It’s about as close as you can get.
With the sports world ground to a halt, people are searching for entertainment in every corner. And esports are helping to fill the gap.
The NBA recently broadcasted a 2K20 video game tournament and a tournament involving the playground shooting game HORSE.
Daily fantasy sites have contests related to Madden streams. And NASCAR has entered the fray with an offering that may be closer to actual competition than all of them.
Drivers still have their hands on a steering wheel. There are gas and brake pedals. And the drivers can crash.
Perhaps because of its realism, the NASCAR’s iRacing series is proving to be incredibly popular with fans. And DraftKings is providing even more fun by launching daily fantasy contests related to the races.
DraftKings eNASCAR should continue on April 19
The stock cars will return to the track on April 19 at the virtual Richmond Raceway after skipping last Sunday for the Easter holiday.
The previous three races in the eNASCAR iRacing series have drawn about a million viewers each on television. The last race on April 5, which had a wide variety of corresponding DraftKings contests, attracted nearly 1.2 million viewers on FS1.
“With the way it is happening right now in the world, I think everyone is looking for a distraction and is looking for some entertainment,” Tim Clark, NASCAR’s chief digital officer, told the New York Times.
People who entered one of the DraftKings contests selected six drivers in the race and had to stay under a salary cap. Players earned points based on their drivers’ performances and could win prizes depending on their overall score.
This Sunday’s DFS contest will be no different. For a $10 entry, the contest features $333,000 in prize money with $100,000 reserved for first place.
Racing simulators are uniquely suited for eSports
Whereas other virtual sports are drastically different from their real-life counterparts (football games don’t require tackling, basketball games don’t require dribbling, etc.), the allure of e-Racing is that the requisite skills are incredibly similar.
Fans and drivers alike seem to enjoy that outside of the virtual cars and tracks, the action is essentially the same.
“It’s as close as you can possibly get without the actual motion and the G-forces,” Denny Hamlin, who finished fourth in the last race, told the Times. “…With iRacing, you’re using the exact same skill sets. It’s exactly the same. It’s the inputs from your brain to your feet to your hands. Everything is the same.”
iRacing blurs the virtual reality line
The race on April 5 had 11 caution flags and a few chaotic crashes. The NASCAR drivers compete with individual simulators in separate locations, but the machines are so sophisticated, they provide hyper-realistic racing conditions. The driver even feels different sensations as the virtual tires wear down.
As Clark put it:
“There have been times I have watched the broadcast, and you certainly would have to pay very close attention to tell whether or not you’re watching a real race broadcast.”
The end result is a sporting event that for once feels almost normal.
And normal is rather refreshing right now.