Over recent weeks, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted industries and businesses across the board. The world of live sports was completely sidelined—until last weekend. On Sunday, March 22, NASCAR broke new ground by holding the first ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race, putting actual NASCAR drivers into simulators for a virtual competition that aired live on FOX Sports 1. Drivers—including Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and the recently retired Dale Earnhardt, Jr.—battled it out from the comfort of their own homes.
Source: Twiiter via Denny Hamlin
It was an innovative way to fill the void caused by the cancellation of sporting events amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19. NASCAR, one of the first sports organizations to tackle the unprecedented sports blackout, shifted gears to provide stock car racing fans with engaging new programming to fulfill their needs for speed.
The result was a 100-lap race at a virtualized Homestead Miami Speedway, which attracted top talent in terms of both drivers and broadcast announcers. Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag, narrowly beating Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in dramatic fashion following a collision just ahead of the finish line on the final lap.
According to Nielsen viewership data in the U.S. on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast:
An average of 638,000 homes and 903,000 viewers (P2+) tuned in to the race, making it the most watched linear esports broadcast in history.1.6 million unique viewers P2+ watched the broadcast for at least six minutes. These viewers tuned in for an average of 59.42 minutes, more than half of the