Esports racing, helped by record-setting viewership, is hitting the massive time.

Fox Sports mentioned Tuesday it can broadcast the relaxation of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series, following Sunday’s virtual race that was watched by 903,000 viewers, in accordance to Nielsen Media Research.

While these numbers are far beneath the hundreds of thousands of viewers who watch NASCAR’s official races — the final one at Phoenix Raceway reached 4.6 million — it nonetheless hit a quantity of firsts that Fox Sports discovered notable sufficient to commit to broadcasting the virtual racing series for the the rest of the season, starting March 29.

The races shall be simulcast on the FOX broadcast community, Fox Sports iRacing and the FOX Sports app. Races shall be accessible in Canada by way of FOX Sports Racing.

Virtual racing, which lets rivals race utilizing a system that features a pc, steering wheel and pedals, has been round for years. But it’s garnered extra consideration as the unfold of COVID-19, the illness attributable to coronavirus, has prompted sports activities organizers to cancel or postpone dwell occasions, together with the NCAA March Madness basketball event, NBA, NHL and MLB seasons in addition to Formula 1 and NASCAR racing series.

NASCAR ran its first virtual race in the series on Sunday in lieu of its deliberate race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, which was canceled due to COVID-19. Not solely was it the most watched esports occasion in U.S. tv historical past, it was Sunday’s most-watched sports activities telecast on cable tv that day.

“This rapid-fire collaboration between FOX Sports, NASCAR and that iRacing clearly has resonated with race followers, avid gamers and tv viewers throughout the nation in a really optimistic manner,” Brad Zager, FOX Sports government producer mentioned in a press release. “We have learned so much in a relatively short period of time, and we are excited to expand coverage of this brand-new NASCAR esports series to an even wider audience.”

Granted, there aren’t any dwell sports activities to watch on this COVID-19 period. Still, it bodes nicely for the future of esports, maybe even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

“The response on social media to last Sunday’s race has been incredible,” mentioned four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who’s announcer for Fox NASCAR. “We were able to broadcast a virtual race that was exciting and entertaining. It brought a little bit of ‘normalcy’ back to the weekend, and I can’t wait to call the action Sunday at Texas.”

You can see what the virtual racing appears to be like like right here on this clip from Fox Sports.

NASCAR isn’t the solely racing series to flip to esports. Formula 1 introduced final week that it could host an esports series, the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, with a quantity of present F1 drivers alongside a quantity of different stars.

The virtual Formula 1 races will use Codemaster’s official Formula 1 2019 PC recreation and followers can observe alongside on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook, in addition to on F1.com. The races shall be about half so long as common races, with 28 laps. The first race occurred March 22. The first-ever virtual spherical of the Nürburgring Endurance Series kicked off on March 21.

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