one that is utilized in a CARS Late Model Tour division – series which happens to be iRacing’s newest partner.

Besides the shiny, new race car to play with, there were a host of other enhancements to the existing iRacing content. Current-day NASCAR NEXT Gen cars got a bit of an overhaul. All of the other NASCAR-type cars also got some set-up improvements with one car getting an unintended upgrade as well.

A piece of road content in the Dallara IR-01 fantast single-seater was updated as well, and now includes parameters for oval racing. Hello, modern fantasy Champ Car racing!

With all of that in mind, here are my hands-on opinions.


“That’s just short track racin'” -Denny Hamlin, impersonating Joey Logano following a Martinsville race a few years ago.

Of course, the first thing most people were into trying was the newest piece of content, the Late Model Stock. Scanned in from the CARS Tour champion’s car from last year, this JR Motorsports Late Model Stock driven by Carson Kvapil in the 2022 season has more than 400bhp under the hood.

That means it doesn’t have as much power as the Super Late Model that is also on iRacing, which pumps out more than 550bhp. It is, however, replacing an ancient relic in what was the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, which is now retired. All members who had bought that will get this more recent model for free.

The stock livery included is a special one to JR Motorsports’ namesake, Dale Earnhardt Jr, who ran this one-off scheme last year at the Racetrack Revival event at North Wilkesboro. The scheme was heavily inspired by a green Sun Drop scheme that he ran at the same track nearly 30 years ago.

Good for short track racing, that’s just what iRacing has planned for Week 13 official unranked racing. The Shiny New Shakedown series features the Late Model Stock and over the next seven days, members can get their fill of various short tracks featured along the East Coast of the United States.

P L A N T E D.

Places such as USA International, Hickory, Southern National, Lanier, Thompson, North Wilkesboro and Oxford Plains will all be featured in every half-hour multiplayer sessions. Historically, I’m a bit ropey at this genre of racing, so I decided to fire up iRacing AI and try out the new cars which came with the feature at launch.

Maybe it could be a set-up thing, but the first thing I noticed when rewatching the replay was that these cars were planted on the track. Sparks flew from my car specifically, and sometimes with other AI opponents as well. This was most evident on the older, bumpier tracks like North Wilkesboro.

You can really throw these things in there, by the way, but that will compromise your exit… unless you want to get physical. With the noses as slanted as they are, they do work as wedges when involved in incidents.

It was noted in the release that the New Damage Model was removed from the car temporarily due to an unexpected issue at release, so maybe when that’s added back, these cars become less like that ramp car from the Fast and the Furious franchise.

Fun, forgiving, and still a handful all in one car. As I speculated when it was announced that iRacing would become the official simulation of the CARS Tour, I am still wondering if that means any future esports championships.

For now, look forward to an open and fixed set Late Model series in Season 2 for D-class licenses and above.


US Open Wheel successor?

When it was announced at the end of 2022 that iRacing and IndyCar would not be renewing their contract, it left many fans of the series on the service feeling empty. There would be no more iRacing Indy 500, the NTT IndyCar Series branding was removed everywhere. Even the word ‘Indy’ became taboo in the community.

While the Dallara IR-18 still exists and racing can still happen with it, there are restrictions in place, the main bit of concern being that official series would no longer visit official tracks on the official schedule and all broadcasters, whether they be iRacing or Third Party, could allegedly no longer broadcast said events.

This is still one of the best combos on iRacing, whether anyone can broadcast it or not.

The new rules in place can’t stop anyone from loading up iRacing AI and running mock Indy 500s, or hosting a private league or hosted session with the cars at the tracks… you just can’t broadcast any of the current day or previous editions of the Dallara IndyCar.

Enter the Dallara IR-01, which is in fact a fantast single-seat open-wheel car that has a virtual 3.0-liter V10 engine that whines around any circuit at 900bhp. While it could be run at Oval tracks like any other road piece of content in the past, it just wasn’t optimized for it and lacked that fun factor.

In the 2023 Season 2 update, however, now the Dallara IR-01 has oval capabilities. With ludicrous speed, the Formula 1-esque machine takes on the characteristics of a 1990s Champ Car, with speeds in excess of 240 mph at large ovals when shifting through the seven speed sequential box.

Loose is fast… and virtually deadly.

Yes, it works at the Indianapolis oval. Quite well, actually, with the right setup. “Rectangle” 500 promotors on iRacing may now have purpose again. Tracks such as Michigan, Texas, California and Charlotte also had great racing, currently available to all racers in the Week 13 Ridiculousness unranked series.

My only gripe is that at these speeds, the right front tire absolutely melts. I think after a 52 lap race at Charlotte, my right front tread ended up having less than 10 percent usability left. Putting more load on a right rear could spell disaster too, as when racing at Texas, when you light up that tire even slightly, it loses all traction.

Still, a fun car to have on the oval side officially now. I hope to see further developments with it, as it does need some refinement. Unfortunately, the preliminary Season 2 schedule does not have any oval racing planned for the official multiplayer circuit.


NASCAR’s top car gets spruced up.

For the top-level eNASCAR drivers, some were speculating about changes coming to the car in this build. Sure enough, 2023 Season 2 dropped and the three NASCAR NEXT Gen cars were all updated with some updated features and parameters.

While all the “current” NASCAR-style cars got some sort of update in this build, the NASCAR NEXT Gen cars were specifically targeted for refinement in tires, draft, engine and brake variables of the machines. Also, the framerate is supposed to suck less than before with “level of detail” updates. But, I don’t buy it.

Anyway, the car looks, feels and drives the same. The set-ups from previous builds might need a little tweaking, specifically in the gear ratio department as the rev limiter has been decreased from about 9700 to 9000. In doing so, it makes it more in line with the real-world product.

eNASCAR, iRacing, The Milwaukee Mile, Michael Conti save
Slides like this one from Michael Conti last week hopefully won’t completely melt tires in this new update.

Tires were the big thing that oval fans were worried about. In recent weeks, many have noticed in the fixed setup races that the left rear tire, arguably the tire with the least amount of load on it, was wearing more than the right front tire or the right rear tires – you know, the ones that are supposed to wear more.

In testing, it does look like the tires wear more evenly now. Of course, this is all set-up reliant so take that into account. It’s still the V7 tire though, so keep that in mind when you are racing that going hard the whole time just isn’t going to pan out beneficially. Maybe it might be a little better, but I don’t see it personally.

I took the car to two of the most recent tracks on the schedule, Las Vegas and Auto Club, and with setups that got loose and uncontrollable, those sets did become more manageable over time, tire wear was more consistent and faster laps were achievable later into the run.

Then again, full disclosure, I’m not the fastest or most consistent oval racer out there, so take that all with a grain of salt. Regardless, NEXT Gen updates are always welcome as it is the most current car in NASCAR currently, and we all want to see the most realistic product we can for this particular set of cars.


Such an aesthetically pleasing car… and maybe for one night only, the best content on iRacing, period.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for iRacing oval community members on Tuesday was the unannounced updates to the ARCA Menards Chevrolet Impala.

Now, iRacing staff members have already said that the update was unintentional and they do intend to revert it in the first patch, but how about that big motor Gen 4?!?

A history lesson of the ARCA Menards machine currently on the iRacing service. Back in around 2009, the Class A car was the NASCAR Car of Tomorrow, the fifth-generation car with that wing on the back etc. For Class B racers, there was the Chevrolet Impala Class B, a Generation 4 body with the specifications of what is known today as the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

This “legacy B” car was transformed into the ARCA Menards Chevrolet Impala a few years later when the Car of Tomorrow specifications began to show up in the Xfinity Series. ARCA itself was still running the Gen 4 bodies although today, they are running Gen 6 in real-world competition.

With the demotion down to ARCA, the engine power of the cars was also demoted, and while racing in the less-powered Gen 4 car is still a good time (See: The CORE League), many have yearned for a Gen 4 with the power under the virtual hood of what the NASCAR Cup Series produced back in the 2000s.

I can think of at least 100 drivers who would sign a petition right now to keep this car as is.

On Tuesday night, many of us did get to experience that briefly, albeit neutered in the sense that cars were overheating easily from the increased rev limit and added horsepower. Wow, it felt nostalgic.

Agreeing with former Coke Series driver Brian Mercurio, but it totally felt like NASCAR Racing 2003 Season for a moment, but with iRacing’s touch. It was wonderful.

Another former Coke Series driver Santiago Tirres hosted some lobbies for anyone to hop into. Other former Coke drivers like Chris Overland, Jake Nichols and Michael Guariglia were there, and some current Coke Series drivers like Femi Olatunbosun and Michael Conti also joined in the fun.

It felt like a driver’s car again, with a ton of speed at the end of the straights and an abundance of off-throttle time to make the corners. Pick up the gas too early and you might get slideways. At Auto Club, in particular, any lane was a viable option.

Again, this was a mistake, and iRacing staff members have been quick to relay that this will be fixed… but please iRacing? Can’t you all just give us this? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a community so united on anything before. Fingers crossed on seeing the powerful Gen 4 remain in some capacity.

If not, at least I got to try it out with some of the best out there.

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