As soon as NASCAR suspended its activities amid the coronavirus pandemic, series officials immediately found a way to keep fans entertained.
After running a replacement race at the virtual Atlanta Speedway on racing simulator iRacing, NASCAR took the next step and announced a new esports series.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series drew in 35 drivers from all three national series.
Well-known names such as seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Were among the entrants.
The series’ inaugural race, Dixie Vodka 150, run at the virtual Homestead Speedway on iRacing, was a massive success.
Broadcast by Fox Sports with the regular Cup Series team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds, the race drew plenty of attention.
On Twitter, the inaugural race racked up more than 1 million mentions throughout the weekend, climbing to the top of the US trending topics on race day.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series also became the most-watched esports event in US TV history.
It earned a 0.53 Nielsen rating while also drawing in 903,000 viewers.
The previous record belonged to a Mortal Kombat aired by The CW back in 2017, which drew in 707,000 viewers.
It was also the most-watched event on FS1 during the quarantine, which led to the cancelation of all sports events around the world.
Denny Hamlin won the Dixie Vodka 150, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. And Timmy Hill.
Following up on the initial and somewhat unexpected success, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will run until the end of the coronavirus-enforced suspension.
The positive response on social media and the record-setting numbers on TV sealed the deal for the event organizers.
NASCAR fans can enjoy more virtual action this weekend, as the series makes its way to iRacing’s version of Texas Speedway.
The Fort Worth 1.5-mile oval was originally scheduled to host this weekend’s Cup Series race, which has now been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NASCAR has yet to announce a new date for the postponed events, although it intends to run the full, 36-race schedule in 2020.
The Cup Series is currently scheduled to return on May 9 at Martinsville Speedway.
The inaugural race of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series drew in 903,000 viewers.
The Dixie Vodka 150, eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series’ first ever race, set the record for the most watched esports event in US TV history.
With 903,000 viewers, it surpassed the previous mark of 707,000, held by a Mortal Kombat event from 2017.
Fox Sports confirmed that it is going to broadcast the full eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series season after a successful first race.
The Cup Series commentary team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds has also been confirmed.
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