The eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series is largely a for-fun venture but presents an opportunity for drivers and teams who might not otherwise garner the same level of attention in the real world to do so in the virtual one, Matt DiBenedetto of Wood Brothers Racing explained to RACER.
“I think from my perspective, I just kind of do it for fun,” DiBenedetto said. “You want to try and run good for your sponsors and such because there are still people watching, but I would say overall it’s more just for fun.
“I’m surprised at how serious some of them take it, and for some guys, it’s an opportunity for them to get some TV time or for guys that driver lower-funded cars, like I have in the past. It’s an opportunity for them, so they look at it [seriously]; rightfully so.
“They’ll be on there practicing tons of hours during the week trying to get the best they can to compete. So, there are some guys that take it more seriously than others, but overall, the general consensus is that we’re doing it for fun.”
Whether the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series should be treated as a serious branch of competition or purely for entertainment purposes only emerged as a conversation last week. When NASCAR announced that Keelan Harvick, the eight-year-old son of Kevin Harvick, would be competing at Talladega, some were critical of the decision – particularly if other drivers like Ryan Preece were not allowed in.
DiBenedetto, however, was not bothered by the decision to allow Harvick to run.
“I actually thought it was cool, and I didn’t have a problem with it at all,” he said. “I thought it was neat.
“People know that our lives are about driving in NASCAR – real-life stuff – that’s our jobs. We are not professional sim racers by any means. So I think that’s where Keelan Harvick running and things like that add to the fact that what’s important is that we’re on there doing it for fun.”
When the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series was renewed for a second season, DiBenedetto was not surprised.
“I think that the sport is growing so much that I actually kind of figured that it was pretty inevitable, just because it gives so many people an opportunity to compete and race from home and you don’t have the costs – the future of [sim racing] is just going to continue,” he said.