Friday afternoon, NASCAR postponed the next two events on the 2020 calendar. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway were both put on hold due to COVID-19 concerns. This meant that NASCAR fans would be left without events to watch on Sunday.
Members of the racing industry knew that this postponement was possible, and they attempted to find a suitable replacement for the fans. The result was The Replacements 100 — a competition taking place on a motorsports simulation video game known as iRacing. Dale Earnhardt Jr., William Byron, Alex Bowman, and several other NASCAR figures would be facing off against each other on a digital track.
The 100 laps of simulation racing would be streamed on Twitch and would give NASCAR fans some form of competition to watch on Sunday afternoon. They would also have the unique opportunity to see a former NFL lineman, Kyle Long, racing crew members and veteran drivers.
With the unveiling of The Replacements 100, some fans reacted with gratitude. They were happy to see the effort being put in by NASCAR. Others, however, didn't care. They don't want to watch "fake" racing and felt that it was taking away from the history of stock car racing.
This is the stupidest thing ever watching grown men play a video game— KWWTulsa (@KWWTulsa) March 15, 2020
"Fake racing? No thanks," was a common response among a portion of NASCAR fans on Sunday. They weren't interested in the simulation racing video game prior to the two upcoming races being postponed, and that opinion didn't change.
Even having top figures such as Byron and Earnhardt didn't bring any extra interest to these fans. They still didn't care about watching this competition on Twitch.
For some fans, this race was a welcome break from the real world. Sure, the actual outcome of this 100-lap event wouldn't have any bearing on the Cup Series, but at least they could watch some drivers facing off with each other.
Of course, having a temporary race at Atlanta Motor Speedway brought about some other concerns. Would this digital version be an accurate portrayal of the real track?
@JeffGordonWeb needs to provide commentary— Chris Lehman (@Going_Squatchin) March 15, 2020
With the industry members heading to the digital track for Sunday's replacement race, the fans would be able to witness some top drivers competing for the win. However, there were concerns about the lack of a key factor – commentary.
NASCAR fans have made it very clear that they truly enjoy the commentary team that includes former driver Jeff Gordon and lap-by-lap announcer Mike Joy. This duo makes the races more entertaining for the fans, but they wouldn't be calling Sunday's simulation.
Can you spectate These just like an official race? Would love to drive with these guys even if they can't see me.— Matt Dickson (@WinnDicksy) March 14, 2020
With NASCAR heading to a digital track on Sunday, newcomers to iRacing had some questions about the capabilities. Technically, they were spectating a video game, so does this mean that they could switch between cameras?
There were many fans that wanted an extra level of exposure on Sunday. They wanted to see more angles of the track, the car, and even the driver.
Actual racing— Siddhugad (@siddhugad) March 15, 2020
Yes, there was racing available to watch on Sunday afternoon, which many of the fans appreciated. However, this was not a universal opinion. Many were still upset about the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 being postponed due to coronavirus concerns.
It didn't matter that Earnhardt and several other big names were taking part in The Replacement 100. Some of the fans just weren't satisfied with the digital race being broadcast on Twitch.
iRacing is not something that every NASCAR fan enjoys. There are many that feel the simulation is just a poor replacement for real cars and drivers. However, they were still willing to give Sunday's event a shot.
The reason for this trial run is that they have loyalty for specific figures. For example, Earnhardt hasn't raced full-time since the end of the 2017 season, and the fans were ready to see him back on the track.
Does it translate?
There was no doubt in the minds of NASCAR fans that those involved in The Replacement 100 were having a blast. Getting to race against each other while more than 23,000 fans watched was very enjoyable.
The viewing experience, however, was less entertaining for some of those that tuned in on Sunday. They didn't see the appeal of watching drivers take part in a simulation video game.
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