As the world continues to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, major changes have been made to the way media is being delivered. Professional sports have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and leagues are struggling to find new ways to keep viewers entertained. Over the coming weeks, however, NASCAR fans will have something to keep their attention thanks to the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. During the series, actual NASCAR drivers will race as themselves in the iRacing online game, and fans can tune into the festivities on Fox Sports 1. Today marked the first online race, and it was won by driver Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin apparently played in integral role in making the Pro Invitational Series happen. Both Hamlin and fellow NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. have experience with iRacing, but a number of their fellow racers did not prior to the broadcast. As such, it will be interesting to see how the drivers fare over the coming weeks, and whether or not some get better over time. For many, it will be a learning experience, and that could add a lot of entertainment value.
It will be quite interesting to see just how much these eNASCAR races end up appealing to traditional NASCAR viewers, and esports fans. These are still the same professional drivers that fans of the sport already have an emotional investment in, but the format is definitely much more low key than your average sporting event. At one point, Alex Bowman let his dog take over so he could use the restroom! Notably, Bowman still ended up in sixth place overall.
The esports format makes a lot of sense for NASCAR, particularly as many esports leagues have found ways of working around social distancing. With the coronavirus pandemic halting the production of a lot of new media, this is definitely the kind of thing that more media outlets should consider investing in. As of this writing, Fox Sports 1 has not provided information about how many viewers tuned in for the race, but it certainly seems like iRacing could be a suitable (albeit temporary) replacement for the real thing.
What do you think about NASCAR switching to the iRacing format? Would you like to see more professional sports do the same? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!