From video games to ... millions of dollars as a professional race car driver?
That's exactly the path William Byron, a Charlotte native, took to get where he is now — and now NASCAR is starting an esports league to help other kids do the same.
So how did Byron, a 20-year-old rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series, go from online racing to competing in the No. 24 car made famous by Jeff Gordon?
Well, it all begins with iRacing. iRacing is an online racing simulator that Byron began playing when he was 14. In his first two years playing the simulator, he accrued more than 100 wins and another 203 Top 5 finishes.
On Wednesday, NASCAR announced it has started a worldwide league to help children ages 13-16 do the same, and to help NASCAR discover more young, talented drivers. The season will span for 12 weeks starting in June, with the first eight weeks (regular season) open to all competitors. The last four weeks will serve as the playoffs, where the top 50 scorers from the regular season compete for a spot in the championship.
The iRacing software features notable NASCAR tracks like Martinsville Speedway and The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Interested participants can register at NASCAR.com/iRacing.
“As we expand our presence in esports, NASCAR is uniquely positioned as the only sport that can develop skills transferable to real world competition,” Blake Davidson, NASCAR vice president of consumer innovation, said in a statement. “We’re excited to see the young, diverse and global talent pool this series attracts, especially as we cultivate our next generation of drivers.”
And who knows — maybe in six years time, there will be another driver of Byron's caliber to go from esports to NASCAR's top circuit.