Friday September 22, 2023
The Best Employers in Sports Survey is Now Open!

NASCAR Virtual Races Pave Way for Esports Expansion

  • With real drivers racing virtually, teams are still providing value to sponsors and partners.
  • The second week of racing drew 1.34 million to FOX and FS1, while nearly 13,000 played DraftKings’ free-to-play game for $10,000.
Front Office Sports Today

How Rupert Murdoch Changed Sports Media Forever

As he steps down as chair of Fox and News Corp., we discuss his monumental and ongoing impact.
Listen Now
September 22, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied
NASCAR iRacing
Courtesy iRacing via Bristol Motor Speedway

The lasting effects of the rise of virtual sports during the coronavirus outbreak will remain unknown for the time being. Still, NASCAR Managing Director of Gaming Scott Warfield has high hopes. 

The eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series has drawn large audiences on TV and is helping build up a sports betting base and reach a new demographic that potentially could carry over once live races return, Warfield said. 

FOS REPORT: 54.5% of industry executives believe that it would be at least 60 days before leagues resume play.

“We have found ourselves at the center of the spoke of the wheel, given that we have one of the few live sporting options out there currently, along with Belarusian soccer and ping pong,” Warfield said. “Esports has been a big growth initiative for us for a long time, and while we wouldn’t wish any of this to happen, we have this product that is as real as any of the products out there, with top athletes using it and a broadcast partner that is willing to put it on air and put production dollars behind it.”

The effort’s first race at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway drew 903,000 real viewers to FS1, while the second week, staged at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway and broadcast on FOX and FS1, received 1.34 million viewers, according to Nielsen. 

Those viewership tallies are nearly equivalent to the average race of the second-tier Xfinity Series.

Beyond viewership, there’s a sports betting benefit to the races. Along with a free-to-play contest from DraftKings, Warfield said there’s also been a fair amount of activity in the international markets they’re tracking.

DraftKings’ free-to-play pool for iRacing drew 12,900 entries, and the races were offered to bettors in West Virginia. Two winners split the $10,000 prize, correctly predicting 10 of 11 questions about the virtual race.

Along with the virtual racing, DraftKings Sportsbook Director Johnny Avello said he believes this live sports hiatus will help push esports into the mainstream.

On the Daily Fantasy Sports side of DraftKings, the company has expanded its esports offering from League of Legends to also include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a first-person shooter game from Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment. 

“We’re always looking to expand the menu, and we have, so when we bring back live sports, it’s a full array,” Avello said. “When this is all said and done, and normal stuff comes back, some of this stuff will stick. Esports might be some of it; ping pong might be some other, or maybe darts, cricket and rugby.”

READ MORE: College Esports to Carry On in Now-Crowded Online Space

Warfield has similar hopes to how the iRacing circuit with real NASCAR Cup Series drivers will play out once the sports world normalizes.

“There are lightbulbs going off with what this means long term, both for iRacing but even larger around NASCAR,” Warfield said. 

In the short term, Warfield said the iRacing circuit is providing a morale boost for fans and drivers alike but also offering the teams a way to bring value back to partners and sponsors.

Longer-term, it’s potentially drawing in a new fan. Of the first week’s audience, 255,000 hadn’t watched a cup race this season, Warfield said. Likewise, NASCAR’s distribution partner overseas, IMG, is receiving solid pickup as well, Warfield said.

“When you start wondering why we are in this [esports] space, it’s how to grow the pie and reach a younger, more diverse fan,” he said. “Maybe we’re starting to see that.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Patrick Mahomes

NFL Media Machine Continues To Dominate In Week 1

NBC and CBS posted their best Week 1 viewership since 2015.
NASCAR aims to boost its revenue with a new summer race streaming package.

Amazon, Warner Bros. In Race for New NASCAR Summer Package

NASCAR's current deals with NBC and FOX expire after 2024.

NASCAR Drives Onto Netflix To Woo New Generation Of Fans

NASCAR is creating a Netflix series following the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How Rupert Murdoch Changed Sports Media Forever


Featured Today

Warriors Stake Reportedly Up For Sale at $7B Valuation

A 10% stake in the franchise could cost $700 million.
September 22, 2023

Jaguars Threaten Move Without $1B From Jacksonville Taxpayers

The Jagaurs are hoping to renovate TIAA Bank Field for $2 billion.
Deion Sanders on College GameDay
September 22, 2023

ESPN Beats Rival Fox in Deion Sanders Bowl

ESPN’s “College GameDay” more than doubled the audience of Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” in Boulder.
Stacy Lewis tees off on the seventeenth hole during the first round of the CPKC Women's Open golf tournament at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club.
September 22, 2023

In Ryder Cup’s Shadow, Solheim Cup Captain Laments ‘Missed Opportunity’

U.S. captain Stacy Lewis criticized the lack of cross-promotion and marketing.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations
The U.K. regulator is Microsoft's last major hurdle to pass.

U.K. Reconsiders Activision Takeover Amid Revised Microsoft Offer

Microsoft's new proposal grants cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft.
A judge denied the FTC’’s injunction request to block Microsoft’s deal.
July 11, 2023

Microsoft Beats FTC to Move Forward With Activision Blizzard Takeover

A judge denied the FTC’’s injunction request to block Microsoft’s deal.
The FTC is filing an injunction to block Microsoft's deal.
June 12, 2023

FTC Makes Another Move to Block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Takeover

Microsoft's $69B takeover faces scrutiny in the U.S and U.K.
Goals from the Stanley Cup Final are being shown as 3D videos on Roblox.
June 7, 2023

NHL Uses Roblox to Recreate Stanley Cup Final Goals in 3D

The Roblox activation leverages the NHL's puck and player tracking system.
Nike's .Swoosh NFTs will integrate with future games from EA Sports.
June 2, 2023

Nike NFTs to Appear in EA Sports Video Games

Nike launched its .Swoosh NFT marketplace last year.
FaZe Clan went public last year at a $725M valuation.
May 22, 2023

FaZe Clan Lays Off 40% of Staff Amid Esports’ Economic Woes

FaZe Clan went public last year at a $725M valuation.
The PIF upped its shares in EA by 55%.
May 16, 2023

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund Increases Electronic Arts Investment

Saudi Arabia's PIF upped its shares in EA by 55%.
May 11, 2023

EU Likely To Approve Microsoft’s $69B Acquisition of Activision Blizzard

It's the biggest deal in gaming history.