How iRacing has helped NASCAR and the rest of the sports world

NASCAR will be one of the first major North American sports organizations to return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company is getting ready to return to the track next week at eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series  and will hold four events of the course of 10 days to close out the month as they look to make up for lost time.
But before that happens, NASCAR will hold its final iRacing event to close out the quarantined season on Saturday night. Shortly after the racing season was disrupted due to COVID-19, NASCAR established the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series — a competitive league in which drivers virtually compete using the iRacing simulator that is typically used for training purposes.
With a lack of live sports available during the shutdown, NASCAR made the decision to capitalize on its established technology to provide some entertainment for fans, and the iRacing series became a pretty damn big hit. Our Matthew Mayer dove into some of the finer points of iRacing’s success:
  • Through its first five races, the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series averaged over 1.1-million viewers per week
  • The iRacing event at Homestead became the most-watched televised eSports program in history
  • Despite the massive interest and viewership, no money was exchanged and no contract was signed between NASCAR, iRacing and Fox Sports
  • NASCAR Managing Director of Gaming Scott Warfield: “It was a pretty quick turnaround. But we thought it was important and the right thing to do to offer something like this and provide a rest for fans needing a break from their Twitter timelines and the national news and give them a sense of normalcy for 90 minutes on a Sunday.”
  • More from Warfield: “It’s not replacing the Cup Series, it’s not replacing the NBA or any of this other stuff. We understand that. But it’s filling a little bit of a void and it’s real and it’s dramatic and it’s unpredictable and the finishes have been great. All of those things that make sports special, there’s components of all of that in this.”
While plenty of athletes and sports leagues (and newsletter writers) have turned to eSports as a tool for entertainment during their isolation, arguably no one has done it better than NASCAR. They quickly established the series, got big names involved and did an admirable job of trying to recreate the true-to-life experience. The gambling community was quick to embrace iRacing, too.
But, as we’ve discussed before, not every driver approached iRacing with the utmost professionalism and seriousness, and that spawned real-world controversy and consequences. Bubba Wallace lost a sponsorship after rage-quitting a race, and Kyle Larson was terminated from his racing team after dropping a racial slur on live stream during an event.
Still, despite the stains, NASCAR deserves credit for taking advantage of their virtual infrastructure and making this thing go hard while the real product was put on hiatus. iRacing has been a valuable tool for drivers and a much-appreciated escape for fans, and its contributions to the sports world during these weird times makes you wonder if other leagues and organizations will start committing more resources to virtual contingency plans.

Blog Posts

Darlington RacewayeNASCAReNASCAR iRacingeNASCAR Pro Invitational Seriesiracingnascar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *