The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is taking its next big leap in esports, launching a competitive youth esports series on the widely popular online racing simulation portal, iRacing.
The new series will consist of a regular season, playoffs, and finals, and will be open worldwide to anyone aged 13-16 years old. It will begin in June and will last for 12 weeks, with the regular season consisting of eight events, with the top 50 racers with most points accumulated advancing to the playoffs. The top 30 racers in the playoffs will then qualify for the finals.
NASCAR hopes that the series will help to give the next wave of talent an opportunity to break into the scene, with the virtual races mirroring the real-life NASCAR experience by taking place in digital copies of famous circuits like the Langley Speedway, The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
“As we expand our presence in Esports, NASCAR is uniquely positioned as the only sport that can develop skills transferable to real world competition,” said NASCAR VP of Consumer Innovation Blake Davidson in a statement.
iRacing is one of the most popular racings simulations nowadays, as players are able to choose from tracks and cars seen in NASCAR and other pro circuits and leagues. The company describes the racing experience it provides as “virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.”
While this is not NASCAR’s first foray into esports, having already sponsored the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series since 2010, its partnership with iRacing represents a commitment to esports by yet another sports enterprise.
Recently, the NBA has launched its own esports league, the NBA 2K League, with NBA teams launching their own esports franchises.
With the steep decline of NASCAR viewership in the US for the past few years, the association can expect the rising popularity of esports worldwide to help revitalize its own. But for the thousands of gamers who will be joining the new league, it is a momentous opportunity to break into a sport that has been hitherto inaccessible.
“We’re excited to see the young, diverse and global talent pool this series attracts, especially as we cultivate our next generation of drivers,” added Davidson.