NBC joins Fox to televise online sim races in the absence of actual races during the new coronavirus pandemic. The network and IndyCar ad Wednesday that the second race in the virtual replacement season of the open-wheel racing series, which features drivers iRacing , will be broadcast on the NBC Sports network on Saturday April 4 at 2:30 p.m. ET. IndyCar says it is currently uncertain whether the race will also be broadcast online.
Much like what Fox has done with NASCAR’s pop-up simulator racing series, IndyCar virtual racing will feature the same broadcast team that NBC Sports typically uses in its coverage of real-world competitions. NBC and IndyCar will likely be looking to recreate some of the early successes Fox found, as last weekend’s simulated NASCAR sim racing drew 1.3 million viewers – roughly as many people watching some of the worlds the world’s least popular NASCAR races. IndyCar broadcast its first virtual race last weekend and has collected more than 200,000 views on YouTube.
Only three weeks ago, the best racing series in the world suspended its seasons in response to the pandemic. But unlike most other major sports, and for a number of reasons, the world of motorsport was particularly well equipped to run these sim racing substitutes. On the one hand, there are several robust and hyper realistic online racing platforms like iRacing and rFactor 2, each of which already hosts hundreds of sim racing leagues. Pro pilots not only know these platforms, but many have their own configuration at home. The major racing series themselves have also recently adopted esports, with NASCAR and Formula 1 running or sanctioning their own sim racing leagues.
In fact, the first virtual replacement races organized two and a half weeks ago were organized by these different communities without any real involvement of the sports themselves. They were so successful that it sparked the action of NASCAR, F1 and IndyCar, with each series starting a virtual replacement to fill the gap left by reported real-world events. And now, television networks, eager to make up for lost air time, are also joining.
They will not necessarily stop at the most famous racing series either. Just yesterday, Fox announced that it start televising a weekly series of “iRacing events in several disciplines and various virtual racetracks. It starts tonight, April 1, with a World of Outlaws virtual dirt track sprint car race.