NASCAR announced on Monday that a total of seven races would be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and the Dixie Vodka 400 were previously delayed, but five others were added. Now Dale Earnhardt Jr. and many prominent NASCAR stars will be competing in a weekly video game series.
Tuesday night, NASCAR announced that it would be creating the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series in conjunction with the popular simulation racing video game. The sanctioning body has enjoyed a partnership with iRacing since 2009. The final roster of the weekly series has not been unveiled. However, some prominent names that have committed are Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.
Hey @iRacing, have any plans for Sunday?March 18, 2020
"Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day," NASCAR vice president of racing development Ben Kennedy said about the weekly racing series. "Our longtime partners at iRacing offer an incredible product, and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing."
A test run took place on Sunday in which Earnhardt Jr., William Byron, Alex Bowman, and several crew members faced off against each other in a race that was streamed on Twitch. This became known as The Replacements 100, and it was viewed as a success. More than 23,000 fans tuned in to see the competition take place on a digital track.
With the success of The Replacements 100, there are now questions about whether the weekly series can be broadcast on television. The previous race was streamed on Twitch, but there is a possibility that the races will now be expanded to TV.
"There are discussions we're having with Fox about what things we can do, discussions we would have with NBC, things that we can put through our own channels that satisfy our fans," NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during a teleconference. "Our fans are obviously thirsty for this content. We want to provide it to them smartly and have interesting content as opposed to just repurposing some of the content that's already been done."
The iRacing series will officially begin on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET. The race will be held at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. Further race and broadcast details will be announced at a later date.
(Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)