Justin Allgaier (7), Austin Cindric (12) and Justin Haley (16) battle for position on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway oval. (Photo: NASCAR)
After seeing a wealth of social interaction and receiving favorable reviews of its virtual NASCAR race last weekend, Fox Sports has signed up to broadcast the rest of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
iRacing requires a computer, a steering wheel and pedals, more or less allowing real-world professional racing skills to translate to the virtual track. The inaugural race saw many of NASCAR's top drivers participating and tweeting from home as they race against some of the top competitors in the virtual world.
Sunday's race at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, won by Cup Series star Denny Hamlin, reached over 900,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1, according to Nielsen Media Research. It was also Sunday's most-watched sports program on cable television and the highest-rated esports TV program in history.
According to Sports Business Journal's Austin Karp, viewership for the race was greater than for every live IndyCar race on NBC Sports Network last year — in addition to surpassing recent nationally televised Major League Soccer and college basketball games on Fox, an XFL game on ESPN and an NHL game on NBC.
Some other more recent comps:
NHL: Red Wings-Penguins on NBC on Feb. 16: 848,000
XFL: Vipers-Wildcats on ESPN on March 8: 833,000
MLS: Nashville SC-Atlanta United on Fox on Feb. 29: 756,000
Hoops: Seton Hall-Creighton on Fox on March 7: 582,000 https://t.co/6HolXvrOXq
The next race in the series will be this Sunday at the virtual version of Texas Motor Speedway, where the actual NASCAR race would have taken place.
The regular Fox Sports broadcast team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds will call the action once again from the network's NASCAR studios in Charlotte, with Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer providing "in-car" commentary.
The broadcast will be simulcast on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports app, starting at 1 p.m. ET.
"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.”
NASCAR has postponed all on-track action through May 3 with hopes to resume real racing May 9 at Martinsville Speedway.
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