Illustration for article titled Professional NASCAR Drivers Competed In A Virtual Race And It Was Pretty Damn Epic
Screenshot: Nascar On Fox (YouTube)

NASCAR has postponed races until May due to the Coronavirus outbreak. But to fill the demand for cars repeatedly driving around an oval, the company held a virtual race that featured actual NASCAR drivers behind the wheel of simulators. Apparently the digital event was actually quite epic.

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On Sunday, NASCAR held a race called the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. iRacing, as former Jalopnik racing expert Alanis King notes in the video below, came out in 2008 as a subscription gaming service. Its extraordinary verisimilitude is why even seasoned NASCAR drivers use iRacing as a training tool.

Business Insider (again, Alanis) wrote last week about NASCAR’s announced iRacing event. From the story:

While [NASCAR and Formula One] are on hold indefinitely during the pandemic, they each scrambled together to bring viewers a replacement of sorts: online racing, but with many of the drivers who would be out on the track — giving the people who aren’t quite into esports yet but don’t have anything else to watch something to be invested in.

NASCAR announced on Tuesday that it would start an exhibition round called the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series on iRacing, a realistic simulator that’s been around since 2004, for big names to compete in during the lull. The opening race will be live on Fox Sports 1 on Sunday, complete with the network’s broadcasters and top-level Cup Series champions Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano in the race.

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The race took place on Sunday, and by and large, folks seem to have loved it. Especially the National Anthem, which country musician Dylan Scott sang from his garage:

The simulator rigs that the drivers had at their homes were pretty impressive. Here’s Denny Hamlin, who won the race in his No. 11 Toyota. Watch as his family gets to actually see Hamlin “race,” up close:

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Here’s No. 20 Erik Jones in his No. 20 Toyota:

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Check out Alex Bowman’s dog driving the No. 88 Chevy. Alex, and a number of other drivers, had to take pee breaks:

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And here’s recap of the full even, which took place at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, and was announced by racing legend Jeff Gordon and Fox Sports host Mike Joy:

I didn’t actually watch the race, since I had more important things to do like attempt to have a deep conversation with my phone’s Google Assistant and organize my sock drawer while wondering why the hell I don’t just buy one type of sock. Still, despite me not having witnessed the festivities, it’s obvious that the general consensus among internet-ers is that the virtual event was pretty damn epic. The race winner, Denny Hamlin, talks about how much attention this shindig received, writing on his twitter:

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Racing reporter Jeff Gluck quotes twitter-er “Lokis mom,” who lauds the whole experience:

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What a moment in history. A worldwide pandemic has brought America’s economy to a crippling halt, and all but shut down the sports world. NASCAR is adapting by using technology, and it seems to have worked. At the very least, in that it brought joy to many.

I’d definitely recommend you check out the drivers’ Twitter accounts, because there’s quite a lot of hilarious banter to behold.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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