NASCAR Joins the Virtual World with iRacing

Licensed by Creative Commons

Jonathan Mostafa 

Contributing Writer 

Over the last few weeks, sports in America slowly came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spreading across the nation. The national basketball, baseball and hockey leagues have completely canceled or postponed their entire seasons, leaving fans having to watch past recorded games or, just wait it out.  However, NASCAR has an advantage that some other major league sports do not: the virtual racing world of iRacing.   

Essentially, iRacing, a simulated racing game that you use on PC.  The online platform organizes, hosts and officiates online racing on virtual tracks all around the world. In the fast-growing evolution of eSports, iRacing is the go-to for on-line, competitive racing.  All you essentially need is a steering wheel and pedals that are compatible with your PC, and you’re ready to race.  

The NASCAR schedule had just completed the infamous “west coast swing, a three-week period where teams tackle Las Vegas, Auto Club and Phoenix Raceway, before coming back East to take on Georgia’s Atlanta Motor Speedway. Those plans to continue to Georgia were cut abruptly short by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

However, the action at Atlanta continued that weekend when the idea came from a group of people to use the popular platform iRacing to fill in for the weekend. 

Thus, the Atlanta Motor Speedway’s inaugural race, “The Replacements 100” quickly gained in popularity.  The 100-lap provisional race drew in NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, spotters and others such as county music star Tim Dugger and former Chicago Bear, Kyle Long.  Ryan Blaney of Team Penske’s spotter Josh Williams took the checkered flag beating Hendricks Motorsports star and NASCAR Cup Series regular William Byron.  

The event was so popular, that they not only continued the action following the NASCAR schedule as planned at Homestead Miami Speedway, the event was televised on Fox’s FS1, with race day announcers Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon calling the action on the track as they normally would from the FS1 studios in Charlotte North Carolina.  Joe Gibbs Racing regular Denny Hamlin edged out Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of the Dixie Vodka 150.   

In my opinion, the production by everyone involved was mind-blowing. It looked and almost felt as if we were watching the real thing. There were times during the race where I had to remind myself that this was virtual and not the real thing, however, still fun and entertaining.  

You can catch the action of iRacing this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway on FOX sports app and FS1.  Amid the huge popularity of The Replacements 100 race, FOX committed to the full schedule for iRacing, until we are able to return to the real thing.   

For more information on the iRacing Pro Invitational Series, or if you want to pursue iRacing for yourself, check out their website.  

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