It’s August of 2023, and that means the start of a new season of iRacing. This year, the Innocent Lives Foundation (ILF) is honored to be the charity of choice of the astonishing Affinity Racing Series (ARS). Affinity Racing Series raises money for charities every season. In its inaugural season, ARS raised over $1300 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. This season, the talented drivers, commentators, organizers, and fans are dedicating fundraising efforts to benefit the important mission of the ILF – Identify anonymous child predators and help bring them to justice.
I sat down with Michael McElroy, one of the founders of ARS, to discuss the partnership, the evolution of iRacing and ARS, and how they chose ILF.
Nick Kelly (nK): Welcome, Michael; thanks for taking the time. I know you’re running hair on fire with the launch of the new season. How excited are you for season 2?
Michael McElory (MM): Thanks for reaching out Nick! Things have started to move into their appropriate places now, so the fires are mostly under control. Nothing is more chaotic for us than the opening day of the season. But we are super excited to be back on the race track again after four long weeks of off-season. We love what we have created here and aim to be good ambassadors for the charity organizations we represent.
nK: I watched the opening night race, and I think I got completely spoiled. What a finish! They can’t all be that down to the wire, can they?
MM: Man, if you like exciting finishes, you could be in for a treat haha. We have two series, and the series you watched last night is the top series that drivers can get promoted into. This means that they earned their way into this series through sustained performance in the standings and have displayed good/respectful conduct. This means that these races get really competitive, especially near the end when battling for the win. We also have an interesting overtime rule called “the point of no return.” This is where we’ve used all three overtimes for a race, and the drivers can battle it out to the finish with no threat of a caution flag being thrown. Some people refer to this as “checkers or wreckers,” which sort of translates to “I’m making it to the finish line no matter who’s in my way.” Kind of battle royale meets iRacing. All drivers usually hope to finish the race under normal conditions before this happens.
nK: How did you get into racing and iRacing in particular? I’ve attended conventions on other eSports, but this is my first exposure to iRacing.
MM: A lot of your sim racers are also avid real-life race fans. With all of us having this in common, it usually leads to some pretty tight-knit communities. I got into racing after friends invited me to a Talladega NASCAR race. The rumble of the cars traveling over 190 mph got me instantly hooked. I was then taught about the strategies of racing and the intricacies of teamwork and manufacturing allies. From there, I took my shot at console games like NASCAR Heat. You’re always looking for the next best thing or game from there. This is when a friend of mine and fellow league admin, Brandon, told me to join iRacing. You’ll hear it a lot in this community that “this isn’t a game; it’s a simulator,” and they aren’t really wrong. There’s a bunch of drivers, such as William Byron and Rajah Caruth, who used to be iRacers and now race NASCAR in real life. I’m sure we have some guys here that have those same aspirations, but I’m mainly here for the competitive sportsmanship and camaraderie like you can find in a lot of gaming communities.
nK: I have to compliment your excellent broadcasters, Art and Max of YJ Media Group. They are engaging and super into everything going on during the race. Where did you find this pair?
MM: Interestingly enough, I was in another league that was searching for broadcasters. They posted in a public forum looking for someone, and this incredible tag team reached out. They were avid sim racers and had no broadcasting experience. They wanted to try their hand in the market of eSports Sim Racing entertainment. This was about a year and a half ago. Since then, they’ve gone viral on Twitter a few times from their broadcast clips and are now broadcasting three separate leagues. When myself, Brandon Richard, Josh Mcquiggan, and James Fillers branched off and started ARS almost 10 months, we knew we couldn’t do it without Max and Art. We asked them to join us, and they were more than happy to come over. We truly believe these guys are in the top tier of what they do. They truly care about the drivers and spend the time to get to know them. We honestly don’t see an ARS without YJ.
nK: Switching gears (pun intended), how did ARS discover and choose ILF as this season’s charity?
MM: Our first season, we went with St Jude, and the amount our drivers raised was actually more than we expected. We didn’t know how seasonal fundraising would go, but the ARS community and friends didn’t disappoint. They pull together for a cause and rally behind it. In our first season, we had some lessons learned about fundraising and wanted to ensure every time a person chose to donate; their money would go directly to that cause. This is how we found streamlabs charity division and their no-fee fundraising. We searched for participating charities and found the description for ILF. When reading it, we were instantly in support. We have people of all ages in our league, and supporting ILF in a rapidly growing technology world just struck us as the way we wanted to go. Even when explaining the charity to the other admins, I would constantly get replies like, “That sounds awesome!” We love what you all are doing and can’t wait to watch season 2 donations roll in. As a matter of fact, one race into our 13-race season, we’ve already passed 10% of our goal.
nK: ARS is entering its second season. Where do you see the series going and growing in the future?
MM: We’ve always had the vision of growing ARS into a series that rivals some of the leading broadcasted series, and we’re well ahead of our blueprint plan. We have a truly amazing admin team right now with Josh, Travis, Randy, James, Brandon, and Ryne. They’re all executing the vision and bringing this league to life every day.
As much as we want to continue to grow our community, leagues actually cost some decent change to run. So our future plans right now have shifted toward less recruiting and more sponsorship and marketing. We have had a few cool sponsors come on board and we want to land a big one someday. We feel that if we stay organized, keep our aim on structure and maintain respect; things will fall into place as we search them out. Our vision will remain the same, though, which is to provide as much good to the world as we can through an entertaining esports platform. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry, and esports has been on the rise for years. We aim to utilize this avenue for good and to help others.
nK: Season 2 is just starting, and it is already bonkers. Where can our readers find you online and on socials, and most importantly, where can they tune in to the races?
MM: We love bonkers! Haha. These drivers can take risks that you won’t see in real life, and that can be super entertaining to watch.
We’re on every social platform. You can check us out on Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, Facebook, YouTube, and Threads. Our handle on all of them is @raceaffinity.
Our races are every Monday and Wednesday night at 8:30 pm EST. As stated before, our Monday night series is our premier series; that’s why we bring in the pros at YJ. You can find them here: Twitch.tv/YJMedia
Our races on Wednesday for the starter/secondary series can be found here: Twitch.tv/Raceaffinity
Wednesdays are broadcasted by me or another admin, and we do our best to give these rising stars their time on camera. Also gives our Monday night drivers a chance to look at their future competition.
nK: Thanks for joining us, Mike. We are super grateful for the energy and enthusiasm that ARS brings to our mission. Can’t wait to watch the rest of this season!
MM: Anytime! Thank you for joining us on broadcast our opening night. It was great having you explain the details of ILF. We’re extremely happy to work with you all during our season two and look forward to hearing from you again in the near future.
Readers can support the ARS Racing, with Reason fundraiser for ILF by donating HERE.
The Affinity Racing Series is committed to hosting top-tier iRacing events while giving back to the community through its “Racing, with Reason” campaign. By partnering with charities, we aim to raise funds and awareness for important causes, while providing thrilling racing experiences for our fans. Our hope is to use the power of iRacing to make a positive impact in the world and inspire others to do the same.
The Innocent Lives Foundation is a nonprofit, non-vigilante organization whose mission is to identify anonymous child predators to help bring them to justice.