The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational will return with 10 virtual races this season.
NASCAR and iRacing made the joint announcement Tuesday, saying the event will have a new look after setting viewership marks for televised esports programming last year. The sport turned to iRacing during a COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020, with partner Fox broadcasting the events. Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer competed from the Fox studios with in-race commentary.
This year, the virtual schedule will complement the real-life schedule and feature NASCAR Cup Series drivers. The first four events will be the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race, Talladega, Darlington, and Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The fifth race is to be determined.
“The success of our eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was underscored by an industry-wide effort to entertain fans during the early months of the global pandemic,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer. “This year, the Pro Invitational will return with a schedule of midweek races that will bridge the gap between our real-world races each weekend.”
Fox Sports will broadcast the first five races during their network’s broadcast window. The first race is March 24 (Bristol), and the fifth race of their schedule is June 2.
“Fox Sports embraced the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational in the spring as a way to keep race fans entertained, but we quickly realized it was a product and collaboration that we would continue to explore,” said Fox Sports executive producer, EVP/Head of Operations and Production Brad Zager. “The product is best-in-class, it delivers NASCAR to an even broader audience and, let’s face it, it’s a heckuva lot of fun.”
NBC Sports will broadcast the second half of the schedule when their network broadcast window begins for the real NASCAR schedule. The five virtual races during their slot were not announced.
“After last year’s Pro Invitational success, we’re proud that our partners at NASCAR, Fox, and the race teams view the series as an integral part of their marketing and fan engagement strategies for 2021,” said Steve Myers, iRacing executive producer. “It’s even more fulfilling that the industry has rallied around our platform not only as the most authentic re-creation of the sport, but also a terrific tool to help grow NASCAR’s audience and generate revenue to strengthen the entire ecosystem.”
The 2021 eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series schedule (first five races):
* Wednesday, March 24: Bristol dirt, FS1, 8:00-9:30 p.m. ET
* Wednesday, April 21: Talladega, FS1, 7:00-8:30 p.m. ET
* Wednesday, May 5: Darlington, FS1, 8:00-9:30 p.m. ET
* Wednesday, May 19: COTA, FS1, 7:00-8:30 p.m. ET
* Wednesday, June 2: TBD, FS1, 8:00-9:30 p.m. ET