Sim Racing Connects Fittipaldi, Daytona 500 Winner Byron – INDYCAR

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When William Byron crossed the finish line as the winner of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19, it’s a safe bet one NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver cheered in mutual celebration – Pietro Fittipaldi.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Fittipaldi is friends with Hendrick Motorsports star Byron, a bond that formed over sim racing and a common connection – former INDYCAR SERIES driver Max Papis, who is Fittipaldi’s uncle.
“William and I have gone to dinner a few times,” Fittipaldi said. “My Uncle Max (Papis) is, as well. Max is the one who introduced my brother (Enzo) and I to William. We’ve known him for many years now.
“When I signed the deal and had the announcement for INDYCAR, William sent me a really kind message. I know the NASCAR schedule is busy, but it would be great to have him out to one of the INDYCAR races.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Fittipaldi’s uncle, Max Papis, has had a massive impact on Byron’s NASCAR career. In fact, both Byron and Pietro Fittipaldi consider former INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR driver Papis as a mentor.
Fittipaldi’s grandfather Emerson Fittipaldi is a two-time Formula One World Champion, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1989 CART series champion. But his last season of racing was 1996, the year Pietro was born. So, there are no memories for the younger Fittipaldi of watching his grandfather race, outside of videos. The lasting memories are more from uncles Papis and Christian Fittipaldi.
Besides Papis, the other mutual bond between Byron and Pietro Fittipaldi is their success in virtual racing before they started winning in actual racing machines.
Byron grew up in North Carolina and started racing online instead of the usual route of karting or quarter-midgets. That unorthodox path led to the NASCAR ranks, to the Championship 4 last season and to victory lane Monday night at Daytona.
While Fittipaldi doesn’t necessarily come from the same background as Byron, he does have the same love and appreciation for virtual racing.
Fittipaldi moved from Miami to North Carolina as a teenager to pursue a NASCAR path. In 2011 and 2012, he was a standout in real race cars at Hickory Motor Speedway. Two years later, while he was just getting started in racing real race cars, Byron was a standout on the exact same track.
Fast-forward almost 10 years, and Fittipaldi and his brother are big advocates of online racing and run one of the biggest eSports championships in Brazil, the Fitti Series.
Fittipaldi said virtual racing has opened a new world for all aspiring drivers, and Byron is a great example of how they can use this path to enter motorsports.
“First you have to understand if you like racing,” he said. “Usually, you go to a karting track or do rental karts or something like that. Now, it’s much more assessable through virtual racing. As a young kid, you can understand if you like the sport or not just by playing the video game. Whether it’s iRacing or an F1 game, you don’t even have to have a simulator. You can just have a controller and go see if that’s something you enjoy.
“We know motorsport, it is very expensive to go karting and to race cars. William is a perfect example of someone that started with sim racing and was very successful with simulator racing. Then moved on to racing in real life. Virtual racing is amazing.”
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