NASCAR has been running virtual motorsports competitions for nearly a dozen years through the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, but it wasn’t until last year, when the pandemic forced real-life racing into a pit stop, that NASCAR realized it had something with far greater potential on its hands. In partnership with Fox Sports and NBC Sports, NASCAR created the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational to air in place of real-life racing, and quickly set viewership records. Now, even with race car drivers hitting the asphalt again, NASCAR is bringing back the Pro Invitational for a second season, complementing the real-life racing schedule and featuring NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
At the same time, the Coca-Cola series is entering its 12th season, and XSET Gaming (an esports org launched by former FaZe Clan executives last year) is joining the competition. XSET has signed real-life NASCAR Cup Series driver Anthony Alfredo, who has the most followers on TikTok among Cup Series drivers, as the group official content creator.
Meanwhile, in other motorsports, the F1 Esports Series is bringing the Virtual Grand Prix Series back this year, and the MotoGP eSport Championship is expanding for its 5th season. The momentum in the space is hard to ignore and confidence is high. In fact, game developer Motorsport Games just filed an IPO in January and then proceeded to extend its agreement with Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to a 10-year rolling license. The deal is designed to build on the success of Le Mans Esports Series, and will see Motorsport publish video games, in addition to esports, based upon the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship.
Motorsports are helping esports teams gain new revenues while providing sponsors access to younger audiences that are evidencing strong cross-over interest in the real and virtual versions of the sport. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, esports viewers in the US are tuning into racing far more than the general population. 14% of all esports viewers watch NASCAR (compared to 8% of gen pop), 8% watch Formula One (compared to 3% of gen pop), and 12% watch MotoGP (compared to 5% of gen pop).