RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Like other leagues, NASCAR has put the breaks on its season, but the sport has found a different way to keep fans in front of the television and drivers behind the wheel ... sort of.
Midlothian's Andrew Fuller is a longtime NASCAR fan.
"It's just cool to go and smell the rubber and see the track and just be a kid again."
But with tracks gone quiet due to the sport's postponement, drivers and fans alike have been left with a void.
"It's been kind of tough because I look forward to it almost every weekend," said Fuller.
"This is the first time, especially in my career where we've ever started racing, I think in anybody's career, where we've started racing and then have two months off," added Stewart-Haas driver Chase Briscoe.
That's where iRacing has come in. It's NASCAR, but in virtual form, and at first look, fans may mistake it for the real thing.
“If you were just flipping through the channels, at first glance, you wouldn’t even know it is iRacing. You’d think it’s real life,” noted Briscoe. “It obviously drives really similar and we still have the steering wheel and pedals just like we do in real life, except for we’re not in a race car. We’re sitting at home in a simulator.”
Many drivers use these simulators to prepare for upcoming races, but now they've helped eSports hit the big stage. The iRacing Pro Invitational features some of the biggest and best names from the NASCAR circuit. It started back on March 22 with a virtual race of Homestead-Miami Speedway, won by Denny Hamlin. The plan is the keep it going until the season resumes.
"Every racetrack is laser-scanned so every single crack, every single bump, anything at that racetrack in real life is there in iRacing," said Briscoe.
The virtual races are broadcast nationally by FOX Sports, helping to global spotlight to shine on NASCAR. Briscoe notes that it's a great chance for the sport to take center stage when other events may be without their platforms.
"For us now to be able to use that as a platform to keep our sport relevant, and really the only sporting event in the world that can go on right now is such a huge thing."
While this is the way of the present, nothing can entirely replicate the real experience, so whether it's behind the wheel or in the seats, the day racing returns will be one that everybody will celebrate.
"I'll appreciate it a whole lot more," remarked Fuller. "They're taking precautions like everyone else should and I think it's cool that NASCAR's bringing iRacing and FOX Sports together to have a sport on TV on Sundays."
"We all want the country to get back and the world in a better place," added Briscoe. "We're ready to go back and I think when we do go back, it's going to be some of the best racing you've ever seen in your life."
Richmond Raceway has been impacted by the changes. This month’s scheduled spring race weekend (April 17-19) was part of NASCAR’s postponements, making the next scheduled NASCAR events the fall weekend in September. The Action Track is scheduled to host an IndyCar race on Saturday, June 27.
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