• Event: GEICO 70 (Round 5)
• Series: eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series
• Time/Date: 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 29
• Location: Virtual Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval)
• Distance: 70 laps (186.2 miles)
Where to Watch:
• FOX network
• Announcers: Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds, with in-race commentary from Clint Bowyer.
• FS1 (DIRECTV Channel 219 and Dish Channel 150)
• FOX Sports Go app
• FOX Sports Racing for fans in Canada
• We Need a Bigger Podium: Last Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race from virtual Richmond Raceway had 971,000 viewers tune in to the simulcast on FOX and FS1, making it the third-most watched esports event in U.S. television history. The March 29 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race from virtual Texas Motor Speedway remains on the podium’s top step with 1.34 million viewers. The April 5 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway takes the second step with 1.179 million viewers. The first eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race March 22 at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway earned 903,000 viewers on FS1 alone. And while the Texas race dwarfed that number by 47 percent, the Homestead race was, for at least one week, the most watched esports event in U.S. television history, having bested the previous record of 770,000 viewers when Mortal Kombat aired on The CW in 2016.
• iRacing’s Real-World Context: Last Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race from Richmond was the second-most watched sports event of the weekend. The most-watched sports event? Michael Jordan ‘The Last Dance’ documentary on ESPN.
• New Viewers Assimilate to Sim Racing: According to Nielsen, one million unique viewers who did not watch any of the four real-life NASCAR Cup Series races prior to the sports industry’s necessary hiatus to combat the spread of the coronavirus did tune in to one of the four eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series races held thus far.
• Kind of a Big Deal: A total of 5.4 million unique viewers have watched at least one eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race via FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
• Bet On It: The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has been cleared and approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for wagering. Two types of bets are allowed for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series: winner of the race and head-to-head winner between drivers. Provisions for licensing the event includes a posting of the official rules for the tournament organizer and that all bets must cease once a race has started. Additionally, each bookmaker is allowed to create its own odds.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry:
What are you expecting at virtual Talladega this weekend?
“I got a chance to run in the Replacements race on Tuesday night, so that was my first taste of Talladega in iRacing. It had a lot of the same factors that you deal with running the real thing. You just have to try and stay out of trouble and put yourself in a position to have a shot toward the end of the race. The biggest difference is, obviously, there’s a lot less consequences and no torn-up equipment like the real thing. Looking forward to running our green Lightning Interstate Batteries scheme this weekend. Also want to give a shout out to everyone in the Interstate Batteries family who are keeping vehicles moving with everything going on right now in the world.”
Is there anything you’ve picked up on that may help you when you get back to the track for the regular races?
“Anything is a tool. You can use a tool any way you want. It’s no different than running in the sim rig that Toyota and TRD and the other manufacturers have to simulate the real thing. This can be used in the same respect. You just have to know how to use it and how that tool can work for you. Trying to figure out and remember what I am used to doing on the real racetrack and then coming to the iRacing sim and vice versa. It’s all about reps and doing something repetitive to get better. Someone told me recently that one of the racers for the Pro League for NASCAR spent 2,000 laps of practice at a particular track and getting better lap by lap and figuring it out. That’s unheard of. Even when we go do a test in our real life racecar – let’s use Bristol as an example as a short track: I might have run 300 to 350 laps – that’s all you do in real life. So when you hear someone talk about 2,000, that’s just an astronomical number in real life.”
Busch Talladega Notes:
• This will be Busch’s fifth-ever iRacing start in a virtual NASCAR Cup Series race.
• This is not Interstate Batteries first foray into the world of eNASCAR, as the company was the founding partner of Gibbs Gaming, in addition to being a founding partner of Joe Gibbs Racing back in 1992. For 2020, Interstate Batteries is a weekly sponsor on the No. 18 Toyota driven by Graham Bolin in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series.
• In addition to Interstate’s extensive involvement in iRacing, Busch’s Rowdy Energy Drink is a sponsor on the No. 51 Toyota driven by Malik Ray in the weekly eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series for JGR.
• William Hartman, Busch’s engineer on his regular No. 18 Toyota Camry Cup Series car, has been serving as crew chief for Busch each week. In addition to Hartman, Busch’s real-life spotter, Tony Hirschman, is spotting from his from his home in Pennsylvania.
• In actual NASCAR Cup Series racing at Talladega, Busch has one win, six top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 29 career starts.
Pro Invitational Background
• The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is an exhibition esports series featuring a collection of past and present racecar drivers from the NASCAR Cup Series.
• The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is a multi-week series emulating the original 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
• With the sports world on a necessary hiatus to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series exists in place of actual NASCAR events.
— True Speed Communication —