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Pro driver gets suspended from iRacing for wrecking his rivals (update)

Scott Speed confirmed that he’s been banned

F1 Grand Prix of USA
Scott Speed during theFormula One United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, July 2, 2006.
Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

A former driver at the top levels of stock car and open-wheel motorsports has been suspended by iRacing, the ultra-realistic racing series for PC, over an incident where he tried to intentionally wreck another driver.

Scott Speed, who in 2006 was the first American driver to compete in Formula One in 13 years, confirmed to The Drive that iRacing had suspended his account. The sanction follows a week in which Speed was captured on a livestream pursuing and trying to wreck a fellow racer.

Speed, in a comment to The Drive, insinuated that his actions were retribution for being wrecked himself earlier in the race. “The penalty for my action if protested against is a suspension, which I accept and received,” he said. “I personally wouldn’t feel like a man protesting a guy who I just accidentally wrecked out of the lead for returning the favor. But that’s me, and I understand that thinking is not treating iRacing with the appropriate amount of respect and is wrong. For that, I sincerely apologize.”

This week’s collision isn’t the first time Speed has been called out for fouling another driver. A video capture back in December showed Speed trying to wipe out an opponent in a rallycross race whom others said had rear-ended him.

The length of Speed’s suspension is not known. Polygon has reached out to iRacing representatives for clarification, but disciplinary matters there are usually handled in a quiet way, regardless of who the offender is.

iRacing is well more complex than even the highest simulation-quality racing video game on console or PC. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the recently retired NASCAR star, is a well known competitor; William Byron, NASCAR’s 2017 Xfinity Series champion, cut his teeth on the simulator as a teenager, leading to his hotshot career in stock car racing’s truck series. He’ll be driving in the Monster Energy Cup Series, the top division, for Hendrick Motorsports next year.

Speed, 35, raced in NASCAR’s three national divisions (trucks, Xfinity and NASCAR Cup series) from 2008 to 2013. He drove for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda in F1 from 2006 to 2007. He is the reigning champion driver of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series.

The Drive notes that Speed last week listed his iRacing setup — a three-monitor rig with a high-performance driving wheel, for sale at $7,500. iRacing requires racing wheels, brake, clutch and accelerator peripherals and the better ones deliver better results. So whether this means he’s out of the league for good, who really knows.

Update: Steve Myers, the executive producer of iRacing, confirmed Speed’s suspension to Polygon and said it was not a permanent ban, but declined to talk about the length of the sanction.

“We don’t do [a permaban] with anyone unless they’ve done something incredibly egregious,” Myers said. “It’s the same process for everyone and he wasn’t treated any different than anyone else.”

Myers pointed out that Speed contributed — on an uncompensated basis — to the dirt and rallycross racing series that were just added to iRacing at the end of last year. “I think people forget that he really poured his heart and soul into helping us develop the rallycross stuff on iRacing.

That made the discipline tougher to mete out, though Myers said he had nothing to do with that. iRacing has a dedicated race steward, just like real life, who hears and adjudicates grievances. Speed was dealt with the same as any other driver, Myers said.

“At the same time, I’m the one who has a relationship with Scott,” Myers said. “So when something like this happens, it goes up the chain pretty quickly. I saw the video at, like, 1 a.m. in the morning and I wanted to throw up.

“I’ve known Scott since he was in NASCAR,” Myers added. “When I saw that, I sent him a message that said, ‘Man, this is unacceptable.’ And I told him that it was 99.9 percent [probability] that he was gonna get suspended for this.”

Though Myers stands by his steward’s determination and doesn’t excuse Speed’s behavior at all, he pointed out that Speed’s celebrity may have been involved in the provocation that sent him headhunting on the track. “With that celebrity comes a target on the back, and maybe people goaded him a little bit,” Myers said. “That does not help the situation.

“It’s easy to be kicking a guy when he’s down, but I think people forget he really poured his heart and soul into developing the rallycross stuff on iRacing.” Myers said.

iRacing’s dirt series — oval dirt track and rally racing — launched back in December after a year of development. Speed, the triple-defending champion in the Global RallyCross Series, helped out by giving iRacing access to his Volkswagen Andretti rallycross vehicle and reams of data from it.

Myers is moving ahead with iRacing’s spring series plans, including the introduction of two World of Outlaws branded series this spring (sprint and late model racing series) and two new rally vehicles, the Porsche 919 and the Audi R18. The sprint and late model driving series will join three others in iRacing, including the Peak Antifreeze Series that is an officially sanctioned NASCAR event. Qualifying for the new events begins in two weeks.

Myers noticed that Speed had put his iRacing driving setup up for sale, but didn’t know if it meant he was done with online driving for good. He hopes not.

“I know [Speed] is a genuinely nice guy, but I also know that he is a competitor, in a sport where it’s either win, or you’re the first loser,” Myers said.

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