Cambridge City resident Presley Sorah, a soft-spoken 20-year-old graduate of Lincoln High School, could tell you how it feels to make the transition from simulated video racing in your recliner to exceeding 165 mph behind the wheel of a stock car at Daytona. NASCAR racing has always been the single career goal for Sorah.

There are thousands of young people who share Sorah’s dream of becoming a NASCAR driver, but few ever achieve it. The conventional approach would be to race whenever and wherever possible and work your way up. Aspiring racers hope to have results that will get them noticed by a car owner willing to give them a chance. Sorah opted to use an approach that many may view as unconventional to achieve his dream: simulated racing.

“Sim-racing is visually identical to real racing,” Sorah said. “I have a racing simulator in my bedroom that has all the same characteristics as driving a real stock car. You could compete with some big names. You may be competing against drivers like Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhart Jr. in an i-racing event, and they take it very seriously.”  

Sorah’s success came quickly. He started racing online with others, gaining experience with each session. This form of racing has become a popular, cost-saving approach from the traditional path to racing.

Being a first-generation hopeful from a small town without a major financial sponsor requires leveraging every opportunity to get noticed. It worked, and shortly Sorah was short track racing.

Gaming chair to driver’s seat

“My transition into IRL racing last year was on asphalt and dirt tracks,” Sorah said. “I raced late models at Anderson Speedway, Salem Speedway, Circle City Raceway and several other tracks.”

Sorah’s big break came in January when he received an invitation to a test session at Daytona International Speedway for the season-opening Automobile Racing Club of America race. ARCA is one of NASCAR’s premier national divisions.

Because of his 2023 short-track experience with the racing sanctioning body and his 2021 NASCAR iRacing Series experience, he was approved to run laps in a Wayne Peterson Toyota.

“When I drove the car onto the track, I felt like I had done this all before because of my experience in my simulator,” Sorah said. “The crossover from sim-racing is visually a little different because there is that ‘seat of the pants’ feeling of actually shifting and drafting with other cars.”

Presley Sorah and his girlfriend, Rebecca Sherwood, at the track. Supplied

Sorah was 49th in pre-practice due to a last-minute switch from a superspeedway car to a short-track car due to an engine issue. That was a major handicap to speed, but nothing about the experience discouraged him.

“Nothing prepares you for going into turn one at Daytona,“ Sorah said. “You do not lift off the accelerator. The degree of banking in the turns causes G-forces to push down on you and the car is very hot, even on a relatively cool day. The car is well sealed with no airflow for aerodynamics.”

Steve Sorah, Presley’s father, said the trip to Daytona was surreal.

“Two years ago, we were there as tourists. This year we were back with Presley driving a car and sharing garage space next to the Joe Gibb Racing team.”

Moving forward

Since returning home, Sorah has been very busy. He is not waiting for an opportunity to come knocking. He is on the phone trying to drum up sponsors, sending emails and marketing his name. Sorah works at the Golay Center, and he is also an educational assistant at Western Wayne Elementary School. He also manages the social media site for Clubb Racing Inc. out of Illinois.

Rebecca Sherwood, Sorah’s girlfriend, is supportive. “It is not something I am used to,” Sherwood said. “But it is fun, and I’ve loved going to his races and supporting him. I’m as confident in him as he is in himself.”

Sorah was four years old when he attended his first race. His mother Shera remembers that day.

“Steve and I took him to Brickyard qualifications,” Shera said. “He loved it and when it was over, he wanted more. He and his brother Vince have been enamored with racing. Although their interests in racing may take them in different directions, I can most definitely see them making their dreams a reality.”

“Presley is the most driven person I have ever been around,” Steve said. “His skill level has far surpassed his mother and my ability to help him, and that weighs heavy on me as his father. Racing at this level is very expensive.”

Sorah’s plans for 2024 are to run the select races in the ARCA Menards Series East, depending on funds.

“If I get enough money to race, I’ll race,” he said. “If not, I will be in the pits working. I am confident of running Indianapolis Raceway Park, which I really look forward to.”

He knows the road ahead will not be easy, but he has a plan. He is in no hurry to rush the learning process and graduate to the next level.

“I am 110% focused on my dream,” Sorah said. “If my career is short, I will have accumulated enough experience and knowledge to find a spot in the racing world doing something, and that is where I want to be.”

WWN’s Dan Harney contributed to this story.

Share this:

A version of this article appeared in the March 13 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Joe Klemann of Hagerstown writes occasional stories for the Western Wayne News.