NASCAR is going racing again. Well, virtually, at least.
With the sports world on pause amid the coronavirus pandemic, leagues such as NASCAR are finding new avenues to reach fans. Esports is a natural avenue given the current crisis that recommends social distancing, leading to NASCAR creating the iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
It's being billed as a multi-week exhibition esports series that will have big-name drivers competing in a virtual race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. Fox Sports 1 is scheduled to broadcast the 100-lap race at 12:30 p.m.
"It's not the most ideal situation to be in, we'd much rather be racing for real, but it's an amazing alternative," said Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 Ford in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
"We're the only sport I think who can still put on a show for its fans. I'm looking forward to doing that on Sunday. It's going to be a neat time for the sport."
Along with Briscoe, other notable drivers expected to compete in the field of 35 include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte.
IndyCar announced similar plans, running six virtual races with iRacing starting on March 28.
Most believe auto racing and esports are natural fits during this time, particularly with NASCAR and IndyCar postponing both of its seasons until at least May 9.
After all, most children growing up likely owned an auto racing video game or played an auto racing game at an arcade.
"Racing has been core to video gaming," said Scott Warfield, NASCAR's managing director of gaming. "We all had Mario Kart or NASCAR 98 growing up. The racing from a gaming standpoint is pretty authentic. And racing is core in all of us, whether we're racing someone to the front of the line or racing outside.