By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
With the world of motorsports on hold for the next couple of months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eSports have taken center stage and NASCAR was no exception.
It’s become such a focal talk that Fox Sports announced Thursday they’ll be airing Sunday’s inaugural eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway with Dixie Vodka as the race title sponsor.
The landmark announcement comes two days after NASCAR and iRacing announced the formation of the star studded series which will feature drivers from the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and a group of dignitaries.
NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Development Ben Kennedy broke the announcement during Tuesday’s live stream of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series where they ran at virtual Homestead, won by Williams eSports driver Ryan Luza.
“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day,” Kennedy said. “Our long-time partners at iRacing offer an incredible product and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”
Six drivers were announced right away and they combine for a total of 136 Cup wins, five Daytona 500 triumphs, and seven NASCAR national touring championships.
Those six all-stars are two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr., two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, three-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin, 2008 Xfinity Series champion Clint Bowyer, 2020 Chili Bowl champion Kyle Larson and 2017 Truck Series champion Christopher Bell.
More drivers were announced Thursday as a slew of Cup regulars and a NASCAR Hall of Famer are scheduled to compete in Sunday’s 100-lap event with the lineup subject to change:
Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Landon Cassill, Ross Chastain, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Timmy Hill, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Parker Kligerman, Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Preece, Garrett Smithley, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace
Fox Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head of Production and Operations Brad Zager said this should provide a great alternative for race fans to get their racing fix provide a distraction from the health crisis that wiped out NASCAR action through May 3rd.
“This is a unique opportunity to offer competitive and entertaining racing to our viewers as we all work through these challenging times together,” Zager said. “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.”
Last Sunday, sim racing broadcasting channel PodiumeSports, Logano’s spotter T.J. Majors and Bowman’s spotter Kevin Hamlin organized an iRacing event called the Replacements 100, just 48 hours after the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was postponed due to the health crisis.
Dale Jr., Byron, Smithley and Kligerman were among the notable competitors who competed in the 100-lap event at the virtual Atlanta circuit and was won by Ryan Blaney’s spotter Josh Williams.
Live coverage of the Dixie Vodka 150 will begin at 1:30 pm EST on FS1 and the Fox Sports app with Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds calling the action.
NASCAR’s return to real-world action is scheduled to take place on the night of May 9th at Martinsville Speedway for the running of the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500.