By Seth Eggert @MotorsportRev
With the motorsports world sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of eSports has risen to the occasion.
NASCAR already had two active eSports divisions, the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series and the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro Series. As the postponement of Atlanta Motor Speedway was announced, spotters Kevin Hamlin and TJ Majors organized a Pro-Am race on iRacing, “The Replacements 100.”
Hamlin and Majors have continued The Replacements as a series that competes on alternating Tuesdays in the same time slot as the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro Series. The Replacements will also alternate between using virtual NASCAR Cup Series cars and virtual street stocks.
After “The Replacements 100” reached over 20,000 viewers on Podium eSports, NASCAR teamed with Fox Sports and iRacing to create a six-week series, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The first race at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, won by Denny Hamlin, broke the record for eSports viewership on TV.
That record was shattered by NASCAR one week later with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway. With over one million viewers, Timmy Hill moved William Byron out of the lead to score possibly the biggest iRacing victory of his career.
The NTT IndyCar Series was quick to join NASCAR. The IndyCar iRacing Challenge, also a six-week series began last Saturday. iRacing veteran Sage Karam dominated the race at Watkins Glen International on route to victory.
While NASCAR’s iRacing exhibition series will follow the real-life schedule, IndyCar chose a different option. Watkins Glen was the result of a fan vote. The virtual Barber Motorsports Park will be second followed by a “Driver’s Choice” track, a “Random Draw” track, Circuit of the Americas, and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track.
The World of Outlaws has also thrown their hat into the iRacing arena. The dirt track series’ iRacing Pro Invitational will be featured on Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern starting April 1.
IMSA turned to iRacing to host a virtual 12 Hours of Sebring. Dinner with Racers hosted its’ own spoof with the “12 Hours of Blunder.” That will turn into a series called Thursday Night Blunder with ‘mismatched cars on mismatched tracks with questionable drivers.’
The list of racing series on iRacing continues with the CARS eSport Tour, Speed 51 promoting races, Madera Speedway promoting races, among others.
Meanwhile, The Race has promoted races utilizing rFactor2. They have hosted a race using virtual Formula 1 cars as well as a legend’s race in virtual replicas of historic Formula 1 cars.
Formula 1 itself, turned to its’ console game, F1 2019 to host celebrity races. Lance Stroll is one of the few real life drivers to play the game against various celebrities across different walks of life.