Last weekend’s broadcast of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event attracted over 900,000 viewers on FS1 – enough to convince Fox Sports to air more NASCAR-sanctioned iRacing events in the future.
According to Nielsen Sports ratings, the simulated Dixie Vodka 150 from Miami-Homestead attracted a total of 903,000 viewers, making it Sunday’s most-watched sports program on cable television. That meant the virtual race attracted more viewers than every live IndyCar race that aired on NBC Sports last year and was also watched by more people than recently televised Major League Soccer, NCAA basketball and NHL games, USA Today reports.
Fox Sports has now committed to airing a complete eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series season. The next event will be held on Sunday from the virtual Texas Motor Speedway – the same track the real-world NASCAR Cup Series was set to visit this weekend. The broadcast will air on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports app starting at 1 p.m. E.T.
“This rapid-fire collaboration between FOX Sports, NASCAR and iRacing obviously has resonated with race fans, gamers and television viewers across the country in a very positive way.,” Brad Zager, executive producer at Fox Sports, said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Like this past weekend’s event, usual NASCAR broadcasters Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Gordon will be in the commentary booth for the virtual race at Texas. It will also feature the same roster of NASCAR stars, including major names like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch.
In addition to the TV ratings, Fox and NASCAR were also pleased at the strong response to the race on social media, with drivers sharing videos of them racing in their home simulator setups and even engaging in comedic post-race interviews.
“The response on social media to last Sunday’s race has been incredible,” Jeff Gordon said of the event. “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.”
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) March 24, 2020
It’s not clear how many events the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will consist of, though the schedule’s length may hinge on how long the coronavirus pandemic keeps race tracks and other sports venues closed.