By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
After the tremendous success of last Sunday’s inaugural eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series telecast on FS1, Fox Sports are all-in of covering the rest of the season.
The network confirmed Tuesday they’ll simulcast the simulation races on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports app, beginning with the virtual Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, March 29 at 1:00 pm EST.
Not only it’ll air in the Untied States, Canada will also have an opportunity to see drivers from the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series battling it out as they can see the phenomenon through Fox Sports Racing.
Fox Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head of Production & Operations Brad Zager was thrilled hearing about last Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 150 at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway drew 903,000 views, making it the most-watched esports television event in history.
“This rapid-fire collaboration between Fox Sports, NASCAR and iRacing obviously has resonated with race fans, gamers and television viewers across the country in a very positive way,” Zager said. “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’s Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Tim Clark mentioned the sport’s commitment of bringing the Pro Invitational Series events on Fox Sports is important so fans can still be engaged with the product for the time being.
“We’re overwhelmed by the positive feedback and encouragement sent by industry stakeholders, drivers, partners, media and most importantly, our fans. 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,” Clark said. “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.”
No changes will be made in the broadcasting booth as the Fox NASCAR team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds will continue providing commentary. Additionally, Clint Bowyer will remain as the “in-car” commentator.
Gordon took notice how last Sunday’s virtual race, won by Denny Hamlin over Dale Earnhardt, Jr., brought a tremendous vibe on social media as it was the No. 1 most-social program on Twitter.
“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.”
After winning the inaugural race, Hamlin said in a teleconference that the series is already a success due to the national touring drivers will to race.
“The thing is nobody got together and said, ‘Let’s all do this.’ I think everybody just start doing it. iRacing, NASCAR and television got involved to be interested,” Hamlin said. “I think it all just came together but no one really were talking about unifying and participating. It was all free will and that’s what’s exciting when you have 25+ full-time Cup guys out there wiling to spend the time doing that.”
To grow further, Hamlin added that it’s up to the drivers and its fans to keep it afloat until the crisis ends where real-life NASCAR is slated to resume at Martinsville Speedway May 9.
“As long as you have drivers wanting to participate, you’re going to have a product people want to see,” Hamlin said. “If you can get that first step, then most likely you can keep this thing going because ultimately people out there, the fans, want to see their favorite driver. They don’t care if they’re racing virtually or in the real world, they want to see their favorite driver win.”