Kyle Busch gets Rolex 24 driving schedule as team hunts for speed

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Even a two-time NASCAR Cup champion can’t avoid driving in the dead of night in his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut.

Kyle Busch has received his marching orders for the endurance race classic, and he’ll be in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, 2-4 a.m. and 7-9 a.m. Sunday.

Busch playfully has been hinting that he was lobbying AIM Vasser Sullivan Racing to avoid the graveyard shift that challenges drivers to be on full alert at high speed.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” he deadpanned about his 2-4 a.m. stint. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.

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But “the new guy” did well in practice the past two days on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway, though time was limited by damage to the bottom of his team’s car because of some new curbing near the Bus Stop section. The No. 14 will start from the rear after missing qualifying because repairs necessitated an engine change.

“It was unfortunate to not get in earlier in the day, but then I got some good laps (Thursday) night and then got a couple more good laps (Friday) morning. I think I ran the quickest of our cars this morning. I don’t know what that means.  Yay, I guess. But we’re slow, so that’s a problem.”

The No. 14 Lexus RC-F GT3 that Kyle Busch will share with three other drivers during the Rolex 24 at Daytona (Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Busch took some solace in that he wasn’t the only team driver struggling. Jack Hawksworth, the veteran who will start and finish the race in the No. 14, also complained about its handling.

“It made me feel a little bit better about it, but still I looked like a butt while out there,” said Busch, who also is sharing the car with Parker Chase and Michael De Quesada. “So then we got in it (Saturday) morning.  Jack got in, ran some laps, then I was able to get in and ran some laps, and I felt like I was back to Square One like I was here at the test.

“I felt like my lap times were decent.  I felt like the feel of the car was good.  So I was like, ‘OK, I’m better now.’ ”

During the Roar before the Rolex test three weeks ago, Busch was about 0.3 seconds off the pace of Hawksworth, who has served as his de-facto driving coach. When they went to the Toyota Racing Development driving simulator, Busch got within a tenth of Hawksworth.

But when the Joe Gibbs Racing driver got back behind the wheel again Thursday night at Daytona, he had to hang a U-turn after spinning in Turn 1 while running on tires near the end of their 29-lap run.

“I ran like 12 laps, and I was assholes and elbows,” he said. “It was ugly. Then Jack got in right after me, and he was like, ‘Oh, my God, mate, this car is terrible.’”

After being outside the top 10 in lap speeds for the first three sessions, the No. 14 was seventh in the final practice but trailing AIM Vasser Sullivan’s No. 12. The team’s other Lexus, which is driven by NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell, Frankie Montecalvo, Shane van Gisbergen and Aaron Telitz, will start seventh in the GTD class.

“Since the test here and even today a little bit, the 12 has been a little bit better, faster than us,” Busch said. “We’ve gone down our own path. They kind of went down their own path. We’re trying to science it all out and figure it out and see what we need to do to make our car faster, and we’re kind of starting to mimic some of the stuff they were doing.”

Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

SimMetric Labs
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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.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

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.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“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.

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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.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday 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.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images