The inaugural eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race on FOX Sports was a success on Sunday, and it is set to be the new normal until the threat of the novel coronavirus has passed.
NASCAR, iRacing and FOX Sports revealed on Tuesday that all subsequent Pro Invitational Series races will air nationally on the FOX broadcast network, FS1 and the FOX Sports app, starting on Sunday with the second race at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET.
The debut event on Sunday, which concluded with a thrilling last lap duel between race winner Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Homestead, drew just under a million viewers (903,000), and was the highest rated eSports television program in history.
It was also the most watched telecast on FS1 since March 12, when the sporting world was halted in response to the global pandemic.
FOX Sports executives like EVP Brad Zager were thrilled.
“The rapid-fire collaboration between FOX Sports, NASCAR and iRacing obviously has resonated with race fans, gamers and television views across the country in a very positive way,” Zager said in a press release. “We have learned so much in a relatively short period of time and we are excited to expand coverage of this brand new NASCAR esports series to an even wider audience.”
NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who provided color commentary for the inaugural event alongside Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds is excited to get back to work every week, even in an unorthodox form.
“The response on social media to last Sunday’s race has been incredible,” Gordon said. “We were able to broadcast a virtual race that was exciting and entertaining. It brought a little bit of normalcy back to the weekend and I can’t wait to call the action Sunday at Texas.”
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series features drivers from all three NASCAR national touring divisions. In addition to Hamlin and Earnhardt, the race from Homestead included Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Erik Jones and Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte.
“We’re overwhelmed by the positive feedback and encouragement sent by industry stakeholders, drivers, partners, media and most importantly, our fans,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer.
“We all can’t wait to get back to racing and our partners at iRacing and FOX have worked with us to do just that – race. We are committed to running these eNASCAR iRacing events as long as necessary. Providing a platform for our fans to watch and engage with their favorite drivers is our number one priority.”
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