eNASCAR

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NASCAR Texas event tops TV record for eSports event

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Last weekend’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event from a virtual Texas Motor Speedway, drew 1.3 million viewers, breaking the record for eSports TV viewership set bv the previous week’s race.

The data is according to Nielsen Sports.

Last weekend’s event from the digital Texas Motor Speedway, won by Timmy Hill, was broadcast on FOX and FS1. Not all FOX markets aired the race.

The previous record for eSports viewership on TV was 903,000 for the March 22 race from a digital Homestead-Miami Speedway that Denny Hamlin won and aired on FS1. The Texas viewership was 1,339,000.

The next event in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series takes place at 1 p.m. ET Sunday from a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast on FOX, FS1 and the Fox Sports App.

 

Timmy Hill wins eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race at Texas

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Timmy Hill used a bump-and-run to take the lead from William Byron late and held off the field in an overtime restart to win the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race Sunday at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway.

Ryan Preece finished second and was followed by Garrett Smithley, Landon Cassill and Alex Bowman. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sixth.

MORE: Race results 

MORE: What drivers said after iRacing race at virtual Texas

“I couldn’t be more excited,” the 27-year-old Hill said. “That last lap is one I’ll definitely remember for a while.”

Byron, who led a race-high 80 laps in the 130-lap race, was at the point when a bump from Hill moved Byron  up the track on Lap 121. Hill took the lead and withstood a challenge from the field after an overtime restart to win.

The victory was Hill’s 674th in 1677 career iRacing starts. Hill, who said he spent about four hours a day preparing for Sunday’s race, finished third in last weekend’s race at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. He and Smithley are the only two drivers to score top-five finishes in each of the first two races in the Pro Invitational Series. Smithley was fifth last weekend.

Check back for more. 

Alex Labbe wins eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier

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Alex Labbe, who competes in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, won the eNASCAR Pro Invitational qualifier from a virtual Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday morning.

Labbe won by passing Anthony Alfredo for the lead on the last lap. Alfredo finished second. Ty Majeski, who started on the pole, finished third. Ruben Garcia Jr. finished fourth.

The top four advanced to today’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway (1 p.m ET on FOX, FS1 and Fox Sports App) That race features a 35-car field.

This is the second weekend in a row that Majeski and Alfredo each qualified for the main event through a qualifying race.

With no cautions, qualifying was critical for those who advanced. All four who advanced started in the top six. Labbe started second, Alfredo started fifth and Garcia started sixth.

RACE RESULTS

  1. Alex Labbe
  2. Anthony Alfredo
  3. Ty Majeski
  4. Ruben Garcia Jr.
  5. Jeb Burton
  6. Derek Kraus
  7. Brennan Poole
  8. Kaz Grala
  9. Stewart Friesen
  10. Joe Graf Jr.
  11. Todd Gilliland
  12. Jesse Iwuji
  13. Brandon Brown
  14. Spencer Boyd
  15. Chase Briscoe
  16. JJ Yeley
  17. Chandler Smith
  18. Justin Haley
  19. Myatt Snider
  20. Tyler Ankrum
  21. Justin Allgaier
  22. Trevor Bayne
  23. Austin Cindric
  24. Joey Gase
  25. Sam Mayer
  26. Ryan Truex
  27. Harrison Burton
  28. Ryan Ellis
  29. Scott Stenzel
  30. Christian Eckes
  31. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  32. Kyle Weatherman

eNASCAR race draws record TV audience for eSports event

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Last weekend’s inaugural eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event drew the largest TV audience for an eSports event.

The race, won by Denny Hamlin at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, attracted 903,000 viewers on FS1, according to Nielsen Sports. The race topped the previous record of 770,000 viewers for a Mortal Kombat event on the CW Network in 2016, said Manny Anekal, founder of The Next Level, a publication that covers the business of eSports.

The eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series will continue with drivers competing on a virtual Texas Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer, told NBC Sports that the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series plans to follow the schedule for where the series was to have raced that weekend. That means upcoming races at a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway and Dover International Speedway. NASCAR has postponed all its races through May 3 at Dover because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clark said that there have been preliminary discussions about what to do Easter weekend since NASCAR does not have any races scheduled that weekend.

The viewership for last weekend’s virtual race compares to a broadcast of an actual Xfinity race. The Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway earlier this month drew 993,000 viewers on FS1.

Of course, these are extraordinary times with stay-at-home orders being issued in many states in hopes of combating the spread of COVID-19.

What stood out to eSports experts about the viewership of last weekend’s iRacing event was that it was numbers not seen from motorsports games even when streamed.

“Racing games have not had that buy in from the eSports community so this is really a big deal,” said Gabriela Richard, assistant professor of education at Penn State University and faculty advisor to the school’s eSports club.

Anekal was among those who viewed last weekend’s race.

“It was interesting,” he said. “It was fun to watch because you had real world drivers, which makes it more exciting. Because of that, I think it was just really exciting to watch. To be frank, in terms of graphics, there were times where you couldn’t tell … am I watching a race or am I watching a video game?”

Clark said that there was some consideration to running such a race the previous weekend after the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway were postponed but “we ultimately decided that was probably too aggressive, we didn’t feel confident enough in doing that.”

While pleased with the viewership after one weekend, Clark said there are some ideas being examined for this weekend’s race.

“We’ve done some outreach to drivers … and wanted to get their feedback on what we could do better and how we can help improve the broadcast as well,” Clark said.

What might fans see more of this weekend?

Clark noted more views of drivers during the event and audio communication.

He noted that some drivers provided that last weekend when they streamed themselves racing on Twitch.

“That’s a really good opportunity where you kind of create a little bit of something for everyone and where you can certainly tune into the broadcast to see everything, but you can also tune into some of those channels like Twitch that gives you an opportunity to maybe reach an audience that maybe isn’t watching on television,” he said.

As for the racing, Steve Myers, executive vice president and executive producer at iRacing, anticipates it will be better.

“People don’t realize how we threw a lot of those guys directly into the fire with this because some of them just haven’t been using the software or have never used the software,” Myers told NBC Sports. “So to ask some of these guys to get up to be confident in driving a virtual stock car and in Jimmie Johnson’s case, an hour, he got an hour of practice before that race. I think that’s going to be the way it continues to improve the product.

“We had 10 or 11 cautions in that race. My goal for this next one would be to get that down to five or six. I think from that aspect, it’s going to be even more entertaining than it was last week.

“That last 10 laps of that race, watching (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) get past (Garrett) Smithley and Timmy Hill, and Denny Hamlin doing the same thing and getting past Dale on the last lap, the last corner, if we can recapture the excitement of those 10 laps over 100 laps or 125 laps, I think that by itself is just going to create a more entertaining product. The more that people see it and more that people buy into the fact of, ‘Hey I’m going to suspend belief for two hours and just enjoy watching racing,’ I think from that aspect it will grow.”

Denny Hamlin wins iRacing exhibition race at virtual Homestead

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Denny Hamlin passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series exhibition race on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Earnhardt was second in the 100-lap race. Timmy Hill was third. Chase Briscoe placed fourth. Garrett Smithley was fifth.

Hamlin rallied from 14th in the final 20 laps, taking advantage of the top 13 not pitting under caution on Lap 81.

MORE: What drivers had to say after Sunday’s race 

Hamlin pledged to donate $100 for every lap he led and $5,000 if he won the race. Those donations will be earmarked to assist Miami-area residents.

“It’s always fun when you win,” Hamlin said in a teleconference after the race. “Regardless, it was a great event for the racing community and the NASCAR drivers to come together to put 20-some drivers together on such short notice. I think it definitely was a success.”

Said Earnhardt: We took tires with 30 laps to and Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go and I think that was certainly a big advantage for him. We were racing really hard up front, too, burning our stuff up. I didn’t expect Denny to get up there and he did. Went to the bottom because if I go to the top he can pass me a whole lot easier. Plus, he wanted to, he could take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top five.”

RESULTS

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  3. Timmy Hill
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Garrrett Smithley
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. Bubba Wallace
  8. Ryan Preece
  9. Ty Majeski
  10. Erik Jones
  11. Matt DiBenedetto
  12. Landon Cassill
  13. Parker Kligerman
  14. Ross Chastain
  15. Joey Logano
  16. Clint Bowyer
  17. Ryan Truex
  18. Bobby Labonte
  19. Ty Dillon
  20. Justin Allgaier
  21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  22. Austin Cindric
  23. Michael McDowell
  24. Chase Elliott
  25. Brad Keselowski
  26. Christopher Bell
  27. Austin Dillon
  28. Chris Buescher
  29. Kyle Busch
  30. John Hunter Nemechek
  31. Jimmie Johnson
  32. Anthony Alfredo
  33. Kyle Larson
  34. William Byron
  35. Kurt Busch