While all major sports are on hiatus, NASCAR has embraced iRacing, a high-end simulation racing video game, to get their drivers in virtual cars on a virtual track.
While it may sound like any other esport, iRacing features some high-tech features so that drivers feel like they're actually behind the wheel of a real car. That goes double for drivers who set up fancy racing wheel rigs. Just look at Denny Hamlin's set up:
During Sunday’s iRacing event, I’m pledging $100 for each lap I lead and $5000 if I win the race to benefit families affected by COVID-19 in the Homestead-Miami area. @NASCAR_FDN @feedthechildren. Who’s with me? @JoeGibbsRacing @KyleBusch. For more info https://t.co/tibiUfh4oK https://t.co/tH3q2EfD4R pic.twitter.com/1ADXTXOPoe— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 20, 2020
Sunday marked the first race in eNASCAR's iRacing Pro Invitational Series, and it featured 35 drivers all competing from the comfort of their own living room, garage or man cave. The usual NASCAR announcers, Jeff Gordon and Mike Joy, even called the race from the Fox Sports studio (while practicing social distancing of course) and brought some production value and normalcy to the event.
When the time came to wave the green flag and get things going, it was easy to forget this was a virtual race. The graphics were sharp, the commentary was engaging and the competition was fierce. In the end, Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. even traded some paint (or maybe pixels?) while fighing to the finish line.
Locally, former Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long got into it.