Opening race of eNASCAR iRacing
series to be televised
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[March 20, 2020]
While the entire NASCAR
community remains resolved and mindful of the current healthcare
situation in the country, some of the sport's top names from Dale
Earnhardt Jr. to Chase Elliott will participate in a
first-of-its-kind eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
That action starts with Sunday's virtual race at Homestead-Miami
Fans can watch the event live on at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and with the
FOX Sports app. FOX Sports announced Thursday that broadcasters Jeff
Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will call the action in the
90-minute esports race featuring the sport's best, including Daytona
500 winner Denny Hamlin, current NASCAR Cup Series points leader
Joey Logano, reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and fan
favorites such as Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.
They lead a large contingent of Cup regulars entered on Sunday. And
additionally, at least for this week, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby
Labonte and racer/broadcaster Parker Klingerman will join the
full-time NASCAR Cup Series "regulars" too.
The full 35-car field -- representing all facets of the sport --
will be announced on Sunday. NASCAR Cup Series drivers have been
allotted spots, and qualifiers across a group of Xfinity and Gander
Trucks drivers will set the final grid. NASCAR Xfinity Series
drivers Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson,
Justin Allgaier, along with NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
favorites such as Ty Majeski, Ryan Truex and Stewart Friesen are
slated to compete.
"This is a unique opportunity to offer competitive and entertaining
racing to our viewers as we all work through these challenging times
together," said Brad Zager, FOX Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head
of Production & Operations.
"We are following CDC guidelines to maintain a safe work environment
as the well-being of all those involved is paramount. We value our
relationships across the NASCAR community and appreciate all of the
effort that it took in bringing this project to life."
Executives are hoping this is a win-win situation. Fans will get to
see their favorites competing and drivers will get to race, offering
a positive diversion in an uncertain time.
"Obviously we're going through this terrible time in the world and
you want to pay attention to that, but it's been a unique and quite
crazy thing since Thursday afternoon when the sports world started
shutting down," iRacing's Executive Vice President and Executive
Producer Steve Myers said.
"Now we have so much attention and opportunity in front of us really
being in the only type of sport that can be represented in a digital
way where these real participants can come and do this. It's not a
leap for them to make that jump and no other sport in the world
really has that ability or opportunity. It's super exciting."
Myers said he and NASCAR's Senior Vice President & Chief Digital
Officer Tim Clark were originally contacted late last week by
Earnhardt and NASCAR Hall of Famer Gordon about the potential of
holding iRacing events with current NASCAR drivers.
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Clark, who oversees all of NASCAR's esports offerings, reiterated
how fortunate the sport was to be able to operate and feature
iRacing this way.
"I would say this sport and this industry is phenomenal in a number
of ways, but the willingness of all the stakeholders to jump on
board has been a great testament to that," Clark said. "From tracks,
to sponsors, to drivers to teams, everyone has reached out and
raised their hand to find a way to participate.
"The drivers jumped on board and really mobilized themselves without
"I can't say enough good things about iRacing. Those guys have been
a phenomenal partner of NASCAR for a long time and throughout this
entire process that came together really quickly because there were
no egos, there were no 'what's in it for me?' mentalities. Everyone
was really very selfless in this whole deal."
Myers predicts both the NASCAR regulars and new fans may indeed have
a fun learning curve this weekend -- especially for newcomers to
this form of the sport.
"It's going to be fun," Myers said. "Certainly there's 10-15 guys
with a lot more advantage because they've been more active in this,
but it's just as interesting to see the guys kind of jumping in and
doing this for the first time and seeing how they progress.
"If I had the opportunity to stand on a soapbox and talk to the
drivers this weekend, I would encourage them to treat it exactly how
they would a real race car. You don't jump in the car and mash your
foot to the floorboard, you've got to practice patience and all the
same skills you would in the race car. That's how you'll be fast
"Really, it's just amazing to me how everyone is banding together to
make the best of a bad situation."
Clark said he couldn't agree more.
"I think that with everything going on, there's no playbook for
what's happening right now," Clark said. "There are people who
aren't quite sure what to do or how to feel, so for us to have an
event like this, it can provide some entertainment and a distraction
where everyone is jumping in with both feet.
"It's just incredible to see and I'm happy to see that for NASCAR
fans and the entire industry."
--By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media
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