Before capturing another NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner’s title in last night’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kyle Busch Motorsports finalized its 2015 driver roster.
Justin Boston (pictured) will make the jump from ARCA to the Truck Series as KBM’s second full-time pilot alongside Erik Jones. In addition to finishing fifth in ARCA points this past year, Boston also made a pair of NASCAR Nationwide/XFINITY Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing (ninth at Kentucky, 12th at Dover) and one Truck Series start (30th at Bristol).
Additionally, Matt Tifft has scored a six-race deal with KBM that will see him share driving duties with Busch and JGR Nationwide driver Daniel Suarez.
Tifft had a varied schedule in 2014, competing in ARCA (five Top-5s and seven Top-10s in 10 starts), the Truck Series, and both the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. He ran three of the final four Truck Series events this year with a top finish of eighth at Martinsville.
“Adding these two talented young drivers to the driver lineup at KBM next season gives us the opportunity to compete for the Rookie of the Year honors with Justin, a driver’s championship with Erik, and the owner’s championship sharing a truck between Matt, myself and Daniel,” Busch said in a statement.
“Justin was able to pick up a couple ARCA wins this season and had solid runs in his starts for JGR in the Nationwide Series. Matt knocked on the door of victory a couple times in the ARCA Series while running a part-time schedule and had a nice run in his Truck Series debut at Martinsville last month. We’re looking forward to seeing both of them behind the wheel of our Tundras next year.”
With KBM set for 2015, that leads to the question of what will happen to Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who won last night’s Ford Ecoboost 200. Now that his time with KBM is over, Wallace heads into – as of now – an uncertain future.
“I wish things were finalized,” Wallace said following his latest win. “We’re continuing to work hard to find out future plans for me. I’m going to go play some golf down here in Miami, enjoy this win, enjoy the off-season. But as far as plans, we’re continuing to work hard.
“You never know, we could be in the XFINITY Series, get some Truck races. You never know, we’re working hard with [Joe Gibbs], everybody at JGR, they’ve been giving me a great opportunity ever since ’09…Hopefully, this helps some way, but we’ll stay on it and come up with something soon, I hope.”
In his own post-race comments, Busch said he expects to see Wallace run at least part-time in the XFINITY Series in 2015, but didn’t know for how many races.
No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.
For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.
Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.
Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.
“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”
The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).
With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.
The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.
“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”
There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.
The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.
“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”
He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.
Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”
Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.
It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.
“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.
“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”
If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.
“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.
“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”