Like us, NASCAR drivers are spending the COVID-19 pandemic playing video games. They’re settling at home in front of expensive gaming rigs, connecting with their friends, and airing their competitive iRacing games on Fox, FS1, and the Fox Sports app. And by the end of their racing season, these drivers might be the most popular live streamers in America.
It’s a crazy turn of events, but it’s true. NASCAR and Fox are pivoting the 2020 racing season to eNASCAR, a virtual racing league that professional drivers can play from their bedroom. The first broadcast, a virtual race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, generated 903,000 viewers on FS1, making it the most popular televised eSports game ever. And this is just the first race of the season.
NASCAR and Fox uploaded highlights of the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway to YouTube, and the video is well worth your time (even if you aren’t into NASCAR). This game represents a landmark in eSports, and will likely push virtual sports further into the mainstream than games like Fortnite or CS:GO. After all, NASCAR fans are already familiar with the game’s rules, and other sports fans don’t have anything else to watch right now.
One can’t help but wonder what this means for the future of eSports (and regular sports). Will NASCAR continue its virtual races into 2021? Will other sports pivot to video games? We’ll just have to wait and see.