This past Sunday, Fox Sports hosted the inaugural eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on FS1. Many professional racers known for their real-life driving skills took to the virtual track, and after a successful debut, NASCAR will keep the series going.
The eNASCAR series will pick up where the races were scheduled to have taken place in the video game iRacing, competing in virtual versions of actual tracks like the Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR had postponed its races through May 3 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But even in the virtual world, NASCAR was still garnering a crowd. Nielsen Media Research (via NBC Sports) put last Sunday's viewership at 903,000 viewers on FS1. Additionally, individual drivers were streaming on their own Twitch accounts. As NASCAR's senior vice president and chief digital officer Tim Clark told NBC Sports, there's room for crossover and outreach to happen between the real-world NASCAR community and its virtual fans. It still sticks to tradition though, even having someone perform the national anthem from their garage while the virtual crowd stood.
Other esports leagues have had to adjust in the wake of the coronavirus, with the Overwatch League canceling its city-based matches and other leagues moving to remote broadcasts. But now, during a time when people are practicing social distancing and avoiding crowds, esports could provide a virtual escape where traditional sports can't.
The NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series will continue this coming Sunday on the Fox broadcast network, FS1, and the Fox Sports app.