NASCAR Goes Virtual to a Million Fans
I confess I am not a passionate NASCAR fan. I don't have anything against it, I just never really got into it very much. I do enjoy watching other motors sports in-person, like the stock car races north of town, the hill climbs, drag races, etc. I'm sure attending a NASCAR event in-person is a fun experience, but it kind of loses its appeal to me on television.
Like all other sports right now, the regular season NASCAR dates have all been postponed. Fans are understandably bummed. I learned yesterday that NASCAR is doing something pretty awesome to give their die-hard fans a taste of racing. They're running races virtually.
According to an article in The Verge, the idea sprouted from NASCAR team #22 crew member TJ Majors, who is a "spotter." His job is to watch the track and make radio calls to the drivers about when it's clear to pass, who's beside them, etc. When he found out the season was being postponed, wheels started turning in his head and he came up with the idea to have current and former race car drivers compete online with the popular racing simulator, iRacing.
They rolled it out for the first time last weekend on TV and around one million people tuned in to the "race." The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is now a thing and races will be carried every week on Fox. Keeping to tradition, they open with the national anthem and prayer and are even using NASCAR's official race announcers to cover the race. How cool is that?
Virtual sports are certainly no comparison to the real thing, but that's all we've got for the time being and I think it's better than nothing. We could all use some distraction right now, even if it's just virtual cars racing a virtual race.