The Future of NASCAR iRacing: What Happens When Cars Are Back on the Track?
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR. Pictured: Trucks are reflected in the Rockingham Speedway building during the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 at Rockingham Speedway on April 15, 2012
Three races into the NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and it appears the experiment is working.
There’s obviously an appetite — and a TV audience — for NASCAR iRacing, especially in the current COVID-19 sports climate, but what happens once the major leagues return to action, including cars back on the track?
The Pro Invitational Series could certainly live on, but it’s tough to imagine the big-name drivers like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Kyle Larson continuing to race virtually while also focusing on the grind of the Cup Series schedule.
Will fans still tune in if the household names are no longer participating? My guess is no.
And with this question in mind, I present to you … the NASCAR iRacing Legends Series.
The idea is that the sport’s legends get back on track at some of the most iconic speedways in history.
Here are the details.
Retired & Part-Time Drivers
Many drivers still have the competitive fire when they retire, but often hang up their helmets due to reasons like the grind of a 36-race schedule, wanting to spend more time with family, etc.
Well, if these drivers can still race competitively from the comfort of their own homes, they won’t have to travel, miss time with family or be concerned about injury.
My proposal: Drivers at least 40 years old who who haven’t declared for points in NASCAR’s Trucks, XFINITY or Cup Series are eligible.
Some fans continue to reminisce about “the old days” of racing at tracks like North Wilkesboro and The Rock, but I’ve got news for you, those aren’t coming back.
So, let’s incorporate those classic racetracks into the Legends Series. I think many fans would happily tune into drivers like Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, the Labonte brothers and more running 150 laps at virtual North Wilkesboro.
Now, it wouldn’t be solely tracks that are no longer on the schedule. Darlington, Martinsville, Daytona and Talladega should all be included as well.
My proposal: Let fans vote from a predetermined list of tracks to create the schedule. The predetermined list would include tracks that hosted NASCAR events prior to the year 2000.
Like returning to classic racetracks, there are many fans out there clamoring for midweek races. So let’s make that happen.
Holding these events on Wednesday nights would not only appease these fans looking for midweek racing entertainment, but it also ensures there’s no conflict with traditional motorsports series that typically run Friday through Sunday.
And, for those out there with young families, like me, midweek Cup Series races could run until midnight if NASCAR waits for West Coast fans to get home from work before going green.
However, a 90-minute virtual race and us East Coasters can be in bed before 10:30 p.m.
My proposal: Qualifying at 8 p.m. ET followed immediately by the race on Wednesday.
What do you think? Could a NASCAR iRacing Legends Series gain traction even after racecars are back on track?
I encourage everyone to send me their thoughts and opinions on Twitter (@PJWalsh24).